Purple Points of Agreement

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

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.”

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?

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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?

The Kavanaugh Nomination: A Symptom

The Kavanaugh Nomination: A Symptom

Sexual assault usually involves the exercise of power grounded in a lack of empathy. As an adolescent, Brett Kavanaugh displayed a serious lack of empathy. As a judge, his opinions have done the same. That lack of empathy disqualifies him from serving on the Supreme Court. But Democrats and Republicans have ignored those issues.

Selfish ambition is our society’s primary problem. The pursuit of power by climbing social ladders is the System’s driving force. One result is the abuse of power.

Two days prior to the Kavanaugh hearing, a New York Times editorial recommended to the Senate Judiciary Committee thirteen critical questions to be posed to Kavanaugh. The Democrats could have made certain that they asked those questions.

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Don’t Feed the Trolls

Don’t Feed the Trolls

A recent public controversy about how Facebook bans content and a June 28 column by Thomas B. Edsall, “Don’t Feed the Troll in the Oval Office,” illustrate the importance of how “racism” is defined.

As reported on September 20, Facebook bans content that affirms “white supremacy,” which it considers a “racist ideology based upon the belief that white people are superior in many ways to people of other races and that therefore white people should be dominant over other races."

But Facebook allows “white nationalism” and “white separation.” Trying to take into account how their policies impact people around the world (such as the Zionist movement in Israel and the Basque movement in Spain), they believe white nationalism “doesn't seem to be always associated with racism (at least not explicitly.)” Many white nationalist groups say they’re not racist because they don’t consider other races inferior, but merely seek to ensure the survival of the white race and white culture.

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Comments on “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”

Comments on “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”

The September focus of the Great Transition Network forum is an essay by Guy Standing, “The Precariat: Today's Transformative Class?”  Standing’s essay and the comments on the forum address an important issue: economic insecurity. Unfortunately, with one exception, those comments echo Standing’s economic determinism. They neglect the need for personal, social, and cultural transformation that could proceed prior to and concurrent with economic transformation.  

Standing’s proposed solution is to impose taxes on profits from the use of common resources --”natural, social, civil, cultural, and intellectual” -- and use that revenue to guarantee everyone a basic income. He argues that approach “would enhance personal and ‘republican’ freedom..., provide [insecure workers] with basic security, and strengthen social solidarity.”

Economic security is essential. But toward what end?

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Racism: Language Matters

Racism: Language Matters

Racism -- the belief that a particular race is inherently superior -- is thoroughly interwoven into our social system. It’s a prime example of how the System nurtures domination and submission. Undoing racism and transforming America will require multi-dimensional personal change as well as social, cultural, and political change.

That work needs to be careful and compassionate. Some change efforts backfire. Clarity about “race,” racism, and systemic racism can help.

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Self-Improvement

Self-Improvement

Most Americans would like to be less judgmental and more compassionate. They’d like to love their “enemies.” They want to engage with others as equals. They know that trying to relieve suffering can be rewarding. When they think deeply about it, Americans realize:

The individual and the community are interwoven. What affects one individual affects every individual.

What serves the individual serves the community, and what serves the community serves the individual.

The Earth is a spaceship and yes, all humanity is in this together.

There’s no irreconcilable conflict between self-interest and community-interest, though there’s often a tension.

Building an effective compassionate, transformative movement will require activists to liberate those innate instincts. As James Baldwin said, “The things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”

For various reasons, however, most people are not committed to ongoing self-improvement. Instead, they reflect one or more of the following characteristics…..

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Trump the Symptom

Trump the Symptom

Two recent columns in the Times echoed each other on a key aspect of our condition and Trump’s role in it. “The Devil in Steve Bannon” by Frank Bruni features an interview with Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris about his new movie, “American Dharma.” Bruni describes the film as “essentially one long, transfixing interview with B:annon.” Morris tells Bruni:

The question is: How resilient is our democracy? Was de Tocqueville right that we would just disappear into silos of self-congratulation and self-interest, or can we hope for something better?

The second column is “How Far America Has Fallen” by Roger Cohen. It concludes:

Trump was a symptom, not a cause. The problem is way deeper than him.

For William Steding, a diplomatic historian living in Colorado, American individualism has morphed into narcissism, perfectibility into entitlement, and exceptionalism into hubris. Out of that, and more, came the insidious malignancy of Trump. It will not be extirpated overnight.

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Why Launch a “Transform the System Network”

Why Launch a “Transform the System Network”

NOTE: Following are some arguments in favor of “A Suggestion.”

Personal, social, cultural, and political transformation are all needed to transform our global society, which is a coherent, self-perpetuating social system, the System.

Agreeing on the broad understanding of the System articulated in “A Suggestion” could help unify a community of various forces who see how their primary issue is connected to other issues.

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Charlottesville, Parkland, and Schlesinger

Charlottesville, Parkland, and Schlesinger

The August 13 “The Daily” podcast from The New York Times, “A Year of Reckoning in Charlottesville,” was disturbing. Though anti-racist protestors now hold most positions of power, including the Mayor’s office, it seems in Charlottesville “the left is eating itself.”

Wanting to find some alternative analysis of Charlottesville one year later, I googled the issue and found very little. But I did find a substantial July 21 Times article,  “Year After White Nationalist Rally, Charlottesville Is in Tug of War Over Its Soul.” That article includes:….

All that indicates the need for new strategies. Fortunately, an August 15 article, “‘Let Us Have a Childhood’: On the Road With the Parkland Activists,” illustrates an alternative…..

