We Need More Independent-Minded Voters

The national conversation about the possible need for a third-party presidential candidate is growing increasingly loud, and there's a strong rationale behind it. Twenty years ago this week, Ross Perot launched an issue-based third-party candidacy that tapped into a deep desire within the American public. He ran on four key issues other than NAFTA -- fiscal irresponsibility on the part of both Democrats and Republicans, political dysfunction in Washington, lack of trust in government, and declining confidence in the future. Today, we are worse off on all four counts.

Based on my extensive travels across the nation, most Americans know we face serious challenges. They want their elected officials and candidates for office to speak the truth without party spin and ideological rigidity. They also want people who offer sensible solutions, that make economic sense, are socially equitable, culturally acceptable and politically feasible.

Given the serious challenges facing our great nation, we need something much greater than a third-party or independent candidate for president. We need a nation of independent voters. More precisely, we need a nation of people who take the time to fully understand issues like taxes, social insurance programs, national defense, health care, immigration, education, energy, infrastructure, and the other key challenges that we face.

The truth is no political party has a monopoly on the best people or the best ideas. That is one of the primary reasons why I became a political independent 15 years ago. In my view, Americans should not vote for any candidate who fails to offer sensible solutions to important public policy issues, even if he or she belongs to the party they've always considered their "political home."

With regard to fiscal issues, Republicans correctly argue that we need to reform social insurance programs before their staggering costs bankrupt us. Democrats correctly recognize that we will need revenue in excess of historical averages to put our nation's finances in order. Furthermore, we must recognize the differences between our current challenges and the structural ones, both of which require attention and action. In my book, Comeback America, I examine social insurance, taxes, along with other major domestic policy and political issues, and offer common sense approaches to keep America great and restore fiscal sanity.

These solutions don't reflect a Republican agenda or a Democratic agenda. They reflect an American agenda. That is why Democrats like Robert Rubin, Republicans like Paul O'Neill, and independents like Ross Perot and Paul Volcker have encouraged people to read the book.

My efforts to educate the American public about fiscal responsibility during the past nine plus years have drawn a lot of comments. The overwhelming majority show that my work is tapping into a new type of American -- the nonpartisan American who seeks truth, leadership and solutions. Americans who value progress over partisanship and results over rhetoric.

For example, when I was changing planes late in the evening last week in San Francisco, a young man stopped me. He said, "Aren't you Dave Walker?" I said, "Yes." Then he said, "I'm running for Congress primarily because of you." I don't know his party and didn't ask, and he didn't think it important enough to tell me. I wished him luck, then he disappeared into the crowd.

Other comments I have received remind me of the journalists' credo: "If we're not drawing fire from both parties, we're not doing our job." Stated differently, if you aren't drawing heat you're not making a difference. For example, take some of the reactions to the Comeback America Initiative's Fiscal IQ quiz (a five-minute quiz to test your awareness of important fiscal issues at www.fiscalIQ.net). One quiz taker recently slammed us for advancing a liberal agenda. Moments later, another fired off a missive complaining that our answers were clearly informed by Republican talking points. In truth, the quiz's correct responses were developed based on a consensus of federal budget experts with different political affiliations, including members the Comeback America Initiative's Advisory Council, as well as the results of various bipartisan deficit reduction commissions, including the Bowles-Simpson Commission, and the Domenici/Rivlin Commission.

As a nonpartisan voter, I've supported and voted for both Democrats and Republicans. I don't make many political contributions but I have donated to candidates from both major parties in the past. I'm the founder and CEO of the Comeback America Initiative, whose independent Board and Advisory Council is comprised of highly respected individuals from varied backgrounds and political histories. They all, however, come together to help support speaking the facts, the truth, the tough choices that we face and the need for sensible, non-partisan solutions that can achieve bipartisan support.

As a former public servant, I have declined overtures to run for office from Republicans, Democrats and several other political parties in the past. In the past two months, for example, I have declined overtures from two minor parties to run for president.

I was honored and humbled that syndicated columnist Tom Friedman this week suggested I consider running for president, putting me forward as a third choice to voters. But our need is bigger than for me -- or any other third-party candidate. And his column taps into a need that goes far beyond my work on fiscal responsibility and government transformation. Every day, I talk with people around the nation who take their vote seriously enough to not align themselves with one particular party. They are the new independent-minded voter. And we need more of them.

Although Perot's candidacy faltered, the issues he raised resonated in a big way. There are striking comparisons between the state of the country in 1992 and today -- and a recognition that, once again, Americans and federal elected officials need to wake up to critical challenges facing our nation and start taking steps to address them. Let's hope they do so that we can keep America great and help ensure that our future is better than our past.