Realizing the Ideals of “E Pluribus Unum” is Dependent on Building A Sustainable Cross-Partisan Constituency (3/3)
Do you think an activist cross-partisan constituency is necessary to the health and well-being of American democracy?
by The Cross-Partisan Action Network | 1.18.19
Read Part 3 of Rob Stein's conversation on cross-partisanship below. Revisit Part 2 here, and take action above to share you opinion!
Realizing the Ideals of “E Pluribus Unum” is Dependent on Building A Sustainable Cross-Partisan Constituency
Fortunately, not all Americans are irretrievably enmeshed in the tentacles of the two-party political industrial complex. There is growing evidence (See specifically, the "Hidden Tribes" report, and more generally, current public opinion research by the Pew Research Center, the Gallup Organization, and others) that millions of open-minded people - including Independents, and disappointed and/or disaffected Republicans and Democrats - want efficient, effective government that embraces ideological diversity, collaborates productively across political divides, and forges constructive cooperation among the public, private and non-profit sectors to address critical human and community problems.
These patriots want to elect leaders, regardless of party affiliation, and promote policies, regardless of ideological derivation, who and which serve the country rather than one party or a single ideology.
A new generation of organizations is emerging that are organizing citizens and voters around these values and cross-partisan agendas. The majority of these groups remain relatively small and currently lack a shared strategic vision, integrated operations, the data analytics or financial resources necessary to build a sustainable constituency. However, in the aggregate, they represent a dynamic new alliance for change because among them are many respected managers, board members and supporters who are ready to expand their operations and mobilize a potent new cross-partisan constituency.
There are far more cross-partisan groups engaged in politics, policy development and citizen and organizational “bridge-building” than can be listed in one essay. The following is a representative sampling of the range of established and emerging groups with cross partisan programs and/or sensibilities:
Democracy Reform/Legislative Action: One category of cross-partisan activity is focused on protecting democratic ideals, institutions and norms, reducing the influence of money in politics, promoting fair elections (ballot access for non-party candidates, open primaries, rank choice voting, fair redistricting and etc.) and reforming Congressional rules and procedures. Examples of organizations that are pursuing democracy reforms and cross-partisan policy agendas primarily through state and federal legislative and executive action include: Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget; Issue One/Reformers Caucus; National Institute for Civil Discourse; Millennial Action Project; No Labels/Problem Solvers Caucus; Protect Democracy; and Represent.Us.
Elections: A second category of organizations is working to recruit, train and/or to help elect, at all levels, Republicans, Democrats and Independents who seek a new, more open politics and cross-partisan political arrangements that support evidence-based solutions to human and community problems. Examples of groups in this category that will actively support open-minded candidates in 2019/2020 include: Defending Democracy Together; Leadership for Educational Equity; Unite America; With Honor; and Stand Up Republic/Patriots United.
Bridge-Building/Civility Training: A third category of groups is utilizing a variety of processes and techniques to engage people (including students on high school and college campuses) across traditional ideological and cultural divides to develop cross-partisan skills, enhance civility, promote civic education and address pressing community and national problems. Examples of groups focused primarily on national level cross-partisan problem solving include the Bipartisan Policy Center and Convergence Center for Policy Resolution. Others engage students and citizens in their communities – e.g., Better Angels; BridgeUSA; Living Room Conversations; and Welcoming America.
Ideation/Policy Development: Central to the near- and long-term success of a new cross-partisan ecosystem are fresh, substantive, evidence-based ideas that animate citizens, activists, organizational leaders, candidates and voters. There are a number of better established, as well as several emerging, centers of economic, domestic and foreign policy thought which are developing a spectrum of ideas with cross-partisan appeal for solving pressing community and global problems. Although these groups currently are identified as either more aligned with Republicans or Democrats, they all have cross-partisan sensibilities and are developing thought partner relationships across traditional political divides. Examples include New America Foundation; Niskanen Center; R Street Institute; The New Center; and Third Way.
Communications/Dissemination: Shared information and connectivity are essential for sustainable constituency building and mobilization. Notable examples of on-line cross-partisan information sharing communities are Countable.us, a cross partisan news and current affairs information platform; The Firewall, a new, on-line publication/community devoted to democracy reform efforts, and The Topline.com, a recently launched news and opinion aggregator for the cross-partisan, American democracy movement.
