The challenge I have had in doing this work is in striking the balance between articulating a clear image of what a transpartisan citizen empowerment movement will look like, and leaving it open enough to take many forms. It could look like the Grange or Chautauqua movements of the nineteenth century, but with a twenty-first century look and feel featuring wireless keypad voting town halls, wiki-policymaking, and “Open Space” citizen assemblies—all citizen-organized, all transpartisan, all creative and innovative.
My friends on the right tend to want an image, a plan, something to focus on, organize around, something with structure and hierarchy. My liberal friends tend to want things less well defined, looser, with no one in charge—they often say “well, it could look like that, but it may look like this.” In the end I feel it will be truly emergent (i.e., chaordic, or order emerging from chaos). It will be self-organized according to a set of transpartisan principles and practices that look slightly different as they are applied under different local conditions.
Regardless of how it emerges, my sense is it will happen. These are transition times. Seventeen seventy-six was a transition time. Then, 56 men—with their women—mutually pledged “[their] lives, [their] fortunes and [their] sacred honor” to birth, through sheer will and commitment, a new country. That country has reached midlife. We are now faced with multiple, interlocking national crises—financial, environmental, health, and security to name a few. We are under intense evolutionary pressure to grow up.
Our current political operating system is becoming overwhelmed with complexity (just like a computer operating system begins to lock up when too much data is processed). In point of fact, in its pre-midlife stage of development, it never has been capable of handling complexity. To “manage chaos”—manage complexity—requires the integration of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Our system is predominantly left brain. It is rooted in linear, analytical ways of thinking and acting. Through the chaos we can expect in the years ahead we will need to integrate new creative, imaginative, wiser approaches to governance, i.e., the political right brain, the wisdom of the people.
This is what I mean by a “democratic republic” and what I feel was the original intent of our founders. When the “democracy”—the hearts, minds, and creativity of people, the right brain of society—is in healthy relationship with the “republic”—the left brain structures that allow us to make decisions and act—there is synergy, peace, and harmony, just as there is synergy, peace, and harmony in a healthy marriage or a healthy individual. And the only ones who can facilitate this are We the People.
It’s no coincidence Adams and Jefferson died on the same day—July 4, 1826—fifty years after signing the Declaration of Independence. They symbolically embodied the two polarities we are now being called to reconcile. I feel their spirit and the spirit of generations of Americans who have loved this place are with us. Citizen and servant leaders (leaders who serve others before themselves) will have to step up though, in larger and larger numbers … and I know they will.
Excerpted from Reuniting America: A Toolkit for Changing the Political Game by Joseph McCormick and Steve Bhaerman
After nearly a decade as a Christian Coalition activist and Republican nominee for the U.S. Congress in one of the most conservative districts in America, Joseph McCormick learned firsthand the most destructive force in our country today is Americans taking sides against other Americans. The turning point in his life came in 2001 when his political career, marriage, business and reputation collapsed, his relationships having been eroded by mistrust and hatred of his enemies. The pain of this personal loss was transformative and he began slowly rebuilding his life on more solid ground, searching for a healthier way to engage in politics.
Since 2004 he has organized a series of ground breaking private retreats that brought over 145 national leaders representing over 70 million Americans into dialogue in search of opportunities to collaborate. His passion now is to apply the tools developed in these gatherings to facilitating cooperation between grassroots groups from all sides. In time, this informal citizen leader’s network will serve as a resource for local, state and national decision makers searching for innovative, bottom-up, win-win solutions in this time of crisis. He is a former officer in the U.S. Army Rangers and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and Yale University. For more information, click here.