Irrational Politics

Irrational Politics

Human beings join tribes. This instinct is biological. Tribes assume moral superiority over and seek to dominate other tribes. Winning is primary. The price of victory is secondary. These battles produce strong emotions that distort reality.

When tribes join with other tribes into super-tribes, a threat to one tribe is a threat to every tribe. Life becomes more dangerous and irrational. Republicans and Democrats are super-tribes. They focus on winning the next election.

The development of these electoral super-tribes has undermined the ability of legislators to compromise, which is the heart of democracy. Legislators must compromise to address difficult problems, but increased polarization has made it more difficult. Tribalism is pulling the country ever deeper into a downward spiral of bitter gridlock.

Compromise is not always timely. Militant activism can help bring attention to pressing issues and build pressure for stronger improvements. But outside the electoral arena, on the left and the right, doctrinaire, victory-centric tribes have also formed super-tribes. They demonize opponents, resist all compromise, and disregard the consequences of their actions. The result is profound fragmentation.

The time has come for everyone to step back and engage in critical self-evaluation. Learning to overcome arrogant, hyper-competitive, domineering tribalism is essential in order to unite and transform this nation into a compassionate community.

Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity by Lilliana Mason analyzes Republicans and Democrats. Her book applies to other tribes as well.

Mason argues:

A single vote can now indicate a person’s partisan preference as well as his or her religion, race, ethnicity, gender, neighborhood, and favorite grocery store. This is no longer a single social identity. Partisanship can now be thought of as a mega-identity.

Mason calls this dynamic “social polarization.” The convergence of multiple identities into one mega-identity leads to greater stereotyping, prejudice, and emotional volatility -- and makes us “increasingly blind to our commonalities.”

Read More

Americans for Humanity: A Declaration

Signers will be invited to discuss possible next steps. An established organization might then adopt the project, assume ownership of the AmericansForHumanity.org domain name, and work with other organizations to advance the project. With support and assistance from numerous associates, Wade Hudson served as principal author of this declaration.

Americans for Humanity: A Declaration

I/we support the growth of a popular movement that:

  • serves humanity, the environment, and life itself

  • respects the essential equality of all human beings

  • encourages everyone to identify as a member of the human family

  • affirms individuals’ multiple identities

  • opposes efforts to dominate others due to one of their identities

  • relies on love and trust rather than hate and fear

  • channels anger productively

  • attracts people with face-to-face community and caring friendships

  • honors our nation’s accomplishments, criticizes its failures, and helps build a more perfect union

  • fully represents and gives voice to the American people

  • helps transform the United States into a compassionate community that:

    • supports the rule of law, individual rights, and the freedom to engage in activities that do not deny freedom to others

    • encourages people to relate to others as individuals of equal worth

    • promotes partnerships that empower people

    • nurtures democracy throughout society

    • meets basic human needs

    • assures good living-wage job opportunities

    • protects free speech

    • makes it easy to vote

    • enables everyone to participate in society fully and productively

    • encourages supportive relationships with other countries, backs their right to self-determination, promotes human rights, and advocates peaceful resolution of conflicts with mediation and negotiation

  • pressures Washington to implement compassionate policies supported by strong majorities of the American people

  • engages in nonviolent civil disobedience and consumer boycotts when needed

  • encourages members of the movement to:

    • improve their emotional reactions

    • engage in honest self-examination

    • support each other with their personal and spiritual growth

    • avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior

  • supports members who want to form small teams that share meals, strengthen connections, provide mutual support, and plan other activities

  • cooperates with movements in other countries that also serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.

To sign, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JF5DHPR.

Related:
Irrational Politics
Report on "Question: How Activists Operate"
Comment on "Question: How Activists Operate"

SIGNERS

Ben Ament
Bob Anschuetz
Scott Beckman
Jonathan Betz-Zall
Dan Brook
John Cloud
Norman Degelman
Stephen Gerritson
David Hartsough
Wade Hudson
Mary H
Ingrid Kepler-May
Alan Levin
Katherine Sofos Looper
Shyrl McCormick
Robert Morgan
Daniel Nissenbaum
Bernhard Possert
Jakob Possert
Steven Lee Shults

Democrats, Border Walls, and Social Polarization

Democrats, Border Walls, and Social Polarization

As Lilliana Mason reports in her shocking, disturbing Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became our Identity (2018), many scientific studies prove that human beings are afflicted with a deep-seated instinct to polarize into highly competitive, mean-spirited tribes. Emotions rooted in the body associated with politics and sports are remarkably similar. Those powerful feelings, often unconscious, can distort reality and undermine ethical behavior. Winning becomes primary, consequences secondary.

