An Effective Scorecard for Political Accountability

This article originally appeared on FULCRUM.

Scorecards are typically a tool for measuring progress towards a particular goal. At Common Ground Committee (CGC) our goal is to reduce polarization. One of the ways to do that is to help increase the frequency of bipartisanship exhibited within our political leadership. Doing so creates overall favorable outcomes for our country and our democracy. We need to calm the waters if we are going to move forward to address the serious problems facing our nation.

Imagine if we could create a tool to assess how well elected officials have demonstrated a willingness to bridge the partisan divide; showing they can work cooperatively toward making progress, rather than posturing strength through stubbornness and absolutism. Imagine also that this tool could not only shine a light on the value of finding common ground but also keep politicians accountable. In doing so, it would incentivize their efforts toward finding more progress and reducing division.

That tool exists, and it’s gaining traction and relevance. It’s called The Common Ground Scorecard. This powerful tool assigns a score to each U.S. senator, representative, governor, and now – presidential candidate, based on their past decisions and actions.

The Common Ground Scorecard measures the degree to which elected officials and candidates for office embody the spirit and practice of a Common Grounder; that is, someone who seeks points of agreement and solutions on social and political issues through productive engagement. The Scorecard does not assess issue positions, ideology, or any other qualifications.

The Scorecard’s premise is that certain attributes are worth practicing, regardless of ideological or party leanings. These attributes include the willingness to put aside personal biases, seek solutions, listen to perspectives, accept facts, and be respectful of others with differing opinions. The Scorecard’s methodology tracks both the incumbents’ and challengers’ behavior, showing the degree to which a candidate publicly supports the importance of common ground and bipartisanship through their speech, action, and track record.

The basis of our government, as envisioned by the founding fathers, was predicated on the expectation that people would learn to compromise – not on principles but on tactics and strategies; that finding common ground would be central to our form of government. Through this process, the majority would set the stage for our legislative system, but the needs of all parties would be heard in debates and considered in outcomes. CGC recognizes that people may not agree on fundamental principles and values. Yet, a way forward almost always can be found but it requires cooperation, compromise, and common ground.

Partisan gridlock in government may seem like the norm these days. But that’s not the full story. Change is happening, right now. Many lawmakers and their staff agree that seeking common ground is the most effective and pragmatic approach to moving forward on critical issues facing the country, and they are concerned that more of it is not happening. As more and more elected officials are becoming aware of their scores, they want to see them rise. Now, they are coming to us and asking, “What can I do to improve my score?”

We meet with people in both political parties, and they’re excited that someone’s creating a platform that holds up bipartisanship as a desirable goal with tangible steps towards getting to a place of mutual respect, and progress. We are coming from an all-time low for political discord in our lifetime and need to rebuild the trust of the electorate. Voters are tired of ideological fights and the raincloud of rancor that hangs over the Hill. Our market research was designed to discover things that the electorate wants to see improved in the political landscape, and at the top of the list was, “Hold my elected officials accountable.” Voters want the behavior to have repercussions. They are tired of rhetoric, rancor, and gridlock. There’s a reason this demographic is called the exhausted majority.

An electorate coming off a pandemic deserves better than a toxic political environment. The Common Ground Scorecard provides political accountability that may be just what the doctor ordered.