Former Governor of Utah and U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman promoted a bipartisan approach to resolving foreign and domestic issues to a crowd of about 80 people in Old North Thursday.
Huntsman, who serves as the national co-chair of No Labels, an organization dedicated to bipartisan engagement and solution-building, was hosted by No Labels Georgetown along with the Institute of Politics and Public Service, College Republicans and the International Relations Club.
Huntsman began the discussion by emphasizing the ever-increasing levels of gridlock in U.S. politics. Huntsman said future generations need to resolve gridlock in order for the government to become more effective.
“My generation has brought you gridlock. And I feel badly about that,” Huntsman said. “Your generation is going to have to bring us problem solving and that means crossing the impenetrable divides of politics and anything else you want to throw between humankind.”
No Labels Georgetown President Max Rosner (COL ’18) led the conversation with Huntsman and focused on foreign policy and the Islamic State group.
“How can our leaders begin to forge a bipartisan strategy to deal with this problem and what might that strategy look like?” Rosner asked.
Huntsman advocated for increasing educational opportunities, believing that learning institutions are vital to changing violent ideologies.
“How do you change the hearts and minds of people who have fallen into radicalization?” Hunstman asked. “I only know one way; it is called education. You open the doors of institutions like this one, like other great institutions of higher learning in the world.”
Huntsman also addressed rhetoric from the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, arguing that candidates’ statements on fighting terrorism are detrimental to the country as a whole.
“We are not going to make the sand glow in the dark, we are not going to carpet bomb people. This is just nonsense that does no good whatsoever for this country of 320 million great people,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman also emphasized the importance of bipartisanship in his own life. A Republican, Huntsman served as ambassador to China from 2009 to 2011 under President Barack Obama.
“It is always America first. It is not your party first — it is American first,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman added that the mission of No Labels embodies the direction U.S. politics should follow.
“We are trying to move the nation[al] debate from anger, acrimony and finger-pointing to problem solving,” Huntsman said.
No Labels aims to have all presidential candidates sign the Problem Solver Promise, agreeing to help find bipartisan solutions to one of four goals, including the creation of 25 million jobs over ten years, securing Socia Security and Medicare for 75 years, balancing the federal budget by 2050 and securing U.S. energy by 2024.
“Within thirty days of getting elected president of the United States, you will meet a bipartisan group of leaders from Capitol Hill and you will choose one of the four silos around the National Strategic Agenda and you will lead out and make it happen,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman said that he predicts deep divisions to form among Republicans, potentially leading to the formation of a new party.
“We are drifting today and I think we are seeing fissures within the party that have created the rise of populism,” Huntsman said. “It is as if you are seeing a new party being born even as we sit here tonight.”
Huntsman warned that the current state of campaign finance is destroying the trust that citizens have in representatives and encouraged reform.
“We’ve got to ameliorate the trust deficit, because in the long-term campaign finance and gerrymandering is corrosive,” Huntsman said. “We can tinker around all day and let that metastasize and kill the body politic or we can say ‘instead of complaining, instead of cutting somebody else down, we are going to step up and find a solution.’”
Huntsman also stressed the importance of environmental protection and conservation, acknowledging that conservation was originally a core Republican tenant dating back to former President Theodore Roosevelt’s term.
“It ain’t the party of Roosevelt anymore,” he said.
As the event drew to a close, Huntsman said the nation’s populace needs more confidence to make effective change.
“We have become way too cynical as a people. We’ve lost our blue sky sense of optimism and our can-do spirit,” Huntsman said.
Jenny Liang (SFS ’18) said that she agreed with Huntsman’s promotion of bipartisanship and how such dialogue increases the effectiveness of policy.
“It was great, especially when he talks about No Labels and how bipartisan cooperation between both parties is essential for future American policy both domestic and foreign,” Liang said.
Sami Scheetz (COL ’18) found Huntsman’s views to be a reprieve from politics surrounding the current election cycle.
“What he is saying today really resonated with what I think and is my general opinion of where politics is today,” Scheetz said. “It was very refreshing break from what we have been hearing in the 2016 election year.”
Simon Wu (SFS ’16) admired Huntsman’s proposed policy measures and dedication to bipartisan doctrine.
“I have always been a huge fan of Jon Huntsman and I think that it is incredible that everything that comes out of his mouth is so reasonable and measured and that’s something that does not exist anymore in sufficient quantity in government,” Wu said.