In order to win, polarized tribes will sacrifice their own self-interest as well as the needs of others. Tribal members enjoy seeing opponents suffer even if they themselves don’t benefit. Their unconscious bias results in destructive discrimination and produces a self-reinforcing downward spiral. Rather than reach agreement on how to relieve suffering, they prefer to fight win-or-lose symbolic, ideological battles over abstractions like “the government,” “capitalism,” or “the wall.” Meanwhile four percent of the world’s children die by the age of five and the planet is burning up.

Mason argues that both Republicans and Democrats are examples.

Read More

Multiple Identities, Politics, Freedom, and Equality

Multiple Identities, Politics, Freedom, and Equality

For me, the most important article of 2019 may prove to be “The Philosopher Redefining Equality” by Nathan Heller in the January 7 issue of The New Yorker. The article’s subhead is “Elizabeth Anderson thinks we’ve misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society.” The caption for the lead illustration is “Our real concern should be equality not in material benefits, Anderson argues, but in social relations: democratic equality.”

Heller writes:

Her work, drawing on real-world problems and information, has helped to redefine the way contemporary philosophy is done, leading what might be called the Michigan school of thought. ...She brings together ideas from both the left and the right to battle increasing inequality,...

Born in 1959, Anderson specializes in moral and political philosophy. Right out of graduate school, Princeton University offered her a tenure-track job, but she decided to stay at the University of Michigan, where she is now the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and John Dewey Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies (which she named after Dewey when the university elevated her to its highest professorship). As soon as I get it, I plan to read her 2017 book Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don't Talk About It).

Heller reports:

“The Industrial Revolution was a cataclysmic event for egalitarians,” Anderson explains.... “We are told that our choice is between free markets and state control, when most adults live their working lives under a third thing entirely: private government.”

As summed up by Heller:

Read More

Declaration Dialog

Twelve subscribers to my lists offered valuable (positive) feedback to the first two drafts of “A Declaration for Compassionate Community.” Those drafts with revision marks are posted here. A log of the feedback and my responses is posted here.

Those reflections prompted me to re-organize the document as a pledge (see below) that opens with “next steps” that everyone can take immediately, and concludes with the declaration of support for the growth of a popular movement. The new title is “Americans for Humanity: A Pledge.” Aiming to make it as short as possible, on my own initiative I’ve also deleted some of the initial content.

What do you think of this option? Suggested changes?

My plan is to send this draft to the same subscribers and incorporate suggested changes so long as they are forthcoming.

Then, if and when there’s strong consensus, I’ll seek feedback from many individuals not on those lists -- and ask you to do the same with people you know.

The goal is to make the statement as good as possible.

Then, if and when there is strong support for the latest draft and no more substantial suggested changes are being submitted, we can consider whether and how to circulate it for endorsement.

Americans for Humanity:
A Pledge

(1/10/19 Draft)

As an inhabitant of the United States of America, I will:

  • Serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.

  • Improve my emotional reactions;

  • Examine myself honestly;

  • Avoid oppressive or disrespectful behavior;

  • Support others with their personal and spiritual growth;

  • Welcome support from others.

  • Strengthen my sense of myself as a member of the human family.

  • Affirm personal identities based on characteristics such as race and gender.

  • Oppose efforts to dominate others due to their identity.

  • Respect the essential equality of all human beings.

  • Rely on love and trust rather than hate and fear.

  • Channel anger productively.

  • Promote partnerships that empower people.

  • Support individual rights and the rule of law.

  • Nurture democracy throughout society.

  • Honor America’s achievements, criticize its failures, and help realize its ideals.

  • Help transform the United States into a compassionate community.

  • Encourage the growth of a popular movement that embraces these values and:

    • Fully represents and gives voice to the American people.

    • Attracts people with face-to-face community and caring friendships.

    • Supports members who want to form small teams that share meals, strengthen connections, and plan other activities.

