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Idealism Without Illusions




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Selected E-Mails
 to the Editor,
2008 - 2009

Here are some of the feisty e-mails and letters that are coming in to Radical Middle Online Newsletter.  They're arranged in reverse chronological order.

For selected e-mails and letters from 2007, go HERE; from 2006, HERE; from 2005, HERE; from 2002-04, HERE; and from 1999-2001, HERE.

To send YOUR OWN e-mail to the editor, just click on E-Mail the Editor.


What Was Lost, What Was Gained

December 15, 2009

I loved the “decentralist / globally responsible” politics and – even more – the sweet, vulnerable, empathic tone of voice in your first newsletters, Renewal and New Options [1981-91, r.i.p – ed.].  I respected Radical Middle [1999-2009], but it was not the same.  I hope the books you’re planning will be more like the former than the latter.

Ari Miller
New York, N.Y.

Dear Ari, – New Options reflected the sensibility of a very idealistic young person who’d managed to hold onto his visionary idealism into his 30s and 40s, largely by (a) undergoing the in some ways permanent emotional scarring of Vietnam-era draft resistance (see HERE), and then (b) confining himself to friends, colleagues, and organizations that reflected his view of the world.

It wasn’t sustainable, and it wasn’t healthy, either; I felt alienated even in grocery stores!  And by the end I’d experienced enough of similarly “idealistic,” similarly alienated people to know we had no better answers to the problems of the world than anybody else, despite our spiritual longings & leading-edge rhetoric.

After law school and a couple of years of legal practice (1992-97), i.e. after a couple of years in the Real world, which was less awful than I’d feared, I wanted to write a newsletter that brought pragmatic, cool-eyed analysis to our problems and not just visionary emotion.  Hence, Radical MiddleAt a deeper level, I wanted to engage in dialogue with the person I’d been before law school – with the idealistic person many of us had been or still struggle to be.  That dialogue is the subtext of Radical Middle.

If you read Radical Middle with that dialogue in mind (it is most explicit HERE and HERE, but I prefer its subtler incarnations in most of the rest of my articles), then maybe you’ll learn to prefer Radical Middle to New Options.  Or at least find it as valuable, and as sustaining. – M.S.


So Keep With It

December 1, 2009

Wow, I looked at your farewell issue and was completely taken by surprise and very honored to find my law review article discussed there [now posted separately as “Kleiner’s Good Corporate Guys Meet Yamada’s Good Corporate Laws,” issue #120-d – ed.].

Really, it means a lot to me.  It also makes me think a lot about political labels.  I suppose on paper my social and political views would be considered mainstream liberal, but I’m very compatible with so many of the ideas you’ve been writing about – and have found my own thinking deeply influenced by them!  And with all the challenges we’re seeing for law & policy right now, we need to be about problem solving and not defending ideological turf.

That’s one reason you should occasionally water and feed the Radical Middle website (as you appear to recognize atop HERE) – so that your commentary will be available for those who are in search of thoughtful ideas.  Much of what you’ve written is not time-sensitive, so it will still be waiting for the right readers and actors in the months and years to come.

And especially with your “Multilogue” follow-up pieces [e.g., HERE, HERE, and HERE – ed.], you’ve modeled a great way to build emails-to-the-editor into a more thematic set of responses.  I really, really liked what you did with these.

You might like to know that I started a blog, Minding the Workplace, late last year.  I’m only beginning to find my “blogging voice,” but it’s been enjoyable so far and I’m starting to build a modest readership.

Mark, as I suggested after your piece on poverty (which mentions Sandra as I recall), I think you’ve arrived.  And I mean to a place that you can comfortably build on for the rest of your writing and thinking days, without undue angst or self-recrimination but always with a bit of healthy edge, and with this sense that you know who you are.

At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card, the end of this journey marks the beginning of a new one.  So keep with it.

David Yamada
Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School
Boston, Mass.


The Courage to Follow One’s Inner Call

November 15, 2009

Well, with our radical-middle president now in the White House, I guess you couldn’t have picked a better time to retire from Radical Middle newsletter (“Your Editor Says Goodbye,” issue #120).  But I am sad – took me awhile, but I am over the shock now.  And I am selfishly concerned (upset!) that I will no longer be able to have the fabulous source of practical hopefulness that you have provided for me.

And I am happy for you that you are going to take the time to write your books.  Yaay! – this will provide a great learning and growing experience for you as well as for us, I am sure.  I look forward to the results of your taking time out to ponder and re-integrate your experience.

I am so happy that you are not afraid to make this radical change, even though you risk disappointing many people like me – I celebrate your courage to follow your heart!  And I know this is not new about you.  You have had the courage to follow your heart, to follow your own inner truth, throughout your career . . . which is why you have been such a valued voice in my life.

This is a great gift to all – both in the results produced, and in that it gives others the courage to follow the inner call as well.

Blessings on your new way of working and loving.  And if you and your beloved ever decide that either the legalities of marriage, or the joy of a celebration of your love, would be a good idea, and that you would like to give yourselves the gift of a relaxing sojourn in sparkling, balmy, and green Hawaii, I would be honored to perform your wedding for you.

Blessings on your beautiful journey.

The Rev. Margaret Ka’imi Nicholson
Director, Spirit of Aloha Hawaii Weddings
Honolulu, Haw.


To Dig Beneath the Spiritual and Radical

November 1, 2009

Re: “Your Editor Says Goodbye” (issue #120):

You have, from the beginning when I first discovered you, been the most honest, clearly focused, pragmatic, visionary political commentator I have ever seen, heard of, or run across.  You, dear Mark, are in a class by yourself.

You see through eyes we all wish we had, synthesizing what’s there, and then re-interpreting what seemed meaningful into real workability.  I have admired your guts and your courage, your commitment to never give up, and your willingness to “go down with your ship” if you missed the mark.

When I first met you, you occupied sparse space near Dupont Circle in Washington DC.  I walked over to your “office” to see you face-to-face, to know whom I was supporting, to investigate the source behind the books and articles and newsletters you produced.  I was impressed then, and I remain impressed now.

I am a true Westerner (even though I live in Virginia), with a need to see behind “masks” and buzz words, and to dig beneath what is loosely termed “holistic,” “spiritual,” “transformative,” and “radical change.”  You have never disappointed me with your honesty.  I knew with you I had found someone who would call things as they really are.  No nonsense.  No fantasy.

I consider myself lucky to have found you.  It has been my privilege to be one of your supporters, to have a space for you in the Marketplace of The Website of P. M. H. Atwater, and to promote your work wherever I go.  Wonder of wonders that you have found your beloved, that you have returned to California to care for your aging father, and that you have had the fortitute to say goodbye [to your newsletter readers].

I am writing my tenth and last book on my findings concerning the near-death phenomenon.  When it is done, I too will be saying goodbye.  I feel deeply your words, and I treasure the hello you once gave me and the goodbye I now read.  What a soul you are.

P. M. H. Atwater, L.H.D.
Author, The Big Book of Near-Death Experiences
Charlottesville, Va.


Go For It!

October 15, 2009

Re: your goodbye letter atop HERE.  Go for it!  Look forward to reading your books.

Anne Anderson
National Coordinator, 1984-2006, Psychologists for Social Responsibility
Washington, D.C.


So hurry up and do your book!

Elsa Porter
Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Carter Administration
Portland, Ore.


Go get them tiger.

