The Unity Ticket

UNITED STATES - JULY 8: Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addresses the African Methodist Episcopal Church conference he
UNITED STATES - JULY 8: Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addresses the African Methodist Episcopal Church conference held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, July 8, 2015. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Co-written with

William Cunion, Associate Dean of Liberal Arts at the Cuyahoga Community College

We often hear that Republicans and Democrats have nothing in common, but that isn't quite true. On both sides of the aisle, people are angry and ambivalent - to a historic degree. If polls showing massive distrust in political institutions don't convince you, then perhaps primary election results will. Insurgent candidates in both parties rode this wave like never before. For the Democrats, Bernie Sanders appealed to voter frustration and won more than 20 states, capturing more than 40% of the vote against the most well-established candidate in recent memory. On the Republican side, Donald Trump's drubbing of more than a dozen mainstream candidates gave real voice to the rage of American voters. This is not an ordinary election year, and that calls for some not-so-ordinary thinking about how we can move forward -- and begin healing.

Much is said about how the fury and frustration are driving us apart, but they can also bring us together. In our cases, we have never voted for the same candidate for President of the United States. One has a steady record of voting for Republicans, while the other has consistently supported Democrats. We may yet travel in different directions this November, but our mutual concern about a possible Trump presidency have led us to a radical proposal, one that really isn't radical at all.

Hillary Clinton should choose a Republican as her running mate. There are a number of qualified moderate Republicans who could complete the other piece of the Unity Ticket. If disgruntled Americans want to move beyond party, a refrain that we hear often, this is the way forward. A Unity Ticket would represent an act of true statesmanship and would firmly establish Clinton - and her running mate - as the serious choice in the race, the ones who literally put country ahead of party.

A Unity Ticket sounds fanciful, but it's actually quite practical, and not that uncommon. In other democracies a national unity government has emerged in times of war or national emergency, when a mix of parties include all voices in the discussion on how to solve the crisis. Our crisis may not be as directly existential as the one Israel faced in 1967, or the one that led the British government to unify during WWII, but maybe it is - because the problem is much deeper than Donald Trump. The United States risks descending into what Arend Lijphart, an expert on how divided societies share power, calls "hostile subcultures." Lijphart among others argues that majoritarian systems, like we have in the US, tend to create high-stakes elections that lead to happy winners and unsatisfied losers. Consensual systems, where losing parties are still needed to make policy and form a government, tend to make slightly less happy winners, but more satisfied losers. The Unity solution makes our majoritarian system a bit more palatable for the millions on the losing side this November.

Here in the U.S., we've seen unity government as a strategy to bridge a complex political divide at its most critical juncture. When Republican Abraham Lincoln ran for reelection in 1864, he selected Democrat Andrew Johnson as his running mate in an effort to reconcile a fractured nation. In a similar vein, Lincoln also famously introduced a "team of rivals" approach to the executive branch, nominating his own political opponents to help him govern more effectively, more fairly, "with malice toward none," perhaps.

That same spirit animates unity government, which is why it can be a balm for the malice that has so deeply infected the political discourse. That hostility isn't limited to just one candidate, or even one party - all the more reason to seize the opportunity in this moment.

Back in 2008, Republican John McCain was rumored to have offered the VP slot on his ticket to Democrat Joe Lieberman, who shared most of McCain's views on foreign policy. But the offer fell through for the same reasons that Congress has been ineffective in recent years. The political world has been too locked into rigid partisanship, but this year, we may be on the brink of seeing those chains loosened just enough to allow it. Almost daily, House Speaker Paul Ryan seems closer and closer to withdrawing his endorsement of his party's presumptive nominee. He would add his name to the growing list of party leaders, including Mitt Romney, Lindsey Graham, and John Kasich, who have declined to support Trump.

The Foreign Policy establishment has already made a similar choice. Well over one hundred Republican thought-leaders emphatically rejected Trump in an open letter and asserted that Trump is dangerous because he is "wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle." Richard Armitage and Brent Scowcroft, high-ranking foreign policy advisors to numerous Republican presidents, have formally endorsed Secretary Clinton.

Obviously, a Unity Ticket is revolutionary in that it upends the standard operating procedures in Washington. But isn't that what voters want? Isn't that what America needs?

After all, would Clinton/Kasich slow Washington down further? Would Clinton/Rice make the world more dangerous? For that matter, imagine for a moment a Clinton/Ryan ticket. We have allowed ourselves to believe the myth that the parties have no common ground, that there is reason and decency only in our own side. We don't think so. As a Republican and Democrat, we've found common ground. We expect our leaders to have as much courage for the good of our country.