    • Pressures Washington to implement policies supported by strong majorities of the American people.

    • Engages in nonviolent civil disobedience and consumer boycotts when needed.

    • Cooperates with movements in other countries that also serve humanity, the environment, and life itself.

To sign, click here

+++++

NOTES:

  1. The latest version of this pledge will always be at https://goo.gl/MYF4s3

  2. An archive of email comments without authors identified will be at https://goo.gl/Q8Pj6s.

The American Dream, Redefined

The American Dream, Redefined

Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations by Amy Chua is a valuable, challenging book. The American Dream, however, is more complicated than Chua acknowledges.

Chua affirms a self-critical American Dream “that recognizes past failure.” She also rightly criticizes those who reduce America to “a nation founded on genocide and on the backs of slaves.” She writes:

In America, it’s the progressive elites who have taken it upon themselves to expose the American Dream as false. This is their form of tribalism…[which] creates a virtuous Us and a demonized Them.

Her point is well-taken. Progressives often express a holier-than-thou attitude toward typical Americans and do not adopt a balanced stance toward America’s strengths and weaknesses.

Chua’s less judgmental perspective declares that “generations seeking justice have done so for the promise of America….  [which] allows -- indeed, gains strength from allowing -- all those subgroup identities to flourish…. “ She proposes strengthening America’s identity as the only nation that is not based on ethnicity, but rather is an inclusive “super-group” with everyone “united by their common humanity and love of liberty.” She believes:

It’s not enough that we view one another as fellow human beings; we need to view one another as fellow Americans. And for that we need to collectively find a national identity capacious enough to resonate with, and hold together as one people, Americans of all sorts…. What holds the United States together is the American Dream.

But her definition of the American Dream is mistakenly rooted in the pursuit of great wealth.

Read More

A Marshall Plan for the Earth

A Marshall Plan for the Earth

Naomi Klein’s exhaustive, passionate This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014) is an inspiring call to action that exposes many myths associated with the climate debate. But it falls short.

Some ten years ago, Bolivia’s representative to a United Nations climate-change conference, Angelica Navarro Llanos, declared:

If we are to curb emissions in the next decade, we need a massive mobilization larger than any in history. We need a Marshall Plan for the Earth. This plan must mobilize financing and technology transfer on scales never seen before. It must get technology onto the ground in every country to ensure we reduce emissions while raising people’s quality of life. We have only a decade.

During that conference, Klein, author of No Logo and Shock Doctrine, met with Navarro Llanos. Klein says that meeting was “the precise moment when I stopped averting my eyes to the reality of climate change, or at least allowed my eyes to rest there for a good while.” That experience led her to write This Changes Everything.

Read More

The People vs. Democracy: A Review

The People vs. Democracy: A Review

Less than one-third of Americans born since 1980 believe it is “essential” to live in a democracy. In 2011, 44 percent of Americans aged 18-24 liked the idea of a strong leader who does not have to bother with Congress or elections, an increase of 10 percent since 1995.

Those statistics in The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It by Yascha Mounk may be the most disturbing facts in Mounk’s troubling book, which documents how liberal democracy is under attack throughout the world.

It’s tempting to trust the young to save us. Their opinions on many matters are moving this country in a compassionate direction. But any such confidence would be wrong. Opposition to liberal democracy is growing among the youth as well. Mounk’s book, published by Harvard University Press, argues convincingly that even in the United States liberal democracy is fragile.

Mounk offers the following definitions:

  • A democracy is a set of binding electoral institutions that effectively translates popular views into public policy.

  • Liberal institutions effectively protect the rule of law and guarantee individual rights such as freedom of speech, worship, press, and association to all citizens (including ethnic and religious minorities).

  • A liberal democracy is simply a political system that is both liberal and democratic….

  • Democracies can be illiberal...where most people favor subordinating independent institutions to the whims of the executive or curtailing the rights of minorities they dislike.

Conversely, liberal regimes can be undemocratic…[when] elections rarely serve to translate popular views into public policy.

Read More

Transforming the World: A Scenario

Transforming the World: A Scenario

Dedicated to humanity, the environment, and life itself, the Purple Alliance pushes for new national policies supported by a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

As part of the Earth Community, the Alliance promotes democracy, respects the rights of individuals, opposes the tyranny of the majority, and pushes political parties to back proposals that have supermajority backing while also pursuing their other principles.

