The current divided government in DC affords centrist groups an incredible opportunity to thread the needle and address their priorities in a non-confrontational way.
Historical precedent shows the advocacy community that’s in the center has the greatest opportunity to achieve legislative victory in divided government. But electoral consequences don’t always perfectly align with governing or the response of the advocacy community.
The fight over funding the government can throw a curveball in all parts of the political spectrum and force a stalemate in addressing issues even where there’s bipartisan consensus and willingness to meet in the middle.
Inside the advocacy world the first six weeks appear to be both a false start and a delay of game with offsetting penalties on the extremes. Interest groups with significant infrastructure are still researching and building a foundation to eventually engage when normalcy can be reached in funding the government.
The political realities of the past election are just starting to be fully felt in the advocacy sphere and by the newly elected lawmakers. Now, we’re starting to see new coalitions forming with the parties as well as outside groups looking at tackling issues by pooling resources and reach.
The wave of eager, active, and even boisterous members are going to have to produce actual results in the next few months or run the risk of being seen solely as ideologues. These lawmakers will eventually have to coalesce around groups in the center because factionalism rarely produces favorable results.
Another major development in congressional relations involves the 2020 White House race and the number of high-profile Democrats entering their presidential primary. If these Democrats are focused on an intensive presidential race, the legislative prospects and their ability to engage in centrist lawmaking while rallying the base could prove to be difficult.
Members of the House that only have two years to prove their effectiveness as lawmakers could face friction with their Senate counterparts who have more time and are focused on aspirations to move to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
These realities heighten the imperativeness to advance centrist objectives and should force advocacy groups to speed up the process of setting their strategies for dealing with the new Congress.
There’s great potential to advocate and ultimately govern between the lines in a divided government. But the timeliness of this action could fade as the 2020 clock ticks.
Joshua Habursky is assistant vice president of advocacy at the Independent Community Bankers of America, chairman of the Grassroots Professional Network, contributing editor to Campaigns & Elections and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.