Alliances and Forums: A number of the democracy reform and bridge-building organizations listed above, and many others, are members of two promising cross-partisan alliances - The Bridge Alliance and the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers - which aspire to work with their affiliates to build community, improve cross fertilization among their groups, develop strategies and forge productive collaboration. Moreover, a dynamic forum, Patriots and Pragmatists, is facilitating cross partisan dialogue about the future of democracy and evidence-based problem solving among conservative, progressive and moderate organizational leaders, journalists, pundits, strategists and donors.
These groups, and others that exist and will be formed over the next several years, are the institutional backbone necessary to recruit, organize and mobilize millions of cross-partisan activists in every region of the country. In order to achieve their near- and long-term policy and political objectives, these groups - pursuing their own institutional missions and collaborating as appropriate with others - must enhance their operational capacities and focus laser-like on organizing a sustainable grass-top and grassroots constituency throughout the country.
Building capacities, achieving operational scale, recruiting and mobilizing millions of activists requires leadership, data management and analytics and the financial support of millions of followers. For this force for change to have demonstrable political and policy impact within the next few years, it must raise several hundred million dollars per year (a small percentage of the billions spent every year by the two-party political industrial complex) in order to enhance and diversify its leadership, strengthen its management, expand its programs and geographic reach, and deepen its capacities to recruit, train and mobilize at least three to five million cross-partisan activists who represent the ideological and cultural diversity of America.
With sufficient operational scale, these activists and leaders would have the wherewithal to inspire millions of passionate citizens to support local, state and federal evidence-based policies and mobilize tens of millions of voters to elect a new generation of local, state and national leaders with cross-partisan commitments, skills and substantive agendas.
A significant infusion of growth capital into cross-partisanship would impact the character and trajectory of American politics by forging a new common cause committed to a grander national purpose, not because of ideology, party or special interests, but because the well-being of democratic ideals, institutions and norms require the constant vigilance of Republicans, Democrats and Independents.
This cross-partisan cause would be devoted to securing our common destiny, not because of purely partisan advantage, but because evidence-based solutions to education, healthcare, immigration, rebuilding America’s infrastructure, protecting our environment, stimulating economic growth, enhancing research and development, providing life-long job training, securing better wages for America’s struggling middle class and strengthening our social safety net are necessary to meeting basic human needs and to achieving a good society and a healthy nation.
These critical issues, and many others, will not be addressed until the passions and perspectives of millions of cross-partisans have a clear voice in our national political dialogue.
Thus, individual activism is central to building the cross-partisan cause as a potent force for change. What is needed now is for every open-minded American who is committed to country over party, ideology and special interests to join one or more cross-partisan organization(s), recruit others, take actions in their community, petition Congress to support cross-partisan developed policies, and work to elect Republicans, Democrats and Independents who are devoted to the ideals of e pluribus unum.
America is not the only democracy currently reeling from hyper-partisanship and dysfunctional governance that is failing to address its citizens’ needs. But America is the only country on earth with abundant political philanthropy sufficient to innovate political renewal and give voice to those ready and willing to challenge the partisan gridlock of our two-party political industrial complex.
Our democracy is at an inflection point. The 2019/2020 Presidential election season – with its guaranteed hyper-partisan frenzy – will crystallize the reality that the two parties, and their allies, are not the sole custodians of ultimate wisdom. While parties are a necessary and permanent fixture in our political system, they no longer are sufficient vehicles to express the full diversity of American thought or to innovate policies and elect candidates devoted to a larger national purpose derived from our mutual responsibilities and shared destiny.
We have an unprecedented opportunity in this super-charged political moment to elevate alternative, open-minded voices in our public squares, solidify the influence of cross-partisanship in American politics and chart a track back to the ennobling ideals of E Pluribus Unum.
In case you missed it check out the full conversation here or revisit...
- The Track Back to the American Ideals of E Pluribus Unum (Part 1)
- Wither America: “E Pluribus Unum” or “E Pluribus Pluribus”? (Part 2)
Rob Stein is a former Senior Strategist, Democratic National Committee (1989-1992); Founder, Democracy Alliance (2005); Co-founder, Committee On States (2007); and currently committed to building an enduring cross-partisan constituency to chart the track back to the ideals of E Pluribus Unum.
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