The Alliance affirms the value of compassionate personal identities based on political party, ideology, theology, nation, race, gender, geography, or other factors. At the same time, the Alliance encourages strong identification as a member of the human family.

From this perspective, the Alliance promotes the nonviolent transform-the-world movement, opposes one group disrespecting or dominating another group based on that group’s superficial characteristics, and supports the use of force to restrain people who violate the rights of others.

Read More

Comment on "Question: How Activists Operate"

The fifteen responses to “How should political activists improve how they operate?” were rich and diverse. As one correspondent commented:

Wow!  My first learning from reading all of your responses is this:  How very _different_ all our concerns /seem/ to be! :open_mouth:  Are we even "on the same page"?

I agree the responses cover a wide range. Thus far, however, it seems to me they’re largely compatible, though they may reflect a serious divergence in terms of priorities.

The response that had the strongest impact on me was Shariff’s. In the piece I’m writing now, a scenario that presents a narrative for how we might move toward systemic transformation, I was beginning with a focus on narrow short-term goals and concluding with an affirmation of fundamental long-term goals. His call to be clearer about ultimate goals led me to be more upfront at the outset about the ultimate goals being proposed there. Carolyn’s call for long-range goals moves in that direction, but Shariff seems to be talking about something more fundamental.

The Four-Fold Practice suggested by Jeff has merit. Though I disagree with the (anti-political) statements about “judgment” (we can make judgments without being judgmental), I like the essay’s four simple suggestions and the brief elaborations presented in italics. But the paragraphs on each point that follow often lose me. They seem too complicated and raise too many red flags. And the essay seems to be part of a much more complicated training process that includes elements like “the seven helpers.” As such, it feels like “disabling professionalism.” I believe we need simpler methods that empower more easily.

Jeff’s “The Four Roles of Change” fruitfully identifies different roles activists can play, affirms the value of each, and argues they ideally complement each other. But I’m uncomfortable with the notion that rebels “force” power holders to make a change and the suggestion that if a campaign “settles for less,” it has necessarily been “co-opted.” The reluctance to seek reconciliation through negotiation and compromise and instead try to impose one’s will by force strikes me as problematic. As Camus analyzed so incisively, it’s easy for rebels to let their anger lead them to internalizing the values of the oppressor against whom they originally rebelled. It seems this essay crosses that line. Steve’s recommendation to avoid demonizing and seek compromise is more convincing.

I like Yahya’s proposal to “listen as much as they speak” (if not more!), Deetje imploring activists to sing, Ronnie and Michael’s call for more nonviolent action, and Justice’s reminder that “peaceful ends require peaceful means.” Mike’s reference to Smucker’s book seems worth investigation. I think Bob’s complaint about abstract ideology is well taken. I hope Nancy has success with her appeal to scholars to be activists as well. And I like Thomas and Lenin’s point about sharing the lives of those being organized, but the emphasis on “explaining” seems too Leninist.

My main reservation about others’ responses, however, is that they all seem to focus on thinking and behavior, and do not address feelings. They neglect the need for deep personal change, constant self-improvement, and mutual support for that effort, which can change how activists operate.

In “Letter from a Region in My Mind,” in 1962 James Baldwin wrote:

Something very sinister happens to the people of a country when they begin to distrust their own reactions as deeply as they do here, and become as joyless as they have become. It is this individual uncertainty on the part of white American men and women, this inability to renew themselves at the fountain of their own lives, that makes the discussion, let alone elucidation, of any conundrum—that is, any reality—so supremely difficult. The person who distrusts himself has no touchstone for reality—for this touchstone can be only oneself. Such a person interposes between himself and reality nothing less than a labyrinth of attitudes. And these attitudes, furthermore, though the person is usually unaware of it (is unaware of so much!), are historical and public attitudes. They do not relate to the present any more than they relate to the person. Therefore, whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves.

Baldwin also said:

The day will come when you will trust you more than you do now, and you will trust me more than you do now.  And we can trust each other. I do believe, I really do believe in the New Jerusalem, I really do believe that we can all become better than we are.  I know we can. But the price is enormous, and people are not yet willing to pay it.

