“I have seen the enemy.”
This admission, coming from a former Marine intelligence officer with a decade of service that includes 2004 combat duty in Iraq, may not be surprising.
It’s the rest of this thought from Nathan Fletcher, a three-term Republican California assemblyman running for mayor of San Diego, that’s raising some eyebrows across today’s hyperpartisan political divide: “I don’t believe we have to treat people we disagree with as an enemy. I think we can just say sometimes we disagree ... We don’t have enemies in our political environment here.”
Fiscally conservative but socially moderate, Fletcher made headlines in March when he left the Republican Party and reregistered as an independent after the San Diego County GOP endorsed his more dependably conservative opponent, City Council member Carl DeMaio. Though the mayoral race and position in this eighth-largest city in the United States is nonpartisan—no party ID appears on the ballot—party endorsements still carry weight.
Fletcher acknowledged his growing unease with his fit in the Republican Party in an interview with the Associated Press, saying, “In all candor, I probably should have done it sooner.”
The author of Chelsea’s Law, which strengthens sentencing requirements for sexual predators, Fletcher is a rising star in California.
His policy positions are neither all right nor all left on the traditional political spectrum. He even dared to reach across the aisle to work on tax policy with Gov. Jerry Brown.
But his views are heretical to both parties in the system.
“In today’s political environment you’re expected to play the game,” he said in a video statement. “I’ve been told by many in the Republican Party I’m not very good at this. There’s a reason ... I don’t believe this is a game.”
“Focusing on a solution, of trying to get things done, isn’t the preferred method of political party insiders,” he said.
Still, he added, “I am willing to work, or share, or give all the credit to someone if the idea is good.”
Political insiders predicted Fletcher’s defection from the GOP would be a fatal blow to his mayoral candidacy. But he has risen in the polls from a distant third to within just 2 points of the leader DeMaio in an April 12 SurveyUSA poll, and has taken a commanding lead in a more recent online poll sponsored by the Union-Tribune, in what is shaping up to be the closest race in eight years.
“I believe to advance where we want to go, to become the world’s most innovative city, to rebuild our economy, our education system, and our city, it’s going to take something new,” Fletcher says.
He’s right. For the future of our cities, states, and nation, it’s going to take something new.
Two-party “politics as usual,” with its bickering and gridlock, is likely why more Americans today self-identify as independents—a record high of 40 percent, versus 31 percent as Democrats and 27 percent as Republicans, according to Gallup.
There is a flight from both parties.
Fletcher has a tough climb in San Diego, where registered Democrats are still the plurality. He needs to win more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 5 California primary, or the top two finishers will compete in the November general election.
Ventura County supervisor and congressional candidate Linda Parks also is turning her back on the two-party system. She is just one of the 36 “no party preference” candidates running for state or federal office in California this year, the first time the option is offered for primary candidates.
“We need to end the divisive partisan politics that is gripping our country and damaging our economy,” Parks says. “The polarization in Washington is not only hurting our nation, it is also hurting our future, and the way to stop it is simple. We need to elect people to Congress who will work toward middle ground with both political parties.”
Parks is running without a party label against one Republican and three Democrats in the U.S. House race for the 26th District of California. If she wins enough votes in the primary, she is likely to face the Republican in the general election, leaving Democrats with no candidate in the race—a shock to the system.
Watch these two fighters. Fletcher and Parks represent the rise of the middle. And they have seen the enemy within. It is the two-party system.