Saul Mendlovitz
Dag Hammarskjold Professor of Peace and World Order Studies Emeritus, Rutgers School of Law-Newark
New York, N.Y.


I was delighted to hear you are writing another book(s) and particularly a memoir; I very much look forward to reading it.  I really appreciate and honor you for the clear voice and perspective you have been articulating all these years!  Here’s to a happy, healthy, whole life for you, and for us all.

Sarah James
Principal, Sarah James & Associates: City Planning & Community Development
Cambridge, Mass.


Other than finishing two books, what are you thinking about next?

John Steiner
Activist, Philanthropist, and Avatar Master
Boulder, Colo.


Thanks So Much

October 1, 2009

Thanks so much for the changes, the sense of humor, the on-going “good fight,” and the humility.  You are always an inspiration and give me much to think about.

Alexis A. Johnson, Ph.D.
South Salem, N.Y.


I think I see some of your ideas being adopted already – whether directly from you, I don’t know!  Regardless, I thank you for your good work and positive contributions to our political evolution.

Peter Javsicas
Executive Director, PenTrans: Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions
Philadelphia, Pa.


Thanks for the great run Mark.  Those of us in the “Radical Center” will miss your great insights.

Paul Hosse
Editor / Publisher, Another Opinion
Louisville, Ky.


I’ve enjoyed your newsletter ever so much over the years, Mark.  Thanks and good luck with your future adventures.

Frank Basler
President, Basler Associates: Helping Organizations Bring Out the Best in Their People
Bridgeport, Conn.


Thanks for your years of service to us.  You are one wonderful guy and whatever you do or write next I am sure will be on the cutting edge of our future.

Terry Mollner
Founder and President, Trusteeship Institute
Shutesbury, Mass.


There From the Start

September 15, 2009

Thanks for the retrospective article (“Your Editor Says Goodbye,” issue #120), which is nostalgic for me who was there in the beginning – I still have my copy of your book New Age Politics [1976]!

Elmer Brunsman
Adjunct Instructor of Communication, Marist College
Poughkeepsie, N.Y.


So glad and proud to have been a part of your “work.”  Two completions – New Options newsletter from the’80s, Radical Middle newsletter from the’00s.

I admit that I had trouble with the online articles.  I missed the paper version!  Just an old fashioned girl, you got here.

Ariel Owen-Gray
Executive Director, Two Fishes Swimming T’ai Chi Academy
Phoenix, Ariz.


Wow, Mark, this is sad, but I am happy for you.  I have been reading you since your New World Alliance days [Renewal newsletter, 1981-82 – ed.], though I have largely been the silent partner, reading and thinking about what you say but not being chatty.  Thanks for enriching my life, and the lives of so many others.

The Rev. Douglas Wilson
Executive Director, Rowe Camp & Conference Center
Rowe, Mass.


Thanks for wrapping up your farewell sequence of reviews with Alanna Hartzok’s first book.  I remember this superwoman from 1979 – so happy to see she’s doing so well!

Daniel Clark
Sarasota, Fla.


The passing of Marilyn Ferguson (1938-2008) and of Mark Satin’s Newsletter Era (1981-1991, 1999-2009) . . . sad passings of two paradigm shakers and initiators, one leaving the body and the other reincarnating into something else . . . even both doing both.

Please do not disappear.  Please contribute to this new Obama era.  NOW is your time too.  Step up – step forward.  You are a part of the solution.  Blessing and blissings to you.

Dana Ullman
Founder, Homeopathic Educational Services
Berkeley, Calif.


Please Don’t Go!

September 1, 2009

Our editor is NOT allowed to say Goodbye (“Your Editor Says Goodbye,” issue #120).  Not now.

Judy Graves, LL.D.
Housing and Homeless Advocate for the City of Vancouver
Vancouver, B.C., Canada


Please don’t abandon your readers midstream.  All those who like to call themselves communitarian throughout the world need people like you.  Radical middle thought is on the map because of people like you.  Please do continue to enlighten us.

Bireshwar Banerjee
New Delhi, India


I will miss your monthly observations, Mark.  I want to tell you emphatically that, while I may be in a minority, I will always FIND the time to read any length article you (or any writer whose ideas are exciting to me) might write!  I think you are being way too accommodating to such people.

Edryce Reynolds, Ed.D.
Former Tacoma City Council candidate
Tacoma, Wash.


We are very sorry to see you are ending Radical Middle, just as we might finally have a radical-middle president in Obama!  Your newsletter was brilliant and we really enjoyed it.  We quote from some of your articles in our new book, which will be out next year.

Corinne McLaughlin
Gordon Davidson
Co-Founders, Center for Visionary Leadership
San Rafael, Calif.


Well, I am glad that you plan to keep the Radical Middle website going [see letter atop HERE – ed.].  There are parts of it that I have not yet explored.

My latest discovery is your review of Marilyn Hamilton’s book Integral City.  Hers is a line of thought that has long attracted me, and I’m glad it still has influential supporters.

Betty Mullendore
Librarian (retired)
Gaithersburg, Md.


Remembering Ecotopia

August 15, 2009

I must say I was particularly pleased to find Ernest Callenbach’s book Ecotopia Emerging in your most heavily viewed article (“Ten Best American Political Novels,” issue #73).  I bought 100 copies when it came out and distributed them to friends and acquaintances.  I was president of the New Alchemy Institute board at the time and invited Callenbach to speak at one of our annual meetings.  I hope your inclusion gets it some attention.

Best of luck in your post-Radical Middle years; keep communicating!

Judith Barnet
Yarmouth Port, Mass.


She Wasn’t Crazy

August 1, 2009

Thank you for writing a positive review of Wendy Shalit’s book A Return to Modesty (“Modest Women, Honorable Men,” issue #2) and for your courage in exposing it to the public.  I knew about Shalit’s book since my freshman year in college (four years ago), and it completely changed my perspective about dating in college.

As a Christian, my ideas about sexual modesty are almost exactly the same as Shalit’s, but reading the book helped affirm I wasn’t crazy for thinking in a different way about men’s and women’s differences; chivalry; relationships.  I am now writing my senior honors thesis on modesty.

Saint Paul, Minn.

Dear Marla: Thanks for your note.  It was a little scary putting that article out there 10 years ago!  I hope others learn from my mistakes (as have I – am finally happy and at peace now with a true life partner).  Good luck with your thesis and in your own life course.  Aim high! – M.S.


I Was Thrilled

July 15, 2009

Just a note to let you know that I am Harvey Swados's son (I am the youngest of his three children).  I was surfing the Web the other day and purely by accident happened to come upon your newsletter.  I was quite thrilled -- a major understatement -- to find my father's novel Standing Fast at the top of your recommended political-fiction list ("Ten Best American Political Novels, 1945-2000," issue #73).

Much like my father himself, Standing Fast died an untimely death, winding up out of print (in hardcover and subsequently in paperback) a couple of years after its publication.  So thank you, belatedly, for this gift, which I shared with my mother.  She is in her 80s and has Alzheimer's -- however she was even more thrilled than I to read your article -- so thanks for that too.

Robin Swados
Senior Copywriter, CurtCo Media Labs, LLC
New York, N.Y.


Dig a Little Deeper

July 1, 2009

Although I appreciate your attempts to make sense of it all, I have discovered that the root of the problem is in the Monetary System.  The financial system has seized up because there is more interest owing than collateral available for more loans.

I know this is hard to take in, but it is true.

John G. Root, Jr.
Participant, "Imagine Community"
Great Barrington, Mass.


