Former US Rep. David Jolly, Fla., who was a Republican but became an independent after leaving Congress, said Friday that non-affiliated voters could help Republicans and Democrats increase their majorities.
“Here’s the carrot I would offer to either party and in some ways, I offer it to the Democratic Party today because it seems they’re more likely to grab it,” Jolly said at an event hosted by The Hill. “You could expand your coalition by 5 or 10 points and create a governing coalition for the next 30 years, simply by inviting in much of those independents who today feel disaffected.”
Jolly left the Republican Party to become an independent in 2018 following his tenure in the House, where he served from 2014 to 2017. He said partisan incentives make it difficult for lawyers to widen their outreach to independents and moderates.
“The incentive for an elected official is to operate within your most partisan environment,” he said. “If you do what I did while I was in Congress and step out and compromise or take more moderate positions, you get challenged in the primary and your base doesn’t show up in the general.”
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He explained that politics have become even more divisive since he left office, making it even more difficult now for lawyers in different parties to work together.
“There is no working across the aisle, zero,” Jolly said. “Now the way the system is set up, if a leader does reach across the aisle as we saw with [former Speaker John] Boehner and perhaps, [House Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy may have to do now, there’s punishment within their own ranks for doing so.”
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Jolly said electoral reforms, such as adopting rank-choice voting across the country, could help lessen the incentives for lawmakers to act in a hyper-partisan way.
“If we were to have some radical electoral reform, like in Alaska, you might see voters elect a statewide Republican in [Sen.] Lisa Murkowski and a statewide Democrat as their new House member and do so on the same ballot,” he said.
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“It gives everybody a voice regardless of your party affiliation, and it forces candidates to respond to broader coalitions,” the former congressman continued.
Jolly’s comments came on the same day Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema announced her decision to leave the Democratic Party and register as an independent.