Dear Fellow Concerned American:
Out of the pain and frustrating dysfunction of the current win-lose political drama, a serious constituency is growing for a political system based in well tested win-win principles and practices (similiar to those adopted by large businesses over the past couple decades to reconcile the divergent interests of management, labor, and other “stakeholders.”) This constituency isn’t waiting for the political professionals to agree — its unlikely they ever will — it’s being driven by citizen leadership.
My faith and commitment to such a difficult to imagine transformation from win-lose to win-win politics is rooted in personal experience. In 2001 after spending the first half of my life as a strident hater of liberals, I left Republican politics exhausted and disillusioned to reflect in a cabin in the mountains of rural Virginia. At the age of 39 I was in personal crisis. I had recently lost a risky bid for Congress. My marriage, business and political reputation had disintegrated. After struggling with and for political power for almost a decade, fueled by an undercurrent of anger and righteousness, I had hit a wall.
No longer feeling so sure of myself or my worldview, and having been humbled to the point of living well below the poverty line, life delivered an unlikely set of teachers (for someone whose nickname in the military had been “starch”)…a community of hippies. The small town I had chosen for retreat was a haven for 1960’s and 70’s back-to-the-landers. Over time, I began to discern and respect the underlying values that motivated their behavior — sharing, interdependence, equality, compassion for the weak, a strong sense justice, freedom, creative self-expression, and a reverence for nature. I realized these complemented rather than contradicted my conservative values of accountability, order, hard work, security, protection, respect for the individual, and respect for authority.
This simple insight – that liberal and conservative values systems have a natural, complementary relationship – was a breakthrough in my life and has become the basis of my work since. One set of values is softer, more nurturing, more emotional, and the other set is harder, more responsible, more rational. When integrated, they mutually support each other in a similar way to the parents of a healthy family. To be a whole, balanced, well functioning person I need to integrate the values of my mother and father. To be a whole balanced well functioning nation, it seems to me, we need to honor and integrate these values as well.
Based on this premise, the support of a foundation willing to fund “forgiveness,” and the contribution of a diverse group of mediators and systems thinkers from the little known field of “integral politics,” the work of Reuniting America emerged in 2004. Over three years we convened 144 leaders of groups like MoveOn.org, Christian Coalition, Common Cause, Americans for Tax Reform, Code Pink and Heritage Foundation. These “transpartisan leadership retreats” tested the premise that with a safe welcoming environment, clear ground rules, and a transparent process that allowed rather than denied conflict, trust, respect and communication emerge. We have seen unexpected cooperation among people who thought they were enemies on issues ranging from open government, election integrity, civil liberties, protecting the U.S. Constitution, net neutrality, national service, climate change and dialogue with Iran.
Inspired by this beginning and in an effort to extend this work to the grassroots, in October of this year the Transpartisan Alliance was organized — an informal network of networks that will serve as the convener of the American Citizens’ Summit, the first ever Transpartisan National Convention. This is an ambitious undertaking that is requiring vision, careful citizen diplomacy, and immense cooperation. It is intended to reduce tensions, build trust and facilitate cooperation on our most pressing national concerns…and its not just for political insiders, activists or organizers. It’s for average people whose voices are rarely heard. It’s for formal and informal leaders looking for new allies. It’s for innovators with ideas that our country needs. It’s for facilitators, mediators and bridge builders. It’s for businesspeople, artists, religious and non-religious. It’s for insiders and outsiders. It’s a “We the People” convention to restore integrity to the phrase government of, by and for people.
Consider joining us February 11-15, 2009 in Denver…what more effective service can you render right now? Register now, learn more or join the Alliance!