Most of what you write seems intelligent, thoughtful, and balanced.  But I was surprised by your use of what seems to me both a broad and an inaccurate brush in characterizing and dismissing David Ray Griffin's book The New Pearl Harbor, at the very bottom of your David Korten review.

So far, I fail to see a legitimate reason why many thoughtful and intelligent people reject the possibility of an internal 9/11 conspiracy, and vehemently oppose efforts like Griffin's to ask questions and seek answers about what happened.

There are examples from recent history which suggest (to my mind) that the requisite level of secrecy and deception is possible.  One is the Manhattan Project, which involved tens of thousands of people without managing to significantly leak.  Another is the annual Bilderburg conference, which -- benign as it might be -- is effectively kept out of the mainstream media, so most people have never heard of it.  In both cases you have evidence of a press willing to filter what it reports on.

In addition, there are to my mind many mysteries surrounding the JFK assassination and alien / UFO contact and advanced technology, for which plenty of information is still classified and effectively kept secret.

With all of this and more, why should the very possibility of an internal 9/11 conspiracy be a non-starter?

Marcus Macauley
AmeriCorps volunteer, Camphill Soltane
Glenmoore, Penna.


Securing Our Birthright

June 15, 2009

Since reading your amazing review of my book The Earth Belongs to Everyone ("Zakaria's Humanistic Pragmatism Meets Hartzok's Visionary Idealism," issue #120-e), and learning that you gave it your 2008 Radical Middle Political Book Award (along with Chickering and Turner's Voice of the People), I've been in a kind of state of shock!

Your review and award surely will give a tremendous boost to our efforts to secure the birthright to the earth for each and every precious one of us.  Thank you for who you are and all that you are giving to the world.

Alanna Hartzok
Co-Director, Earth Rights Institute
Chambersburg, Penna.

Dear Alanna Hartzok: Note the next e-mail below. 


June 1, 2009

Re: your transpartisan article / manifesto ("Post-Partisan! The First Uniquely American Political Ideology Is Being Born," issue #110): I began to move out of the concept of a linear, left-right spectrum in the 1980s after reading the book The American Experience by Henry Bamford Parkes (1904-1972).

Parkes concluded that the American culture developed not from the "European ideologies" of industrial capitalism or socialism, nor their hybrids.  America was born not of capital-labor struggles, but from land.

He called this ideology the agrarian tradition or ideal, and traced the land-based tradition through American thought.  The great divide in America was not between left and right, but between the agrarian ideal of equal liberty in land and the American will and drive to power.

Brad VanDyke
Arborist and Youth Counselor
Representative, Rural Utahns for Local Solutions
Spring City, Utah


Seeing Limits, Finding Peace

May 15, 2009

Just completed your 6,000-word review of David Korten's book The Great Turning ("What Can We Learn from the Antiglobalists?," issue #94), in which you criticize not only Korten but your own similar views from 1964-92, while managing to praise him (and forgive yourself) for all the right reasons -- and I'm exhausted!

Your sense of history and writing gift strikes me as much as your humility in seeing limits within your early writing.  It seems you have found some peace in trying to move people by taking them where they are and hoping through education and reflection that they will develop a more respectful lens toward others, the earth, and a sustainable future.

I feel considerable frustration knowing that you write, read, and critically think as well as most anyone I'm aware of.  I finally decided not to run for office -- feel most of my neighbors will never take the time to read articles like yours, and am not sure how to gain longer attention of the many if not the "masses" when sound bites seem to get more purchased, perfected, and perverted by both sides.

I am out of energy at age 55+ raising children and grading papers of grad students who rightfully take all that one can give.  At times I fall to a sense of resignation.  Yet I carry on, in part out of excitement for what you are doing.

Rich Feller
Professor, School of Education, Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colo.


Bring It On!

May 1, 2009

I would just like to say that it's about time somebody called for a return to the draft ("Dear Congressman Rangel: Yes, Let's Bring Back the Draft . . . But a Better One Than You're Proposing," issue #102).  I would especially like to draft Ann Coulter and Nancy Grace.  They both drive me nuts.  And Bill O'Reilly while I'm at it.

Mr. Dana W Carlson
Grocery Store Worker, Rainbow Foods
Woodbury, Minn.


Somebody Gets It!

April 15, 2009

I value your recognition of our work ("AmericaSpeaks's Wise Democracy Meets Chickering and Turner's Transpartisan Movement," issue #120-c), and I found your summary of the book quite encouraging.  Somebody GOT what we are saying!

Jim Turner
Co-author, Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life
Founding Partner, Swankin & Turner [law firm]
Washington, D.C.


Don't Ignore Corporate Power!

April 1, 2009

Corporations may not be the enemy, as you never seem to tire of saying or implying (most recently in "Could Common Ground on Capitalism (and Globalization) Be at Hand?," issue #115), but corporate power is conscious, growing, and blessed or excused by all too many, including you, I fear.

You have also continually ignored agricultural issues.  Erosion, depletion, and contamination are much greater problems than is commonly understood.  Concentration of land ownership is why our forefathers left England, and it is happening here.

Robert D. Williams
Farmer and retired minister
Clarinda, Iowa


With My Sunday Morning Tea

March 15, 2009

I just finished reading your issue #120-a with the GREATEST appreciation, with my Sunday morning cuppa tea ("Revesz's Numbers-Crunching Meets Hamilton's Meta-Frameworking")!!!

I am grateful not just for the review of my book, Integral City, but for your depth and breadth of vision for the Radical Middle.  I am called to read almost the entire set of books in your State of Our Vision 2009 series [first five articles HERE - ed.]; a few I have already perused.  Thanks from the bottom of my heart / mind for situating my humble tome amongst those of such splendid thinkers.

Marilyn Hamilton, Ph.D.
Founder / President, Integral City Meshworks Inc.
Abbotsford, B.C., Canada


Please Come to Boston

March 1, 2009

I have just read your article "From Blinded by the Present to Hot-Wired to the Past and Future," and want to thank you for the kind -- but deserved -- things you wrote regarding world history studies and the World History Association (WHA).

As vice president of the WHA and the fellow in charge of its conferences, I want to invite you and your viewers not only to check out the WHA website HERE, but to seriously consider joining us at our next annual conference in Salem, Massachusetts (near Boston), 25-28 June 2009.

At this conference you will see hundreds of teachers, professors, students, and independent scholars united in their commitment to furthering world history scholarship and pedagogy.  I think I can say without fear of error that all of us in the WHA -- some 1,200 internationally -- believe passionately in its civic and moral purposes, and perceive our role as world historians to be a vocation and mission, not a career or job.

OK, that probably sounds pretty overblown and high-flown, but most, if not all, world historians of my generation (I began teaching at the University of Vermont in 1967) were not trained in or originally hired to teach world history.  But somewhere along the way we each had a Damascus-Road experience and became apostles of this field.

Anyway, come to Salem.  I promise a stimulating experience, as well as a lot of fun.

Alfred J. Andrea
Professor Emeritus, University of Vermont
Co-author, The Human Record: Sources of Global History
Burlington, Vt.

Dear Prof. Andrea: In 1972 I was offered a full fellowship to the University of Toronto Graduate School of History (all tuition & basic living expenses paid so long as my grades were good).  Had I been patient enough to follow that path -- rather than try to Save the World via political organizing & alternative journalism -- I have no doubt I'd be one of your 1,200 world history colleagues today.

