Opinion | Tony Jones: America needs a purple ticket

Roald Dahl’s Charlie, of chocolate factory fame, won a golden ticket that paved the way to happiness and prosperity for him. According to Breckenridge author Owen Paepke, America’s pathway to unity and prosperity is via a purple ticket. A purple ticket for a purple presidency. “The Purple Presidency, How Voters can Reclaim the White House for Bipartisan Governance,” Paepke’s fifth book, comes at a time when recent polls have shown voters disenchanted with the current frontrunners for the 2024 presidential race and efforts by No Labels to get a bipartisan ticket on the ’24 ballot picking up steam. I recently had the pleasure of discussing “The Purple Presidency” with the author, and I came away from that conversation hopeful that a third option will be available to voters next year. That option being a centrist presidential ticket that promises to lift our country’s governance out of the duopolistic rut we’re currently mired in and sets us on a nonpartisan course to addressing the nation’s biggest problems.

In his book, Paepke expounds on the travails that we’ve seen with governance from the extremes and notes that, while there has always been partisanship in U.S. government, presidencies in the 21st Century have taken this to a new level. Today’s primaries are steered by the extremes in both parties, leading to candidates who cater to those partisan voices, leaving the concerns of large swathes of the electorate unrepresented. Those unrepresented voters include unaffiliated and independent voters, a growing bloc whose voices go unheard during the primaries and who often must begrudgingly vote for what they see as the lesser of two evils (“nega-votes”). Paepke says that now is the time to give voice to that silent majority and get back to governing “between the 30-yard lines”. A purple presidency may be comprised of a bipartisan presidential ticket or an independent centrist candidate, but the promise is for that administration to govern from the middle, eschewing the extremes on both sides of the aisle.

There are plenty of cynics who state that our current two-party system is the best option we can hope for and a vote for a purple presidency could lead to disaster (i.e. taking votes from the less deplorable candidate and in the process electing the most deplorable candidate). In an op-ed response to one such naysayer, Paepke begged to differ. Paepke points to the Ross Perot candidacy, which garnered nearly 20 million votes in the 1992 presidential election by focusing on issues of governance that should concern every American, including the need to address the deficit and balance the federal budget. And while Perot didn’t win the election, his candidacy and platform swayed policy for the next several election cycles, resulting in bipartisan accomplishments like a balanced budget and budget surpluses under subsequent administrations.

The Perot candidacy shows that a purple ticket need not necessarily be the winner in November to be successful. His losing campaign tallied close to 19% of the popular vote and influenced public policy for years after. As Paepke stated it, garnering the votes of 20% of the electorate is enough to attain “critical mass” for a centrist platform, and the candidate that is the spokesperson for that 20% “owns Washington.” Wielding that voting bloc as a policy truncheon, that candidate could push Republicans and Democrats to bring governance back to the center.

Governing from the center isn’t necessarily an easy sell, however, something Paepke readily acknowledges. It will take civic-minded voters casting ballots based on what’s best for our country, focusing on issues that should matter to all Americans, and not falling for partisan talking point easy fix promises. I’ve said it before, a platform that promises higher taxes and federal program austerity isn’t exactly sexy on the campaign trail. But it’s what the country needs, and it’s the American voting publics’ responsibility to future generations to ensure we leave them a functioning system of governance.

As such, the portion of the electorate with the biggest dog in the ’24 fight may be the millennials. Given the trajectory of our country’s finances, according to Paepke, millennials face “profound generational inequity,” and the effects of U.S. deficits and a federal budget riddled with red ink will create shockwaves throughout their lifetimes. Whether it’s fiscal issues or immigration or climate change, their votes for prudent and fiscally responsible governance can help right the governmental ship. Those millennial votes could wrest our government from the perverted duopoly of Republican and Democratic control and rescue the U.S. from the political stalemate that we find ourselves wallowing in.

“The Purple Presidency” ( will be released on June 13. No matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on, I challenge any reader of this book to defend our current divided and corrupt political system against Paepke’s vision of a united America with all political persuasions pulling towards the same goals. Those goals will not be easy to achieve and will require compromise and collaboration, but we’ve seen and are living the alternative and it isn’t pretty … or sustainable.

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