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    Monday, March 04, 2024

    Former N.J. governor tells Stonington residents she is worried about democracy

    Former New Jersey Governor and co-founder of the Forward Party speaks about the state of politics in America at the Velvet Mill Saturday. Photo by Carrie Czerwinski

    Stonington ― Former Republican New Jersey governor and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman expressed grave concerns about the nation’s future during a talk here on Saturday.

    “I’ve never been as worried about democracy as I am today,” said Whitman who served as the EPA administrator under President George W. Bush.

    She spoke at a Velvet Mill campaign event for incumbent unaffiliated First Selectwoman Danielle Chesebrough, who is running under the banner of the Forward Party, which Whitman cofounded.

    “We are right at the edge trying to keep our republic,” Whitman cautioned, referencing a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin after the First Continental Congress in 1787.

    During her remarks before more than 75 residents, Whitman spoke of the “duopoly” that controls national politics and said the country needs “candidates who will stand up for democracy.”

    “We hung on by a thread in the last election cycle, by a thread that was held there by a few good people who stood up and said ‘these are the laws; I am not going to bend. I don’t care what the party wants me to do,’ ” she said. “They saved the election, but we can’t depend on that. We have to be there for them because believe me what they face from their parties is brutal.”

    Whitman co-founded the Forward Party in 2022 with former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang to offer voters a viable third-party option. She said the party believes that candidates should develop platforms on the local level and that platform should reflect a commitment to the community rather than a national party platform.

    Whitman explained the Forward Party advocates for ranked-choice voting and open primaries, and its candidates, from across the political spectrum, favor problem solving and compromise and not ideology.

    Whitman said divisions between the two major parties are deepening and candidates do not have the freedom to disagree with top-down party platforms formed at the national level.

    She said elected officials who do not conform to party ideology, and instead vote their conscience, face costly primaries, and primary candidates who take extreme party positions have a better chance of winning when they only have to appeal to party members.

    She argued that open primaries allow unaffiliated voters the opportunity to have a say in representation and encourages candidates to appeal to voters across the political spectrum.

    She also said ranked-choice voting, where voters cast ballots ranking their choice of candidates, allows the election winner to have broader support and avoids costly run-offs when no candidate reaches 50% approval.

    She addressed what she sees as the increasing partisan divide among elected officials.

    She pointed to current stagnation between the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate and their failure to reach compromises on legislation. She said the dysfunctional system means Congress cannot make progress.

    Whitman noted the hyper-partisanship extends beyond elected officials to average citizens.

    “We’re getting to the point where people can’t have conversations,” she said. “Families are splitting up because we are being trained to hate the other person. You can’t just disagree, you have to say, ‘you’re not just wrong, you’re evil.’ ”

    Whitman suggested the remedy to the political extremism is to find candidates who will support the rule of law and the Constitution and be willing to work with members of other parties to find common ground and compromise on solutions.

    “I love this country, and I’m not going to give it up without a fight,” she said.

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