But as a young anti-Vietnam-war activist I saw patience as immoral, and credentials as corrupting.

I urge all my impatient young readers today to please think about that. - M.S.


Corporate Good Guy

February 15, 2009

This is very gratifying indeed.  Thanks for writing a terrific review of my "visionary" book ("Kleiner's Good Corporate Guys Meet Yamada's Good Corporate Laws," issue #120-d), and you should know your entire list of 10 [visionary texts, see first five articles HERE] introduced me to some thinkers whom I didn't know about -- and should.

Art Kleiner
Editor-in-Chief, strategy+business
Booz & Company
New York, N.Y.


Civil-Society Good Guy

February 1, 2009

I think you missed the potential for peace in the worldwide movement for democracy, aka the democratic-peace promise ("Is Democracy What the World Needs Now?," issue #118).

Europe is a zone of peace; so, perhaps, is Central America.  That democracies keep treaties between them is important; they are mutually enforceable.  So making dictatorships democracies -- however imperfect -- may be a better, shorter route to a world without war than previously imagined.

One popular text in the worldwide movement for democratic peace -- From Dictatorship to Democracy -- is by Harvard's wise Gandhian scholar, Gene Sharp, who was profiled in a remarkable Wall Street Journal piece last fall.  Sharp's text is now available in Vietnamese, and no wonder.  It is a realistic vision with promise!  A radical-middle vision for sure. . . .

Bob Woito
Executive Director, World Without War Council-Midwest
Author, Extending the Democratic Peace
Chicago, Ill.


Future in Her Hands

January 15, 2009

I submitted an essay, "The Value of the Middle," to National Public Radio in August of 2005.  They ran it on election day last year.  Thought you and your readers might be interested:


Love what you're doing!

Cande Iveson
Founder, Policy Works, LLC [lobbies government on behalf of non-profits - ed.]
Recent first-time radical middle political candidate
Columbia, Mo.


Time on His Hands

January 1, 2009

During the present warfare in Gaza I became concerned about implementing a long-term solution.  Purely by chance I came across your article "The One-State Solution for Israel-Palestine Is the Most Visionary AND the Most Sensible."  It is an outstanding balanced article.  I congratulate you both as a journalist and researcher.

I look forward to reading all the information on your website so I am better informed.  Fortunately I have plenty of time; my wife is with the Ministry of Public Health in Afghanistan for 18 months, and it has been declared too unsafe for me to be with her!

Dr. Paul Fitzwarryne
International Health Professional
Yarralumla, Australia


Therapeutic Law?

December 1 / 15, 2008

Our article about reinventing the U.S. legal system via Therapeutic Jurisprudence ("Healing First! Time for the U.S. Justice System to Get Less Mechanistic and More Compassionate," October / November 2008) generated so many emails that I ended up arranging some of them into a whole separate article, HERE.


The Center Holds Me

November 15, 2008

I just want to say that I have made the difficult journey to the center over the last decade of my life, and your website has been such a help and relief.

There have been times, as my personal philosophy has changed, that I have felt completely unrooted from any foundation.  It was as if my project of making different ideologies compatible was just a pipe dream, and I would be forever struggling to distinguish myself from the apathetic independent -- constantly searching for a way to articulate my politically independent beliefs.

Your website has been the first step in my progression towards being able to do just that.

I feel proud of my radical middle approach . . . and proud to have voted for a Democratic president for the first time in my 30-year-old life.  That I belong to a movement larger than myself is truly a relief.  Thanks for your hard work on what I believe to be the new frontier in American politics.

David Vorraro
Student, Temple University
Philadelphia, Pa.


Beyond Democracy? (concluded)

November 1, 2008

Great stuff, Mark ("Is Democracy What the World Needs Now?," September 2008)!

Several years ago I gave a course at the Kennedy School on "Non-Liberal Democratic Forms of Legitimacy."  I think it's very important that we begin to think through the vices of democracy and the virtues of other systems.

I'm still very strongly committed to participatory democracy, and find it interesting to see how participatory institutions (e.g., workplace democracy as in the former Yugoslavia) do and do not connect to nation-scale electoral democracy.

At the American Political Science Association annual meeting last summer, Mark Warren (University of British Columbia) and a Chinese colleague, Baogang He (Deakin University), gave a paper on deliberative innovations in China -- "Authoritarian Deliberation: The Deliberative Turn in Chinese Political Development."  It seems that Prof. He has really gotten citizen assemblies going in one large city in China. I think you and your readers might find it interesting.

Jane Mansbridge
Author, Beyond Adversary Democracy
Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

Readers might also enjoy Ethan Leib's first-hand report on the Hangzhou Conference on Deliberative Democracy -- in China itself -- where Prof. He also spoke, and Party brass listened. - M.S.


Beyond Democracy? (continued)

October 15, 2008

Thank you for your thought-provoking review of Larry Diamond’s book The Spirit of Democracy (“Is ‘Democracy’ What the World Needs Now?,” September 2008), which I probably won’t read being too busy these days trying to get a Democratic president and Congress elected.  I have two questions.

First, why do we have to generalize about “democracy” and assume that constitutional democracy as practiced in the U.S. is the same as parliamentary democracy practiced elsewhere?

The late constitutional scholar Fred Riggs argued that the latter was far more democratic than the former.  If, for example, we had had a parliamentary system, then the American people would have dispatched George W. Bush from his job years ago.  So I would argue that we have been exporting an inferior form of democratic government, along with its mean brand of capitalism and degrading culture.

Second, I am appalled at the steep decline in American civic life – democratic civic life – over the last 30 years, and am terrified, as you are, of the trends you cite.  However, you omitted one extremely important trend which terrifies me most of all – the erosion of the wall between church and state in our allegedly democratic system.

We are in mortal danger of losing the freedoms that wall was designed to protect (thank you, James Madison) and becoming a Christian theocracy, as pernicious as the Muslim theocracies our politicians rail against.  Why no mention of this danger?

Elsa A. Porter
Health care activist
Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Carter Administration
Portland, Ore.


An interesting read, as usual.  But here’s the thing that caught my eye (you’re summarizing Diamond):

“Thick” democracy is elections plus such desirable attributes as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of ethnic and religious groups to pursue their beliefs, clear rules of law, an independent judiciary, checks and balances on elected officials, a vibrant “civil society,” and civilian control over the military.

What this fatally omits is property rights, so people know what is theirs to own, control, and exchange.  Every early American friend of democracy – notably Tocqueville, Jefferson, and Madison – conceived democracy among independent property-owning citizens.

On a base of widely distributed property, securely owned, with freedom of contract, rule of law, and independent third-party resolution of disputes, you can build a working democracy.  Absent that, you may be able to operate a tribal consensus system of some sort, but not a democracy.

Am I correct that neither you nor Diamond gets this?

John McClaughry
President, Ethan Allen Institute
Former Senior White House Policy Advisor, Reagan Administration
Concord, Vt.


Diamond’s book is very sad.  We need democracy right here.  Who is the U.S. to preach democracy when we see what a farce our electoral system has become and U.S. agencies like Diamond’s National Endowment for Democracy are trying to destabilize countries in Latin America that have finally struggled through to democracy?

The Palin candidacy should be a clear sign that the U.S. dream is dead.  Sorry, it’s bye-bye Miss American Pie.  The U.S. under present management has to collapse for there to be a fresh start.  It will be a systemic collapse, not the kind of struggle the left fantasized about.

