Opinion: With Biden trailing Trump, we need a 3rd option for president


A stunning new ABC News-Washington Post poll shows President Joe Biden's approval rating slipping to historic lows and Donald Trump winning against him by 7 points in a general election matchup. For my fellow Democrats, this should prompt serious and urgent soul searching. How has Trump become the frontrunner for the White House?

It's not because Trump is popular - he isn't. Rather, it's because Democrats are failing to offer an alternative that appeals to the majority of voters, who crave change and are fed up with the extremes on both sides. I believe this is a moral failure even more than a strategic one. By allowing an unpopular president to roll to the nomination, we are opening a path to victory for Trump, a man who threatens the foundations of our democracy.

Something must be done. Since Democrats are unable or unwilling to offer an alternative, I'm supporting an effort to secure a better choice for president in 2024 that represents the commonsense majorities in both parties. The effort, led by the organization No Labels, will secure a place on the presidential ballot in all 50 states for a unity ticket featuring a Democrat and a Republican as running mates.

The No Labels effort has been vociferously attacked by Republicans and Democrats alike but particularly by Democratic groups that fear it could help Trump win. That criticism crumbles in light of the ABC News-Washington Post poll. The new data prove that the biggest risk is not that we inadvertently help Trump. Trump can win without anyone's help. The biggest risk is that we do nothing to stop him.

The national Democratic Party assumes foolishly that all moderates will automatically side with Biden over Trump, even though Democrats have done nothing to court these moderates. But those of us Democrats who have competed in red or purple states know the weakness of this strategy. We know that you underestimate Trump at your own peril. In truth, he typically runs ahead of the polling, meaning 7 points might be an understatement of his current lead over Biden.

Imagine a scenario where Trump chooses Nikki Haley as his running mate, widening his appeal and freshening up his image heading into the general election. He then runs not only against Joe Biden, but against the woefully unpopular Kamala Harris, who some see as the president-in-waiting in the event of a second Biden term. Democrats should have the humility to see that this will be a difficult choice for even many well-intentioned voters.

Just like Republicans, Democrats continue to push away moderate voters. These abandoned, disaffected voters are now a majority. A recent Gallup poll found that the number of independents is now equal to the number of Republicans and Democrats combined. Yet neither party ever looks in the mirror and asks this question: Why?

America is stuck in an extremist partisan doom loop in which voters in the middle - whether middle-left or middle-right - have virtually no voice and no representation in Washington, with no end in sight.

I believe a unity administration would reset the political incentives that have us in this destructive cycle. It would force two-party solutions to major challenges from immigration to inflation to the national debt to gun safety and the environment. It would change the dynamic from red vs. blue to "red and blue vs. our problems."

Every accomplishment I had in Congress, and every accomplishment anyone had during my two years in a divided government, came from working with the other side. That is precisely why I support a movement based on this very idea of working together.

In my farewell speech to the House of Representatives in 2020, I toasted a beer to "the spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation," saying that "for the betterment of this country, we have to come together, we have to sit down and listen to each other, and maybe even have a beer." I took that same message home to South Carolina as the Democratic nominee for governor in 2022. Now, it's time to take it national.

It is possible to applaud President Biden's work in public service and also say the sun is setting on his career. It's time for fresh leadership - leadership based around unity, problem solving and common sense. National Democrats won't offer it, so we'll have to look elsewhere.

Joe Cunningham is the national director of No Labels. He formerly represented South Carolina's 1st District in Congress, where he was a member of the Problem Solvers Caucus.