That’s why my response to the focus question was: “Cultivate more humility and engage in more honest self-evaluation to nurture more self-improvement.”


Report on "Question: How Activists Operate"

Following are responses to the question that I circulated earlier this month: “How should political activists improve how they operate?”

Shariff Adbullah
The question is meaningless, without a prior question/identification:  "What is the Vision/Goal of your political activism?"

Without this question, asking how one can improve political activity is like asking how one can improve the way you put on your pants in the morning.  SO WHAT?  And: putting on your running shorts may be the easiest activity, but is pretty useless during a blizzard.

Recently, I was talking to a couple of people who think of themselves as political activists.  They were telling me that their goal was to "Get rid of Trump".  I asked, "Why?"  They looked dumbfounded.  I then reflined my question: "Assume I can wave my pen and "get rid of Trump".  What do you think would happen then?"

They launched into the usual litany of anti-Trump statements, disguised as benefits.  "Protect immigrant rights", "Protect the environment", "Bring us together".

My response: "And then what?"  And again the dumbfounded look.  I said, "Suicide is at an alarming rate.  The use of dangerous drugs, especially heroin, is at an all-time high.  Depression and despair are epidemic.  We have tens of thousands of people existing in tents on the streets of all of our cities.  WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?"

So, the short answer to your short question.  Until the "political activists" are ready to answer the real questions of our society, they should stay home and meditate.  And, when they have answers that will benefit ALL BEINGS (not just their own political clique or their pet issues), they will know the actions that are most effective.

BIG HINT:  They can start their meditations by focusing on the statement: "What would it take to create a world that works for all beings?"

Jeff Aitken
A couple things that might help:

The Fourfold Practice, which scales from self care, and hosting important conversations, into growing affinity groups and networks around a campaign.
http://aositoronto.weebly.com/four-fold-practice.html

The Four Roles of Change, which helps us identify four key roles in a movement and how to play them well.
https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/bill-moyer-four-roles-of-social-change/

Yahya Abdal-Aziz
Listen as much as they speak.

Deetje Boler
SiNG!

The strong effect on activists of singing together of relevant songs is too often forgotten by organizers. There is really no stronger bonding than the sensation of singing together with others. It can make a lasting and profound impact on an individual's feeling of connection and optimism regarding shared goals that contributes to continuing motivation to work to achieve a shared goal. (And I don't mean just listening to people's songs -- labor, folk, work, spiritual, anthems, etc; I mean singing them together with others.) The experience simply does something unique to the heart and soul! --a feeling of belonging to something larger than oneself? shifts the power away from the 'other' into the social group singing, with a sense of being part of a larger 'being' than just oneself.

Ronnie Dugger
I suggest; by enforcing their ethical actions and lessons with nonviolent civil disobedience. I may write along this line but do name me as the source as if a mere sentence deserves to be credited

Steve Gerritson
It seems to me that most political activists operate within an organization - either a campaign or an NGO dedicated to some good purpose. (Full disclosure: I went through the Sierra Club's activist training.) in pursuit of their objective, often the first thing they do is demonize the opposition. This makes it virtually impossible to compromise, and often precludes an objective discussion of the issue. My main suggestion would be to stop doing that.

Patricia Gray
I think we have to urge people NOT TO VOTE BY POLITICAL PARTIES-----They should demand that their 'represetatives' truly REPRESENT THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE, and not vote as directed by their 'major donors' --- we all know these 'donations' are just bribes.  Candidates should promise to vote as directed by the registered voters who live in the district.  They can promise that if elected they will put up information on all the bills coming up for a vote.  On their web site they can have the whole bill, a condensed version of the bill, arguments both for and against the bill and then as for the advice of the constituent as to how they should vote IN THEIR NAME.

Carolyn Reuben Green
Have long range plans! Last night Rachel Maddow showed the disgusting charts of multiple states where gerrymandering by Republican legislatures retains Republican control of the statehouse even though Democrats won dramatically higher numbers of popular votes in every case. Republican strategists planned years ahead for this, district by district. 

Wade Hudson
Cultivate more humility and engage in more honest self-evaluation to nurture more self-improvement.