Dare I say that the rebuilding will be the New Age that you once talked about intelligently [presumably in New Age Politics, 1976, and New Options Newsletter, 1983-92 – ed.]?  An authentic politics will rise like cream, because the new will need to be grassroots, ecological, and spiritual.

Hang on, because we’re in prophetic times.

Elihu Edelson
Editor / Publisher, Both Sides Now: A Journal of Lightworking, Peacemaking, and Consciousness
Former art professor and public school teacher
Tyler, Tex.


Beyond Democracy?

October 1, 2008

Just wanted to let you know that your article on democracy (“Is ‘Democracy’ What the World Needs Now?,” September 2008) is absolutely fascinating.  I had no idea there was something “beyond” democracy – I thought this was as good as you could get!

Jyotsna Sreenivasan
Writer / editor
Moscow, Ida.


Great book review [of Diamond on democracy].  I’ll figure out how to plug you yet!

Art S. Levine
Contributing Editor, The Washington Monthly
Contributing Editor, U.S. News & World Report
Washington, D.C.


Thank you so much for the Diamond review and your many other thought-provoking articles.  I’m so glad you are reading all these wonderful books that I don’t have time to read, digesting them, and weaving together your own thoughts and experience into something radical.  I love it!

Gayatri Schilberg
Senior Economist, JBS Energy, Inc.
Sacramento, Calif.


Alternatives to democracy?  This article gets my juices going!

What we’re looking for – whether democracy or some other process – is a way for large, diverse, complex, multi-leveled, modern societies to make decisions and select leaders.  For the process to work over time, it must:

  • have legitimacy with the people involved (the citizens)
  • be efficient and fast
  • produce clear results
  • be accepted by the citizens (both the process and the results)
  • be consistent with a modern economy – one that provides for the needs of the people, builds wealth, builds and maintains infrastructure, promotes and rewards innovation, etc.
  • work at different levels of the polity
  • be consistent over an extended time (lifetimes, centuries) by being based on an agreed-upon set of principles
  • protect the rights of minorities, and of those on the losing side of decisions
  • have corrective mechanisms, and a capacity for renewal

There may be other essentials.  Any system for large modern nations that does not meet these criteria will be either short-lived or coercive, or both.

I wish you had fully described the alternatives you mention toward the end of your article, so we could assess them on these criteria and see how they stack up with democracy as we know it.  I would also like to look at some of the “democracies” that have emerged and done well over the last generation – e.g., Taiwan, South Korea, Turkey, Chile, Mexico, Botswana, the Baltic states.  What could we learn from these?

I recognize the problem.  Here are a few definitions of democracy from the popular Web site Urban Dictionary:

-- A form of government where the leader is chosen by popularity rather than ability to run a country

-- Four wolves and one lamb voting on lunch

-- A form of government that works, but not well

Until you give us more details on alternatives to democracy, though, I’m sticking with Churchill: “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others.”

Mike Van Horn
Co-creator, The Business Group
San Rafael, Calif.


"America Is Ready for This!"

September 15, 2008

Thanks for your scorecard from the 109th Congress ("There Is a Radical Middle in Congress," December 2007).  I've been an attorney here in Washington for many years.  After finally paying off my student loans, I'm looking to make the leap to working on Capitol Hill, something I've always wanted to do.

Prior to going to law school I was very interested in getting into politics.  Indeed, that interest was the main reason I decided to go to Georgetown, a law school in our nation's capital.  After getting here, though, and following the political process up close, I was rather disgusted with the partisan politics and became quite cynical.

Reading your book Radical Middle: The Politics We Need Now (2004) inspired me to a different way of thinking.  The final chapter made me realize that I can remain on the sidelines grumbling, or I can get involved and try to effectuate change.

Anyway, I've been using your scorecard to identify Senators and Representatives for whom I'd like to work.  These people have infinitely more power than I do to inspire change.  I'd like to assist them in bringing the Radical Middle into Congress.

I am sure that if I'm successful in my job search, frustration will be a common theme in my life.  But I have a very young daughter, and raising her has taught me (or re-taught me) one of the great lessons in life: Nothing worth doing is easy.

I can't change how Congress operates by myself.  But if the Radical Middle can get a foothold on the Hill, we just might begin to change how our government is run.

Keep up the good work.  America is ready for this!

Jason Woehrmyer
Attorney, Jackson & Campbell
Former business analyst, USA Today
Washington, D.C.


We Dissent!

September 1, 2008

I disagree with your largely positive perspective on Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger's important book Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility ("State of Our Vision 2007," November 2007).

I invite you and your viewers to see my critique of their book HERE.

Brian Milani
Instructor in Ecological Economics, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University
Author, Designing the Green Economy: The Postindustrial Alternative to Corporate Capitalism
Toronto, Ont., Canada


Your courage is striking in that you are now taking on the Bible ("The Bible Is Our One Essential Political Book," June / July 2008)!  I am a minister, and so of course I agree that spiritual values are the very best guide to our future course.

HOWEVER, for me revelation is still going on.  So I generally prefer more up-to-date revelation to the Bible -- for example, Ken Carey's The Third Millennium (orig. 1991).

I think you and your viewers might especially enjoy Neale Donald Walsh's book Tomorrow's God (orig. 2003), which speaks directly to spiritual values guiding political choices.  Neale has a social-activist history like us!  You may have heard of him as the author of Conversations with God, a three-book series that I also love.

I honor you as a teacher of great importance in the awakening of human consciousness. . . .

Rev. M. Ka'imi Nicholson
Honolulu, Haw.


I was astonished to discover in your article "Politicians, Pundits, and Activists Are Having a Culture War" (March 2007) Morris Fiorina's findings -- uncritically hyped by you -- that suggest no significant culture divide exists in the U.S.

Fiorina doesn't seem to be aware of the neoconservatives [and their support for] the United Nations, which is heavily influenced by long-time international banking families.  Nor does he seem to be aware of Constitutionalists like Ron Paul, who wish to protect the Bill of Rights and individual freedoms.

Both sides represent polar opposites.  I'm not sure how Fiorina and you could have missed this.

B. Richard
Seattle, Wash.


Cyberspace is chock full of engaging debate and worthy disputants on every subject imaginable and unimaginable.  Which leads us to conclude that, in order to be impactful, Radical Middle Online Newsletter is going to have to start offering more than your thoughtful, even-handed, and clearly presented analyses.

Your well-parsed prose should be artfully augmented by pithy insights [from others, possibly in text boxes].  The development of a Radical Middle style of humor would also help.

Dave & Sue Snyder
Principals, The Snyder Family Enterprise
Lifestyles editors, The Futurist
Bethesda, Md.


The Bible and Politics

July 1 - August 15, 2008

We received so many wonderful emails and letters in response to our article "The Bible Is Our One Essential Political Book" (June / July 2008) that we crafted them into a separate, follow-up article!  See HERE.


The Bible and Politics (first cup)

June 15, 2008

I'm worried over your favorable comments about the Bible ("The Bible Is Our One Essential Political Book," June / July 2008).  While it is true that many cultures have derived inspiration and comfort from it, most of the worst atrocities in Western history have been inspired by biblical values.

At the Biblical Errancy website, Dennis McKinsey has compiled a complete critique of the defects of the "Good Book."  At the God Murders site, Gary DeVaney has compiled the worst deeds of the biblical god.

Dennis and Gary and I, along with some others, are working together to bring believers to a true understanding of why the Bible is NOT a good book and its characters not good role models.  You and your readers are invited to contact me at caliche@mail.com and join in our discussion.

