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Issue No. 95-a (Summer 2006) -- Mark Satin, Editor

Reuniting America:
an exchange among transpartisans

Our cautionary article about the Reuniting America organization (August 15, 2006) provoked a lengthy response from the leadership of Reuniting America, and a reply from our editor. If you’re thinking about launching or otherwise participating in a “transpartisan” political group, this exchange is for you. . . .

Reuniting America Says: Yes to Your Points, AND . . .

As designated responder from our Core Team, I would like to reply to your thoughtful, important, and caring article about our organization, Reuniting America (which you wrote in the form of a letter to the leader of our Team, Joseph McCormick, “First ‘Transpartisan’ Political Organization Prepares for Liftoff,” August 15, 2006). I’ve put notes after the titles of each of the 10 points you made [ed. note: to read each point in full, click on the title of our article above and scroll about a third of the way down].

1. Acknowledge and learn from the past!
Yes -- important! My sense is that over the years there have been many great attempts to do Transpartisan work (with excellent values, language, and framing). But to my knowledge, no one until Joseph has been able to bring a serious number of members of “the Right” to the table in balance with those of “the Left.” Michael Ostrolenk’s Liberty Coalition is the one solid precursor to this work that I am aware of. The rest of the time it’s been a bunch of New Agers with an occasional Republican.

2. Define "transpartisanship" broadly and inclusively!
I agree. But because the relationships are Transpartisan in a new way, I think there’s something new and different now too that we shouldn’t miss. I too have been tracking these ideas (for 40 years) and now for the first time I am finding a true venue. In the past, we were mostly talking to ourselves -- to the “Green meme,” as Don Beck has put it.

3. Don't privilege direct democracy over representative democracy!
Yes, caveats and cautions are important. But keep in mind that what Joseph is asking is what happened to “We the People,” to the democratic side of our democratic republic. The idea of using Citizens Juries and Wisdom Councils, and building on existing activities (“healthy communities” initiatives, faith-based organizing, AmericaSpeaks, etc.) is well worth pursuing. We have already lost too much in our precious republic.

4. Put as much thought into substance as process!
There is more going on than meets the eye. We are exploring election reform, energy security, Iraq, and more.

5. Broaden your Steering Committee to include centrists and independents ASAP!
We are reaching out. But until someone is engaged personally and has probably been through one of our Transpartisan retreats, we’ll stand pat. It doesn’t make sense just to add a name or two or five. Bear with us -- we’re getting there, or at least moving in some of the directions you (and we) believe are important. And there’s lots going on behind the scenes.

5a. Invite more of America into your inner councils!
You are pointing out what’s missing, which is useful. But please relax! This has to move in its own time, step by step. We’re trying to move with a small staff and on a low budget. Fetzer Institute money helped with the meetings, but now we are in fund-raising mode, and this has to be well-funded to succeed.

6. Remember that other Steering Committee members' agendas will differ from yours!
We are actually working hard on this one -- figuring out how to blend our various approaches, getting advice from organizational consultants, etc. We’ll be having our first staff retreat this month, and Mark Gerzon -- author of a book you recently reviewed, Leading Through Conflict -- will help facilitate it.

7. Don't retreat into some glorified personal-political ghetto!
We are all still growing together. I am happy to be interviewed sometime if you want to hear the specifics.

8. Beware of the "funding high"!
We will think about this concept, and it might be good to invite “We the People” to think about it.

9. Create clear standards for participation in -- and exclusion from -- Reuniting America!
Thank you for pointing out this potentially difficult situation. We are a bit innocent and the history lesson here is quite valuable.

10. Dare to lead!
Joseph is aware of these leadership issues, and we, as a Core Team, are wrestling with them. Our vision is quite expansive both at the civic empowerment level and at the national leadership level, and in between as well. To make this vision work we’ll need a cross between a good new think-and-do tank and a political / social movement . . . eventually a kind of Chaordic alliance. Joseph is daring to lead.

With blessings and gratitude for your great work, experience, intelligence, caring, and loving,

John Steiner (for himself and on behalf of the rest of the Core Team -- Joseph McCormick, Ana Micka, Michael Ostrolenk, Pat Spino, Dan Wheeler, and Mark Gerzon)
Member, National Steering Committee
Reuniting America
Boulder, CO

To find out more, John invites you to email him at steiner_king@earthlink.net

Response from the editor

I love you too John and thanks for great e-letter. Two comments (much as I tried to resist):

Re: #10 above. Guys, the New America Foundation is an exquisite radical-centrist think-and-do tank (see one of its "doings" HERE), and the social movement we need is long underway; see especially Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson’s book The Cultural Creatives (2000) and Richard Florida’s book The Rise of the Creative Class (2002). The U.S. Green Party wasted eight vital years (1984-1991) trying to re-invent various wheels. Can’t you just focus on one small thing -- launching a political organization?

Re #1 above. Your last sentence there, caricaturing as “New Age” the groups that came before you, is exactly what I was warning against. It demeans your predecessors (most of whom are still alive & potentially your allies) and -- just as important -- excuses you from asking the really tough questions about WHY those earlier groups failed to accomplish their goals, which are largely your goals.

-- If by “New Age” you mean that the people running those groups were insubstantial, take a look at the list of New World Alliance Governing Council members c. 1980 at the bottom of HERE. Of the 39 people minus the staff (i.e. Sarah and me), six were corporate consultants, five were government officials, four were professional journalists, four were university professors, two were attorneys, and 11 were full-time nonprofit activists (four peace, four environmental, three minority-rights). Only five made their livings from arguably New Age pursuits, and for intelligence and creativity I’d put those five up against any five from your board.

-- If by “New Age” you mean that the people running those groups covered only one unusually visionary part of the political spectrum, that’s because they defined their task differently from you. They didn’t want to bring the entire spectrum of Americans together to discover the true voice of “We the People.” They wanted to develop a coherent & imaginative alternative to the traditional political “isms.” So they very consciously brought together on the boards of their groups the people that were already trying to do that.  You can call such people “New Age” if you like -- the far left and far right certainly did! -- but most of their spokespeople avoided that term. For example, Marilyn Ferguson spoke of “radical centrist” politics, Willis Harman spoke of “transformational” politics, Hazel Henderson spoke of “solar age” politics, and Theodore Roszak spoke of “personalist” politics.

-- If by “New Age” you mean that the people running those groups had a life-affirming and spiritually aware sensibility, well, I’ll concede that point. Happily and proudly. And what kind of sensibility are you purporting to represent, with your talk of Green memes and Chaordic alliances? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

Affectionately, -- Mark Satin



We also covered the founding meeting of the entity that became Reuniting America.  See "At Last, a Movement That Would Have Us Listen To and Learn From Each Other" (July / August 2004).


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