Mike Miller www.organizetrainingcenter.org
I'm only about 50 pages into Hegemony How-To:  a Roadmap for Radicals by Jonathan Matthew Smucker.  In these pages, he asks activists to critically evaluate what they have been doing.  He raises the question based on his own experience as an OCCUPY WALL STREET activist.  His questions deserve serious consideration.  I don't yet know how he answers them because I haven't read that far.  

Michael Nagler
They could be more in touch with others doing complementary work.  They should have an awareness of the Big Picture (to even recognize who's doing comp. work -- which is almost all of us).  They should be familiar with the basic dynamics of nonviolence.  They should be ware of being 'ideological' and looking to call other people out -- even our opponents!

Bob Planthold
|Look at where are the values and concerns of the people around them.  
From that, look where there are inconsistencies.

STOP working from abstract  & remote political values & history.
Too often the wording is high-falutin and, figuratively, foreign to 
the people & groups that polit. activists are trying to work WITH.

Justice St. Rain
I have no idea. 
All I know is that peaceful ends require peaceful means.
When they go low, we go high.
etc.

Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Scholars have to get their noses out of their books and put theory, indispensable but useless until put  into action, by which I mean,
 putting their bodies as well as their minds, on the line - in the streets and highways and  byways of our divided America…

Thomas Schegel
Back in the 1970s someone on KPFA quoted Lenin as below. I can’t give a cite. I have never found the quote in writing so it may have been made up, or from someone else, but it has suited me. “The first duty of a revolutionary is to share the life of the workers, the second is, patiently, to explain.” Sounds like early Lenin, who’s father was a school teacher/administrator after all. The revolution came along and things got urgent. But until I find myself involved in revolutionary government I will stick with that statement of doctrine.

The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You

The Thriving World, the Wilting World, and You

[NOTE: This explosive speech led to the fantastic book, Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World.]

I gave the following speech at the Aspen Institute’s Action Forum, on July 29, 2015, in Aspen. The talk — on generosity versus justice — was to my fellow fellows in the Aspen Global Leadership Network. As a result, it contains some obscure jokes and references. After it popped up in David Brooks’s New York Times column and stirred an outpouring of discussion, sympathetic and critical, I decided to post the prepared text here on Medium. The video is also available here and below. Discuss!

…The Aspen Consensus, in a nutshell, is this: the winners of our age must be challenged to do more good. But never, ever tell them to do less harm….

[To read the speech, click here.]

Read More

A Vision

The transform-the-world movement serves humanity, the environment, and life itself. In each country, movements attend to the interests of their country -- and cooperate with movements in other countries to pursue global interests. To protect themselves from powerful, selfish, global financial forces, they support strong nation-states.

In the United States, the movement promotes the general welfare and aims to more fully realize America’s highest ideals -- political equality, human rights, and popular rule.

The movement encourages identifying as a member of the human family, affirms other compassionate identities,…


Read More

Donald Trump: The Triumph of Frustration, The Failure Of Vision

Donald Trump: The Triumph of Frustration, The Failure Of Vision

Stop Paying Attention to Trump. Start Paying Attention to the People Who Voted for Him

For the longest time, all during the presidential campaign, I kept telling people to STOP paying attention to the Twitter shenanigans of Donald Trump. He is a sociopath, a charlatan, and will be one of our most failed presidents. Not because of his agenda, but because of his lack of one. His role is to further the continued unraveling of this society. Just stop paying attention. I see no need to feed his ego need for notoriety by paying any more attention to him than the sentences I just wrote.

However, there's a real story here, one that most of the Left and the mainstream media are choosing not to follow. This story is not about Trump. The story is about the people who voted for him, and made him President of the United States….

Read More

Plutocracy is a Myth: The System is Us

Plutocracy is a Myth: The System is Us

The American people hold the power. The wealthy do not rule. They do not direct, exercise control, determine what happens.

When a supermajority of Americans unite and act forcefully, they persuade elected officials to respect the will of the people. But unified action rarely happens. Fragmentation and passivity allow the rich and powerful to get what they want.

Read More

Mobilizing the Compassionate Supermajority: A Declaration for Global Transformation

Mobilizing the Compassionate Supermajority: A Declaration for Global Transformation

By improving ourselves, our culture, and our institutions, we, the compassionate supermajority of the American people, can help the United States honor its highest ideals: political equality, human rights, popular rule, and, as affirmed in the Constitution, “promote the general welfare.”