The wisdom of that strategy is reinforced by “The High Table Liberal,” a review by Sean Wilentz of a new biography of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., …

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Notes of an Urban Hermit (627 words)

Notes of an Urban Hermit (627 words)

A Brain Pickings essay about Pema Chodron prompted me to shift my self-image. Some elements in Maria Popova’s post, “When Things Fall Apart,” that hit me hard include:

  • Use fear to dismantle old ways of thinking.

  • Don’t hold on to arrogant ideas.

  • Face unsettlement with openness to possibility.

  • Get the knack of catching yourself.

  • We can be with what’s happening and not dissociate.

  • Awakeness is found in pleasure and pain.

  • Let concepts and ideals fall apart.

  • Loneliness, fear, and feeling misunderstood and rejected is the heartbeat of all things.

  • When we feel ready to give up, healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself.

  • Only through self-compassion to our own darkness can we offer light to others.

Those affirmations led me to deepen my commitment to drop my 50-year-old identity as a community organizer.,,,

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Transformation

Transformation

Personal,
Social,
Cultural,
Political,
Global
Transformation.
The overwhelming majority of people
In most nations
United,
Grounded in compassion,
Loving themselves as they love others,
Avoiding both self-sacrifice and selfishness,
Treating others as they want to be treated,
Setting aside destructive instincts,
Liberating their higher angels,
Realizing their nation’s highest ideals,
Helping to transform their nation
Into a compassionate community
Dedicated to the common good of
All humanity,
Their own people,
The environment,
And life itself --

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“Your Privilege is Showing”

“Your Privilege is Showing”

Mutual support for self-development can be risky (as well as valuable). Phoebe Maltz Bovy addresses some of the dangers in The Perils of “Privilege,” Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage. In her extensive, important, informative, and disturbing review, Bovy evaluates the “call-out culture” -- a recent explosion that’s commonly reflected in the charge, “Your privilege is showing.” Her observations suggest more effective ways to nurture personal growth and political action.

Privilege -- whether “earned,” gained by birth or luck, or granted arbitrarily -- is an advantage held by a particular person or group. Bovy affirms “admirable self-awareness of advantage” and agrees with Roxanne Gay’s statement: “If you cannot recognize your privilege, you have a lot of work to do; get started.” But she strongly criticizes most efforts to increase privilege awareness.


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Reflections on “How Do We Get There?”

Reflections on “How Do We Get There?”

The most popular topic recently on the Great Transitions Network forum was “How Do We Get There? The Problem of Action.” In their 45 comments, the contributors made many points that grabbed me, sharpened my thinking, or introduced me to new ideas about how to advance global transformation. Some of the comments with which I agree are posted here.

However, the forum disregarded the emotional world. Words such as “feelings” and “emotions” were rarely used. Merely influencing thinking is insufficient. Feelings shape ideas. Progressive activists need to learn how to connect on deep emotional levels.

More specifically, from my perspective, the discussion was weak with regard to open-ended mutual support for personal transformation.. As Asoka Bandarage has said, "Transformation of the self and the society are inseparable.”

There were some exceptions to that neglect of emotions….

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GT Nuclear Disarmament Discussion

GT Nuclear Disarmament Discussion

…I found the following statements in the lead essay to be particularly compelling:

  • Nuclear weapons, unique in their power and capacity for destruction, pose an existential threat to humanity.

  • ...celebrating technological achievement, serves to keep the nuclear arms race alive.

  • The only way to change direction is to build a strong popular movement,...

  • The nuclear abolition movement must join with other movements seeking systemic global change…,

  • Change ultimately begins with individuals.

Seeking a movement focused on nurturing the Beloved Community and believing "transformation of the self and the society are inseparable," as Asoka Bandarage put it (see “A Holistic Masterpiece”), I submitted the following comment to the Great Transitions forum.

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Proposed: A Global Transformation Call to Action Prize

Proposed: A Global Transformation Call to Action Prize

[We, identify sponsor and partners] invite individuals and teams of individuals to submit proposals for how to help transform our global social system, improve the quality of life, and protect the environment.

Cash awards totalling [$xxxx] will be granted to one or more submissions judged to hold the greatest potential for nurturing widespread effective action.

Proposals should be no more than 1500 words…

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Great Transition Initiative: A Beacon of Positivity

Great Transition Initiative: A Beacon of Positivity

Discovering folks like Asoka Bandarage who affirm holistic, systemic transformation is heartening (see “A Holistic Masterpiece”). It’s even more rewarding to find the Great Transition Initiative (GTI), a large network whose members engage in thoughtful online dialog. These efforts counter the divisiveness that’s spreading like a plague throughout society.

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The Power of Yes

The Power of Yes

Positive words benefit the brain. As reported by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Waldman,” thinking, hearing, speaking, and reading positive messages lowers stress and helps people respond quickly, deal with problems, live longer, develop satisfying relationships, be flexible, and become more caring.


An intuitive awareness of those recent scientific discoveries may have contributed to these historical events.

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Undermine Trump with Love

Undermine Trump with Love

The word civil has many meanings. Trump critics who recommend civility don’t counsel patience, deny righteous anger, or oppose all disruption. To say they do is to attack a straw man.

But they do reject demonizing. One synonym for civility is respect. That’s what they mean. They recommend respecting opponents’ essential humanity.

Critics of civility who call on the moral authority of Dr. King usually do so selectively, while neglecting key elements of his philosophy. According to the King Center:

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