By Rex Sinquefield, 8.24.2012
Amidst epic political struggles, it’s difficult to recall how often consensus through reasonable compromise has prevailed. Presidential election cycles tend to exacerbate the polarities at the base of the left and right, much to the chagrin of the silent majority of independent-minded voters. Case in point: The Show-Me-State of Missouri has been thrown onto the national stage this week in ways that few progressives or conservatives might have imagined.
Since Roger Ibbotson and I first co-published “Stocks, Bonds, Bills, and Inflation: Simulations of the Future (1976-2000),” there have been many times when the volatility of the financial markets parallels the volatility of political markets.
When political stocks analogous to prediction markets such as Intrade start to move within the presidential field, you can expect to see even less bipartisan consensus on any given issue. Nevertheless, whether our candidates are debating the fairness of our tax code, or the proper priorities of funding our education system, such discourse is a necessity to a civil society. Having a vibrant debate about who should lead this country is ultimately a sign of our collective strength, not our weakness.
So, before we write off our ability to resolve our political differences, I would like to offer one anecdote of real hope and change in my own home state. This month, a Missouri statewide ballot initiative was certified to restore control of the St. Louis Police Department back to its own city. St. Louis is one of only two cities left in America that does not operate its own public safety department.
The police force in St. Louis is controlled by a board of five people composed of the Mayor of St. Louis and four political appointees of the Governor. This special board, based in our state’s capital Jefferson City, is the ultimate authority in managing police operations and setting the budget.
As you might imagine, having a city police department operated from 130 miles away can lead to many inefficiencies that most mayors would not accept. However, fixing this 150-year-old problem, which is an unfortunate vestige of the Civil War, was no small negotiating task. The odds for real reform were stacked against our efforts, largely due to concerns regarding how the measure might impact police officer pensions, city governance, and one-third of our city’s general revenue fund. Police associations, Mayor Slay, urban elected officials, and rural outstate conservatives in charge of state government all had to work together to construct an agreeable compromise.
While it has taken several years to emerge, Missouri now awaits voter approval of Proposition A after one of the broadest issue coalitions ever to come together from our diverse state demographics. Across the political spectrum, from progressive liberals to Tea Party conservatives, all groups contributed to its broad coalition of support. Urban Democrats were able to convince rural Republicans that support for the local control initiative was the right choice when more than 200,000 of Missouri’s citizens supported the grassroots cause.
Missouri’s own, President Harry S. Truman once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” After these November elections, it will be time to set aside political rancor and begin to work together to advance the nation’s progress on several critical fronts, from tax reform to improving high quality educational access for all children. That is the time when political leaders should look to Missouri’s Proposition A, a shining example of how broad coalitions are built around a single issue when the stakes are as high as the commitment is strong.