Carlos Arturo Serrano
Freelance proofreader
Barranquilla, Colombia


Here I am sitting in the rocking chair at the computer, reading about "our one essential political book."  You have me smiling, reading fast and then closing my eyes, and rocking with a certain sense that the world might be in order after all.  A lovely way to start the day.

You have the courage of the Israelites stepping through the parted waters.

Wynell Hosch
Museum docent
Dallas, Tex.


The Radical Middle is NOT A CHURCH!

John Dennis Coffey
Citizens for a Better Veterans Home
Chula Vista, Calif.


Excellent article, Mark!  I've been a Bible student for decades, and still learned from your article.  And I'll be reading it again to see what else I can learn.

Jim Strasma
"Retired" United Methodist minister
Chicago, Ill.


What the Poor Need Now . . . Is Coaching? (concluded)

June 1, 2008

Oh my, the condescension ("What the Poor Need Now," March / April 2008).  Mark, I am surprised you would not think this through before you published.

What the poor need now is money.

I hate to break it to you, Mark, but there is alcoholism, wife beating, drug addiction, lawlessness, adultery, child neglect, lack of consideration, and out-and-out ignorance in every neighborhood in North America.

Wealth does not create better behavior.  Wealth creates thicker walls, and wide stretches of grass.  The rich do not have to listen to each other in crowded tenements the way the poor do.  But the noises of rich and poor are all the same.

Do you not read newspapers?  Same issues.  More "newsworthy" because the subjects are wealthy and powerful.

Take a bus uptown and check it out.

Judy Graves
Housing and homeless advocate
Coordinator, Tenant Assistance Program for the City of Vancouver
Vancouver, B.C., Canada


I'd like to point out something you missed -- being poor is different from being low income.

There are plenty of low-income "poor people" who for various reasons are choosing to be poor but are not really in need of coaching and are on a life-fulfilling path -- monks, college students, free-roaming travelers, people much preferring time to money (you're probably in that latter category).  I don't view that as a problem.

It is the "poverty of spirit" of which low income is often (but not always!) a symptom, that is a problem.  When we target that -- as your coaching idea attempts to do -- then we will come closer to solving our real poverty problem.

Luke Friendshuh
Founder, System Modeling Institute
Elko, Minn.


What the Poor Need Now . . . Is Coaching?

May 1 / May 15, 2008

We received so many wonderful emails and letters in response to our article "What the Poor Need Now" (March / April 2008) that we crafted them into a separate, follow-up article!  See HERE.


Integral Capitalism?

April 15, 2008

Just thought I’d drop you a quick note to say how much I liked your (subtly spiral?) analysis of the recent capitalism literature, “Could Common Ground on Capitalism (and Globalization) Be at Hand?” (February 2008).

Your framework gives some altitude to an evolving economic philosophy that we cannot do without if we are ever going to evolve what I like to call an “integral city.”

Marilyn Hamilton, Ph.D.
Founder / President, Integral City
Abbotsford, Brit. Col., Canada


Thank you very much [for discussing my book in your article].  You have an interesting perspective and I'll keep an eye on your newsletter.

Edward Gresser
Author, Freedom from Want: American Liberalism and the Global Economy
Former Policy Advisor to the U.S. Trade Representative, Clinton Administration
Washington, D.C.


Great article, thanks! And very concise.

My new book identifies “market fundamentalism” as one component of our existing structures that needs to shift. I am encouraged to see from your article that others are advocating a similar shift, in their different ways.

John Renesch
Futurist and leadership consultant
San Francisco, Calif.


Good capitalism / globalization article. While I don’t agree with every detail, you are doing an excellent job of ideological peace-making.

Michael Strong
Co-founder, FLOW: Liberating the Entrepreneurial Spirit
Austin, Tex.


I am delighted [to be in your article] and very grateful.

Will Baumol
Co-author, Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism, and the Economics of Growth and Prosperity
Academic Director, Berkley Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, NYU
New York, N.Y.


I love your courage to tackle this topic . . . great job!

Rev. Margaret “Ka’imi” Nicholson
Director, Spirit of Aloha Hawaii Weddings
Honolulu, Haw.


Wonderful article -- I’m exhausted just thinking about the energy & work you put into it!

Alvah S. White
Market research consultant
Evanston, Ill.


Thank you so much for your level-headed insights (“Could Common Ground on Capitalism (and Globalization) Be at Hand?,” February 2008).

I come to the [radical] middle from the libertarian right, so it is refreshing to watch people who want to improve the way our economy works actually acknowledge the benefits of capitalism.

There are several things that need to be (and can be) improved, but at its core, capitalism rewards those who do the best at generating wealth and creating things and services that people want. A lot of good comes out of that.

I also tire of demonization of both sides of the issue. Corporations are not inherently evil, and Democrats and activists do not want to destroy wealth and control every aspect of our lives. Everyone wants a better world, we just don't always agree on how to get there.

One thing I would like to see incorporated into attempts to change the economy is more system modeling, as well as more experimentation. The economic system is so complex now that no one can really predict all the effects their suggested changes might cause.

So, I would like to see more humility and more willingness to adapt and modify policies according to how they actually work. Let’s develop policies in more of a learning mode.

Luke W. Friendshuh
Founder, System Modeling Institute
Engineer, Seagate Technologies
Elko, Minn.


Lessons of the New World Alliance (concluded)

April 1, 2008

Your recent piece on the New World Alliance [“Participants Agonize Over (and Draw Lessons From) the Death and Life of the First Transpartisan Political Organization,” January 2008] was helpful, and will continue to help as some of us continue to work toward establishing the "City on the Hill."

Why helpful?  Because when you begin to get a longer view on how ideas evolve, it is easier to avoid discouragement.

Lincoln Annas
Restorative-justice activist
Trabuco Canyon, Calif.


In your article on transpartisan organizing, in your second response to the fairly laid-back and meditative former New World Alliance Chairman Bob Olson, you wrote, "All I felt was that [as the Alliance's co-founder and first staff person] I'd failed to meet the terms of my contract with God.  (Perhaps I have a different God.)"

I wasn't there and it's not my place to comment really.  Yet, I have to ask what it is to have a "contract with God"?    Did you mean a contract with yourself?  I have come to rely on a God of Grace and Forgiveness so much that it is difficult to imagine a legalistic Deity who would hold one accountable for a "broken contract."

Now forgiving yourself is another matter . . . far more difficult.  But surely God Himself / Herself is willing to renegotiate the terms with you.  I mean, are we not also divine?  What's a little forgiveness between one God and another?

Just maybe it is everything.

Wynell Hosch
Museum docent
Former English professor
Dallas, Tex.

Dear Wynell: I do feel I was put on this Earth not only to conceptualize and help start the organization that became the New World Alliance, but to ensure that it succeeded, Moral Majority-style.  My whole journey from 1964 (dropping out of school to do civil rights work in Mississippi) to 1983 pointed to that.  It is only now that I can rationally get beyond that notion, but the Alliance's failure still feels like a dagger to the heart.  Why repress that feeling or theologize it away?  Failure is human, and owning up to failure helps people do better next time. -- M.S.

Dear Mark: It seems to my un(law)schooled mind that the artificial constructs of agreements between men (to use the language of the Old Believers) are getting in the way of God's grace to you.  It is enough to BE.  I am that I am, and all that.  You are blessed to know your purpose.  But you do not have to judge the degree of fulfilling it. -- W.H.


