Florida voters sent a clear message in November — the Sunshine State has moved from a swing state to a solidly Republican one. As a former chair of the state GOP, I am heartened that many of my fellow Floridians believe, as I do, that common-sense conservative governance offers the best path to opportunity and prosperity. But as Republicans chart a course for Florida and, in many respects, the nation in the months ahead, I hope we realize that voters aren’t looking for the kind of hyperpartisan, one-sided governance that often defines our national politics. Today, almost 4 million Floridians — more than a quarter of us — are registered as non-party affiliated, and that number is growing larger by the day.
Why? It’s simple: Voters are fed up with the rancorous partisan politics in Washington that ignore common-sense solutions in favor of half-baked policies that fail to meet their demands. Last December, No Labels polled almost 25,000 Americans and almost 1,000 Floridians to better understand the kinds of solutions they want. What the survey showed, again and again, is that the people reject the false binary choices forced on us by the extremes on both sides. No Labels polling shows Floridians don’t just want to expand domestic fossil-fuel production, as Republicans want, or to only invest in clean energy, as Democrats propose — they want both.
Similarly, they favor stronger border security and a path to citizenship for the DREAMers whose parents brought them here illegally as children. And they want to set stronger educational standards and support more public charter schools and fund nutritional programs for children in need. Too often, politicians on both sides of the aisle claim you can only have one or the other — for instance, clean-energy investments or domestic fossil-fuel production. But in my experience, the most substantive and lasting changes have come when both parties come to the table and find the consensus Americans want.
Earlier in my career, I had the privilege of working with Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, both good, honorable men and committed conservatives. Yet both recognized the value in using their mandate to govern to find areas of agreement with Democrats to achieve lasting changes for the better. Reagan famously worked with the House Speaker Tip O’Neill to achieve the most comprehensive reforms to Social Security in decades, as well as tax reforms that unleashed the American economy and lifted thousands of Floridians into the middle class. In the wake of the tragic Sept. 11 attacks, Bush rallied Republicans and Democrats to combat the threat of terrorism while also passing significant bipartisan tax and education bills.
Despite the rise in partisanship in recent years, we shouldn’t just consign those kinds of bipartisan accomplishments to the dustbin of history. In fact, over the past few years, there have been multiple examples of Republicans and Democrats finding compromise to get big things done. Landmark achievements like the CHIPS Act that strengthened American technology and supply chains and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that funded roads and bridges across the country came about when the parties moved away from the extremes and back toward responsible governance. The American people are looking for the best ideas from both parties to guide the nation forward. Comity and compromise have led to some of our country’s most lasting achievements in the past. They can do so again.
Al Cárdenas is the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party and current vice chairman of No Labels.