With this effort, we can help transform the world into a caring community dedicated to the common good of all humanity, ourselves, the environment, and life itself. In each nation, individuals and communities can pressure their leaders to cooperate with other nations on shared humanitarian concerns.

We can nurture mutual respect, moral commitment, and spiritual development. We can learn steadily how to set aside negative tendencies and do what we really want to do: be more compassionate. Rooted in powerful grassroots movements, we can overcome polarized gridlock by building new structures to give the supermajority a greater voice.

+++

In recent studies, two-thirds or more of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats, said elected officials lose touch with their constituents, don’t care “what people like me think,” put their own interests first, and fail to give Americans a voice. They said the wealthy have too much power and agreed that the amount of money individuals contribute to political campaigns should be limited….

Read More

The Courage to Be

The Courage to Be

Paul Tillich is widely regarded as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century, if not the most influential.

Originally published more than fifty years ago, his The Courage to Be (1952) has become a classic, designated one of the Books of the Century by the New York Public Library. It describes the dilemma of modern man, especially the problem of anxiety.

The 2014 edition includes a new introduction by Harvey Cox, author of The Secular City.  Cox situates the book within the theological conversation into which it first appeared and conveys its continued relevance in the current century.

Comments on the book:

“The Courage to Be changed my life. It also profoundly impacted the lives of many others from my generation.”--Robert N. Bellah, University of California, Berkeley

“The brilliance, the wealth of illustration, and the aptness of personal application . . . make the reading of these chapters an exciting experience.”―W. Norman Pittenger, New York Times Book Review

“A lucid and arresting book.”―Frances Witherspoon, New York Herald Tribune

“Clear, uncluttered thinking and lucid writing mark Mr. Tillich’s study as a distinguished and readable one.”―American Scholar

Excerpts from The Courage to Be:

Read More

Purple Points of Agreement

A majority of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents agree on the following.

Abortion

“In some circumstances in which a woman may choose to end a pregnancy, majorities of Americans — Democrats and Republicans — are on the same side, sometimes supporting the legality of the procedure and sometimes not.”
Candidates Fight Over Abortion, but Public Has Surprising Level of Harmony

Campaign Spending,

in a June 2015 article, “Americans’ Views on Money in Politics,” The New York Times reported:

There is strong support across party lines for limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns, limiting the amount of money groups not affiliated with candidates can spend, and requiring unaffiliated groups to publicly disclose their donors if they spend money during a political campaign….

With near unanimity, the public thinks the country’s campaign finance system needs significant changes. There is strong support across party lines for limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns, limiting the amount of money groups not affiliated with candidates can spend, and requiring unaffiliated groups to publicly disclose their donors if they spend money during a political campaign.

Specifically, the following percentages of Republicans agreed with the following:

  • 80 -- Thinking about the role of money in American political campaigns today, ...money has too much influence.

  • 85 -- Candidates who win public office promote policies that directly help the people and groups who donated money to their campaigns … most of the time (54) [or] sometimes (31).

  • 81 -- There are some good things in the system for funding political campaigns but fundamental changes are needed (45). The system for funding political campaigns has so much wrong with it that we need to completely rebuild it (36).

  • 71 --  Limiting the amount of money individuals can contribute to political campaigns.

  • 73 -- [Limit spending] on advertisements during a political campaign [by] groups not affiliated with a candidate.

  • 76 -- [Require] groups not affiliated with a candidate that spend money during political campaigns...to publicly disclose their contributors.

  • 55 -- Wealthy Americans have more of a chance to influence the elections process than other Americans.

Concerning that study, the Sunlight Foundation highlighted, “Seventy-six percent of respondents (including identical shares of Republicans and Democrats) say money has a greater role in politics than in the past.”

Climate Change

As reported by Naomi Klein in This Will Change Everything (p. 118), in 2010 Public Opinion Strategies found that three-quarters of voters, including a vast majority of Republicans, supported a plan that “would make oil and gas companies pay for the pollution they cause,… encourage the creation of new jobs and new technologies in cleaner energy…., [and] protect working families, so it refunds all of the money it collects directly to the American people, like a tax refund, and most families end up better off.”