Lessons of the New World Alliance (continued)

March 15, 2008

Thanks to all 15 of you for your UNUSUALLY PERSONAL & CAUSTIC accounts of what it was like to try to create a healing, post-partisan national political organization in the days of Jimbo Carter & Ronald Ray-gun [“Participants Agonize Over (and Draw Lessons From) the Death and Life of the First Transpartisan Political Organization,” January 2008].

Human nature being what it is, I’m not sure my generation will learn from you OR do any better . . . unless you count “Internet organizing” as the real thing.

George Hauser
Activist (b. 1988)
Chicago, Ill.


Your Alliance reflections article inspires many thoughts, including

  • what great things you all went on to do individually!;
  • timing is everything, and you may have simply missed your own best moment [middle 1970s? - ed.];
  • there does now appear to be a need to “re-fuel the tank” in order to take the next step; and
  • having the courage or will to take that step is something few may be capable of

The timing of your article was perfect, as I labor over what’s next for the wider “green” community here in New Zealand and beyond. I like to say that, here in 2008, we find ourselves running on the intellectual fuel placed in the tank during the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.

There is clearly an angst to transcend this, step beyond it. But I have yet to be inspired by thought / practice that goes beyond it.

Brendan Hoare
Co-Founder, Econation2020
World Board, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
Auckland, New Zealand


I have just read with interest the article on the fate of the organizing activities of the New World Alliance.

Some of the difficulties the article mentions are recurrent. I can testify to that, as I am a “child of the 1950s” in terms of social movements -- banning the A-bomb tests in the atmosphere was my first political activity, even before the creation of SANE.

As a World Federalist -- I joined that organization in 1951 (and was the student rep on their executive council) -- I knew Norman Cousins. Later, when I was working in Gabon, Africa, I knew Albert Schweitzer well. Ralph Nader was a year ahead of me at Princeton, and Edward Said was a classmate.

So the 1950s were not all that quiet! And they were as filled with process and ego clashes as was the Alliance in the 1970s and 1980s. (I still have a copy of the Alliance’s “A Transformation Platform.”)

I was sorry to see that Donald Keys, one of the Alliance’s Governing Council members, was not among your article’s 15 contributors. Don and I had been in communication, as I had been on the Advisory Board of his Planetary Citizens, and he was on the Editorial Advisory Board of my periodical Transnational Perspectives. The last we were in touch, he was living as something of a hermit on Mount Shasta in northern California, but that was several years ago.

Rene Wadlow
Chief U.N. Representative, Association of World Citizens
Geneva, Switzerland


Lessons of the New World Alliance

March 1, 2008

The New World Alliance appears to have been a WONDERFUL collection of brilliant folks [“Participants Agonize Over (and Draw Lessons From) the Death and Life of the First Transpartisan Political Organization,” January 2008]. Many thanks for posting their reminiscences.

Has your acquaintance with Spiral Dynamics helped in understanding what they bumped us into? In the late 1970s the holistic / integral tier was hardly evident, and the “mean green meme” was just getting started. We’ve been wildly evolving ever since.

Dick Werling
Process engineer
Falls Church, Va.


Re: your article on the New World Alliance and all the human tensions & problems therein. Have you read Jacob Needleman’s books Why Can’t We Be Good? (2007) and The Wisdom of Love (rev. 2005)? Both are relevant, to put it mildly.

Carol Dworkowski
Contributor to Arthur F. Kinney, ed., Classical, Renaissance, and Postmodernist Acts of the Imagination (1996)
Annapolis, Md.


I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Why did the New World Alliance aspire to be so large scale? Why didn’t you work for change inside the U.S., say for a political candidate?

Ted Kennedy could have used your help in 1979-80. Gary Hart could have used that help in 1983-84.

We sure could have used your help now in changing the way things are going.

P. Edward Murray
Blogmaster, Al Gore 2008 Grassroots Draft Campaign
Morrisville, Penna.


Perhaps the most important lesson we can take from the New World Alliance is that picking one compelling mission is (a) essential, and (b) an art.

It seems to me that what most of us want is to have elected representatives who are motivated by collaboration and pragmatism, rather than ideology and partisanship.

How many of our current challenges could have been averted years ago if activists from a generation ago had focused on getting centrists, moderates, and independents elected, rather than swinging for the fences?

Paul Silver
Meetup member, Clean Elections Texas
Austin, Tex.


Some Scorecard! (continued)

February 15, 2008

Do your 21 radical-middle members of Congress ("There Is a Radical Middle in Congress," December 2007) view themselves as part of a movement?

Apparently, some do. But I’d feel more confident this meant something if these folks formed some kind of caucus -- a more creative and electric version of the Democratic Leadership Council. (Maybe they need a secret handshake!)

So what can mold our radical-middle caucus into an entity and hold it together? What politically palatable idea could they organize around?

Actually, it can’t be around an idea, least of all the idea of “centrism.” As Olympia Snowe has found (according to the last part of your article), the term “centrist” is seen as too wishy-washy even by some members of Congress.

These folks really must organize around the radical-middle way of doing things -- the process -- a better way of interacting and engaging issues [see our “post-partisan” article HERE - ed.]. That, of course, is not at all wishy-washy, and it cannot be co-opted by partisan political parties, because then they wouldn’t be partisan any longer.

Mike Van Horn
President, The Business Group
Author, How to Grow Your Own Business Without Driving Yourself Crazy (2002)
San Rafael, Calif.


Your Congressional Scorecard demonstrates once again that the “middle” is hard to define.

Briefly, one’s position on the political spectrum tends to shape one’s perception of all the other positions on the spectrum. So Clinton is seen as as a Communist by the extreme right wing and Bush as a Fascist by the extreme left wing, etc.

In order to move toward a radical middle or transpartisan society, promoting better public policies in Congress is not enough. We are going to have to understand why voters align with different policy positions and how to move them upward to more complex (and generally more benign) psycho-social levels.

I commend my work on the “assimilation / contrast effect” to you and your readers [see, e.g., HERE, HERE, and HERE - ed.]. Right now we are using its general approach in Palestine with Fatah and Hamas, and earlier we used it in South Africa.

Dr. Don Beck
Creator, Spiral Dynamics Integral
Denton, Tex.


The world of your Congressional Scorecard is so narrow!

See, for contrast, the world of my new speculative science fiction novel, The Virtual Librarian: A Tale of Alternative Realities.

According to Gwyneth Cravens (author of a sophisticated new book about nuclear power), “The Virtual Librarian is a page-turner as well as an absorbing introduction to the mysteries of the virtual world that has come into existence thanks to the digital revolution. . . . The narrative reveals that what we assume to be ‘reality’ is not as solid as we might imagine, while what we designate as ‘virtual’ may in fact be far more real -- and certainly more influential -- than we might expect.”

The book evokes some serious societal issues, looked at from new vantage points. For example, instead of scaring us about progress, technology, and globalization (as many politicians do), it suggests that technologically advanced machines can teach us the importance of our being completely human -- so long as we let such machines optimize their performance as machines.

Isn’t the radical middle supposed to be committed to life as an expanding adventure?

Ted Rockwell
Founder, MPR: Dedicated to Excellence in Engineering
Former member, Manhattan Project; former technical director for Admiral Rickover in the program to develop nuclear power for the U.S. Navy
Chevy Chase, Md.


Some Scorecard!

