Transpartisan Note #101
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
We spent August 17-19 in Denver, CO at the Unite America Summit. During the meeting, the rough outline of a path to power for Politically Independent People seemed visible. Here is some of what we saw:
- Votes: Over 40% of voters register Independent. This is more than register for either major political party. Roughly half of Americans constitutionally eligible to vote fail to register. These two unaligned groups—60 to 70% of the American public—add up to more people than both major (and “third”) political parties combined. Also, more and more major party members say they dislike their current parties.
- Process: Independent people seek a more effective electoral process. Open primaries, rank choice voting, the end of gerrymandered districts, full disclosure of campaign financing (supported 8 to 1 by the Supreme Court in Citizens United), inclusive voting (mail in ballots, same day and driver license registration), and other adjustments expanding voter access all get wide independent support.
- Program: Promoting active citizen participation in, or ownership of, public spaces—schools, health centers and other community services—gets broad local citizen support (we call this transpartisan). Nothing expands greater recognition of Independent values more than citizen participation when informed by successful experiences. Independent candidates thrive when endorsing such programs.
- Citizen Empowerment: Informal, incremental action more than formal government mandates create successful experiences in citizen empowerment. Efforts to reform public schools often draw strong opposition while citizen initiatives to ‘increase community support’ for schools, emerging organically and consensually, rarely provoke opposition. Community support fuels independent campaigns.
- Shared Ownership: More shared ownership in public services—schools, hospitals, police, roads/biking planning, and others—creates active roles for all major civic groups. Teachers engage with parents and students, patients and families work with hospitals, citizens join with police and road planners. Everyone has a stake in working together to promote productive communities. Independents thrive.
- Models: One example—shared school ownership—creates informal charter schools with no threat to teachers or families. Empowerment works to ‘leave no one—teachers or students—behind’. Empowering programs—infrastructure, health, education, security, etc.—enliven communities. Local political forces uniquely position independents to champion such movements outside formal partisan political channels.
- Embrace and Transcend: Increasingly the shenanigans of the Democratic and Republican leadership sicken party members and neutered office holders. Sound independent strategy leaves no disgusted party member behind. Dems and Reps, like everyone, live in communities. Transpartisan strategy embraces all party players and transcends leadership shenanigans. It takes everyone to make a village work.
For two days in August 2018, 250 inspired, empowered, enlivened former Dems, Reps, Third Party, nonaligned, unorganized, committed political players calling themselves Independent met in Denver to take the next step in organizing—what?
Some said a Third Party. Others said a Second Party. Some said a National (Global) Movement. Others said Local Communities. All wanted better elections. All wanted more—beyond the stale—possible solutions to every problem on the table. All wanted to be friendly, civil with people holding different ideas. All loved America. All wanted a more perfect union.
The Transpartisan Challenge: Find, without creating further obstacles, national, state, local, and community ways to give articulate voice to, and facilitate effective action by, the over 70% of the people who seek better happier lives for themselves, their communities, their country, and the world and feel that the major political parties fail them.
The Challenge: Move Independent to center stage.
(Photo of authors by Denise Lewis Premschak.)