AUGUSTA — Democrats and Republicans alike praise American exceptionalism, and most Americans embrace an idealized version of the nation’s history.  What the parties are selling at home and as a model abroad conflicts with reality. Washington is a symbol of bloated, dysfunctional and debt-driven government dominated by special interests.

The U.S. is a plutocracy governed by two major parties whose messaging, competitiveness and posturing have all the elements of professional wrestling. This duopoly, committed to ideals but not to systemic change, perpetuates a relationship between the Washington establishment, big corporations and the wealthy to protect congressional seniority and incumbency, rig legislation and staff senior government positions with industry insiders.

Washington’s commitment to the public interest isn’t measured by stirring oratory, campaign promises, political compromise or temporary fixes. Protecting the public interest is simple. Solve problems! The truth is that Democrats and Republicans haven’t solved a single problem in at least 50 years.

This lack of political will has produced two significant negative trends. One is national decline: The wealthiest country in the world has become the most indebted. The second trend is the concentration of wealth and power. It’s undermining democracy and capitalism and causing citizens to gradually surrender all of their rights without even being aware of it.

Systemic corruption by big-government liberalism and big-government conservatism has resulted in trillions of dollars being spent trying to solve problems, only to make them bigger, costlier and more numerous. With every problem becoming permanent and every solution temporary, Washington maintains the illusion of normalcy with increasingly more debt. But larger debt brings larger interest payments that will exceed defense spending within 20 years.

If voters want to change Washington, the first step is a radical and unifying core message: Big government can’t be made more efficient and effective and less corrupt – it can only be made smaller, more accountable and less dangerous.

Draining the Washington swamp was one of Donald Trump’s major campaign promises. What he’s proven as president is that he’s simply the latest fake change agent in the White House who, in failing to rein in big government and other special interests, has given the opposition another opportunity to raise and dash voter expectations.

Like Republicans with their deficit-busting 2017 tax bill that favored big corporations and the wealthy with the discredited promise that a huge stimulus would lead to rapid and sustained economic growth, Democrats are making equally grand campaign promises that will also fail.

Health care is an example. Whether it’s Medicare-for-all or saving the Affordable Care Act, there will be no major cost containment. Lobbyists have created the most expensive health care system in the world with worse outcomes than similar countries, and they will continue protecting obscene corporate profits.

And, like the huge 2016 Republican presidential field, Democrats in record numbers are entering the 2020 campaign. All preach American exceptionalism and ignore the abject failure of big government, the corrupting influence of special interests and the unsustainability of debt.

A nonpartisan National Unity Agenda and Change Coalition reflects the need to redefine ourselves as a nation and redefine our problems. It’s intended to begin a new national dialogue to disrupt and change Washington.

This broad and inclusive framework of bold and diverse ideas reflects a synthesis of liberalism, conservatism, populism and libertarianism. The agenda and its Change Coalition lobbying component represent the ideological and organizing vehicle for transforming ideas into action. The goal is to create an independent national commission or clearinghouse to identify, consolidate and prioritize public interest-driven policy recommendations into a comprehensive blueprint for nonpartisan change.

These recommendations would include placing significant restraints on lobbying; cutting massive waste; refocusing, consolidating and downsizing the federal bureaucracy and returning substantial power to the states; ending deficit spending and continuing resolutions; radically simplifying tax policy; breaking up the biggest banks and tech companies; promoting free but fair trade; rebuilding America’s decaying infrastructure; fighting a real war on poverty and racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination; securing the borders; implementing tough consumer, worker and environmental protection; streamlining business regulation while protecting taxpayers; and embracing meaningful health care, entitlement, criminal justice and electoral reform.

Change everything because Washington can’t solve anything!