Criminal Justice Reform

In 2015 the ACLU reported:

Republicans and Democrats alike say that communities will be safer when the criminal justice system reduces the number of people behind bars and increases the treatment of mental illness and addiction, which are seen as primary root causes of crime…. In a sharp shift away from the 1980s and 1990s, when incarceration was seen as a tool to reduce crime, voters now believe by two-to-one that reducing the prison population will make communities safer by facilitating more investments in crime prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

According to that study, 54% of Republicans say it’s important for the country to reduce its prison populations. Eighty-seven percent of all respondents agree that drug addicts and those with mental illness should not be in prison. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.

Job Creation Programs

A 2013 Gallup poll found:

Americans widely support each of three job creation proposals, including offering tax breaks to businesses that create jobs in the U.S. and a program that would put people to work on urgent infrastructure repair projects. Support for these programs is only slightly lower in a variant of the question that asks respondents if they are in favor of spending government money to pay for the programs.

Specifically, 63% of Republicans supported “a federal government program that would put people to work on urgent infrastructure repairs” and 56% support “a federal jobs creation law designed to create more than 1 million new jobs.” When government spending is mentioned, Republican support for those proposals declined to 53% and 52%.

Military Spending

In 2016 the Center for Public Integrity reported that in 2012 “two-thirds of Republicans and nine in 10 Democrats supported making immediate cuts.” With voters surveyed between December 2015 and February 2016, “50 percent of Republicans favored decreasing spending or keeping it the same, and 48 percent favored increasing it.”

A 2014 Pew study found that 52 percent of Republicans do not believe military strength is the best way to ensure peace.

Corporate Welfare

A 2011 Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 15% of likely U.S. voters believed the federal government should continue to provide funding for foreign countries to buy military weapons from U.S. companies. Seventy percent opposed this funding to promote U.S. arms sales. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.

Immigration

A 2014 Pew study found that 54 percent of Republicans do not believe immigrants are burdening the country by taking jobs, housing, and health care from Americans.

Homosexuality

A 2014 Pew study found that only 43 percent of Republicans still agree with 22 percent of Democrats that "homosexuality should be discouraged by society."

Social Security

A 2014 Pew study found that 65% of Republicans support making Social Security sound. And 67% of all Americans oppose benefit cuts. Given the size of that super-majority, presumably a majority of Republicans agreed as well.

Medicare

A 2014 Pew study found, “Even among consistent conservatives, there is minimal support for the government having absolutely no role in providing health care. Three-quarters of consistent conservatives (75%) say the government should continue Medicare and Medicaid while just 20% think the government should not be involved in providing health insurance.”

Elected Officials

Concerning the 2014 Pew Study, the Sunlight Foundation highlighted these findings:

  • 77 percent say elected officials lose touch with their constituents.

  • 74 percent say elected officials don’t care what people like me think

  • 74 percent say elected officials put their own interests first

Top Priorities

In “Democrats and Republicans Agree on More Than You Think & Why That Matters for 2016, “ William A. Galston wrote:

a closer analysis of the Pew data reveals that in addition to these partisan agendas, there is an American Agenda of “top priorities” supported by majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents and by a super-majority (60% or more) of all Americans. Ranked in order of overall support, they are:

galston_chart1.png

Why Didn’t the Democrats Stop the Nomination?

chess.jpg

If the Democrats had hammered away at the many lies told by Kavanaugh under oath, they may have stopped the nomination. Flake for one, said lying to Congress would be disqualifying. The Democratic leaders could have made that issue their number one talking point. But they didn’t. So the network news, including PBS, hardly touched on it during the days leading up to the vote.

Why didn’t the Democrats concentrate on the lies? One possibility is that the focus on sexual assault, especially after Trump took the bait and started sympathizing so strongly with men, will bring more women to the polls. So the Democrats prolonged the process to make it more difficult, if not impossible, to appoint another nominee later this year -- a nominee who would likely be even more hard line than Kavanaugh -- and did not attack Kavanaugh forcefully enough to prevent his elevation.

That’s the only explanation for their weakness I can figure and I haven’t seen any other analysis of the question.

If that scenario is accurate and it helps the Democrats next month to win an overwhelming majority in the House -- which can restrain and expose Trump and perhaps prompt him to resign -- were those tactics justified?

What price will we pay? What gains did we lose out on?