February 1, 2008

Re: “There Is a Radical Middle in Congress” (December 2007): Terrific article Mark!

Paul Hosse
Webmaster, Another Opinion
International litigation manager for a major U.S. corporation
Louisville, Ky.


I am a state legislator in North Dakota. Is there much writing or activity on appropriate state legislation?

Eliot Glassheim
Co-author, “Opportunities for the Northern Great Plains” (2006)
Grand Forks, No. Dak.


I am from India. Students of politics throughout the world study American politics very closely. Even though she doesn’t make your Congressional Scorecard, we in India feel that Sen. Hillary Clinton is the most impressive of radical centrist politicians.

Also, it is not only necessary to find out who the radical centrists are in the U.S. Congress. We need to identify them in the world. For example, Indian democracy is under attack from left-wing Maoists AND from Islamofascism, and Hindu extremism is more a reaction to these than a genuine radical centrist position.

Democracy all over the world will be under threat if we have centrists on one side and religious fundamentalists, extreme leftists, and militarists in the opposition space.  American democracy has a bright future so long as centrist and radical-centrist politicians can be found on both sides of the American political divide, among Republicans as well as among Democrats.

Bireshwar Banerjee
New Delhi, India


Interesting -- but what are your standards? Anybody who lists Dick Durbin and Nancy Pelosi as “middle ground thinkers” needs professional attention. The quote you use from her is a pathetic joke.

I can’t see how Olympia Snowe earns any credit, at least from your writeup. Being a liberal Republican (or conservative Democrat) ought not be the criterion.

I thought Barack Obama might qualify -- he does in style, but not in substance -- he’s a down-the-line leftie, but nice about it. His “not filibustering judicial nominations” doesn’t add up to much for me.

John McClaughry
Co-author, The Vermont Papers: Recreating Democracy on a Human Scale (1990)
Former member, Vermont Legislature
Concord, Vt.


Is "Clintonism" What You're After?

February 1, 2008

Your Congressional Scorecard article (“There is a Radical Middle in Congress,” December 2007) raises the issue whether the “radical middle” is merely the new American political center, midway between liberal interventionists and laissez-faire reactionaries.

In a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, Matt Bai (author of The Argument, which you reviewed in October 2007) describes and rues that milquetoast space as “Clintonism.”  Is Clintonism what you're after?

Bai convincingly demonstrates that all the major Democratic candidates now embrace Clintonist policies, and that those policies have completely displaced the BIG visions and policies of many earlier Democrats.

Bai concludes his perceptive assessment by worrying that, since political campaigns are now being driven 100% by electability (as determined by sophisticated market research), all candidates will end up supporting politically popular, conventional, incremental initiatives – although our circumstances may actually call for unconventional, innovative solutions.

Tricky business, this democracy.

David Pearce Snyder
Consulting Futurist, Snyder Family Enterprise
Bethesda, Md.

Dear Dave: I have tirelessly promoted in this newsletter the idea that the “radical middle” is NOT AT ALL what Bai calls Clintonism. It is, instead, a principled capacity to learn from (as distinct from a wimpy eagerness to split the differences among) ALL political perspectives. That should make it politically popular. And it is an insistence on USING those learnings to create public policies that are at once imaginative and cost-effective, creative and pragmatic. That should also make it popular . . . as well as transformational.

The radical middle is nothing if it is not transformational. (“Transform, but be grounded” -- radical middle version of “Trust, but verify.”) For that reason, I am as dissatisfied with the results of our 2005-08 Congressional Scorecard as were you and many other readers -- though I persist in seeing it as a useful and (painfully) illuminating experiment.  Few -- if any -- of our elected legislators are genuinely radical middle, and we have our work cut out for us.


Had We But Vision Enough, and Time (continued)

January 15, 2008

The November issue of Radical Middle is supposedly on the topic of political vision today [“State of Our Political Vision 2007”]. But none of the authors you discuss offers a vision of an ETHICAL WORLD, which I do in my booklet Living the Good Life (2007).

Marvin C. Katz, Ph.D.
Editor & contributor, Sciences of Man and Social Ethics: Variations on the Theme of Human Dignity (1969)
Skokie, Ill.


Thanks for your review of recent “visionary” books. But here is the real question:

If we give ourselves permission to imagine a truly decent future, where might our hearts take us?

You are right about one thing: in such a future, partisanship would not be the driving energy! Instead we’d want a future where genuine health in each entity (human, social, environmental, economic, etc.) reinforces health in all others. Stewardship of the whole would draw its energy from charrette-like design collaborations.

For my own work along these lines, see the online draft of my book Fix the Whole Enchilada. I’d welcome your feedback.

Steven H. Johnson
President, The Wallcharts Workshop
Annapolis, Md.


Your description of Nordhaus & Shellenberger’s book Break Through certainly makes it sound like the most compelling visionary book of 2007 -- and of the four books you discuss, I expect I’d agree with you.

But I’m not enthusiastic about the government programs they recommend. For a more free-market-oriented approach to environmental problems, see my paper “Sustainability in a Bright Green Future.”

Michael Strong
Author, The Habit of Thought (1997)
Austin, Tex.


I remain most in allegiance with the wild-minding, fringe-edging, “new age” spiritual visionaries -- yet every focus has its playspace. The wonder of it all!

Whatever we do and serve forth with, so long as there be love & more love, it will remain worth the trip. I just hope that, in retrospect, we will be able to comprehend why we allowed ourselves to explore so much suffering and lesser-quality pathways.

Trucia Quistarc
Wichita, Kans.


Had We But Vision Enough, and Time

January 1, 2008

Thanks for keeping hope alive in the ever-widening gloom of Campaign ‘08 and global politics American- (or should I say, Wild West-) style. I am referring, of course, to your article about Matt Bai’s, Todd Gitlin’s, Paul Hawken’s, and Nordhaus & Shellenberger’s political visions, “State of Our Vision 2007” (November 2007).

Prof. Robert Ciapetta
Department of Reading, ESL, World Languages, and Philosophy
Montgomery College
Rockville, Md.


I was seriously disappointed with the “20 key propositions” you derive from Nordhaus & Shellenberger. Basically, you present readers with a scatter-shot of glib aphorisms suggesting an amiably activist, incoherent future.

Of course, chaos theorists would probably endorse that view, since they argue that whenever complex systems pass through a fundamental transformation, their futures become briefly unextrapolable and uncertain. And there is certainly every reason to believe (as Nordhaus & Shellenberger apparently do) that we are passing through a transformational moment.

Dave Snyder
Lifestyles Editor, The Futurist
Bethesda, Md.


Loved your comparative review of a number of key visionary books. Two of the visionary strategies I’ve written up on my own site -- Integral Strategies -- make use of the Maslow model of development, which Nordhaus & Shellenberger apparently also use to good effect.

Matthew Kalman
Founder, London Integral Circle
London, England


You AND Hawken AND Nordhaus & Shellenberger are right about the main thing. In an environment in which the U.S. cannot solve (or even define!) its problems, the institutional strategy of addressing public issues individually is analogous to seeing trees and not the forest.

By making issues separate and competing entities, single-issue politics creates a free-for-all that divides citizens who otherwise would be allies.

America’s biggest problem isn’t Iraq, George W. Bush, or even the excessive partisanship of the two-party system. It is, in fact, single-issue politics. Coming up with a common vision is key to beginning the debate America desperately needs.

Joe Mokler
Federal government employee
Former community media activist (Malden, Mass.)
Kennebunk, Me.




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