I spent the first half of my life as a strident hater of liberals. Then, upon losing a risky bid for Congress, my marriage, business and political reputation disintegrated. After struggling with and for political power for almost a decade, fueled by an undercurrent of anger and righteousness, I left Republican politics. Exhausted and disillusioned, I retreated to a mountain cabin in rural Virginia.
No longer feeling so sure of myself or my world view, and having been humbled to the point of living well below the poverty line, life delivered an unlikely set of teachers. The small town I had chosen was a haven for 1960’s and 70’s back-to-the-landers. For someone whose nickname in the military had been “starch,” this community of hippies was not my first choice for neighbors.
Slowly, I began to understand that the underlying values motivating their behavior – sharing, interdependence, equality, compassion for the weak, a strong sense of justice, freedom, creative self-expression, and a reverence for nature – were the heart that had been missing from my politics.
Without that heart, my conservative values of accountability, order, hard work, security, protection, respect for the individual, and respect for authority could never bring about peace and well-being for myself and my country.
I am back now as part of a growing constituency that hungers for a political system that really works. Transcending the pain and dysfunction of win-lose politics requires what our founding father’s envisioned – a Democratic Republic – the marriage of progressive values with conservative values. The heart of politics is a transpartisan system.
For the past three years, 144 leaders of groups such as MoveOn.org, Christian Coalition, Common Cause, Americans for Tax Reform, Code Pink and Heritage Foundation, have been convening in transpartisan leadership retreats. These retreats tested the premise that with clear ground rules and a transparent process that respectfully dealt with conflict, issues can be resolved in ways that build, rather than erode, trust.
The result was unexpected cooperation among people who thought they were enemies on issues ranging from open government, civil liberties, protecting the U.S. Constitution, national service, climate change and dialogue with Iran.
Inspired by this beginning and in an effort to extend this work to the grassroots, the Transpartisan Alliance was organized. In February 2009, this informal network of networks convened the first ever American Citizens’ Summit. This national town hall meeting included learning the skills necessary for reducing tensions, building trust, and facilitating cooperation on our most pressing national concerns.
The Summit debuted the Transpartisan Sunshine Cabinet. This group of mainstream and alternative leaders, thinkers, innovators and visionaries, including United States Congressman Ron Paul and Grover Norquist – President, Americans for Tax Reform, will serve as an informal cabinet to national decision makers. Each member was given the opportunity to state their “top priorities for America” and the Summit attendees voted on them. (A Summary of Outcomes)
During the conference, a powerful, galvanizing energy was created by our innocent inquiry into what it meant to be an American and how to live in integrity with the Democratic and Republican ideals of our country. We began to take responsibility as citizens for deciding what was important to us and how to achieve it. No small step.
What do you think are the obstacles to creating transpartisan politics and how do you think they can be overcome? The author introduces the idea that the United States is a, are you familiar with this idea and what does it mean to you?