See How They Run, Part 1
by A. Lawrence Chickering & James S. Turner
Transpartisan Tools for Would-Be Presidents Harnessing the Power of Political Theater
They’re off. Twenty-four Democrats and two Republicans (at this point) running for the White House. The Democratic field looks like a Where’s Waldo? children’s book. The Republican Trump/Weld cat and mouse game looks like a Tom and Jerry cartoon.
Through our transpartisan frame, the least ‘professionally political’ candidates —Andrew Wang, Marianne Williamson, Pete Buttigieg, and Donald Trump—offer important clues to the real contest. Their campaigns shed interesting light on real but often-ignored issues—pieces of the Matrix that are missing from the frontrunners’ campaigns.
All but Trump struggle for media coverage. Trump creates his own media. The folks who control mass media access tend to cover Trump as a stylized cartoon, repeating his self-created media show. They do not understand how much of Trump’s appeal comes from his symbolic opposition to crucial, missing pieces in the mainstream debate. The missing pieces are those that connect the four quadrants in the Matrix. They would describe our political crisis as a whole, with a connected vision of the solution that all sides continue searching for. The media tend to treat the other unconventional candidates as deluded children, who are lost.
Since the media pros are in the entertainment business, delivering audiences to advertisers for money, their dismissive strategies make sense as long as the cash rolls in. And roll in, it does.
Then CBS chairman Leslie Moonves captured the exultant media understanding that the political crisis has created a profit bonanza for them: ‘It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS . . .. The money’s rolling in and this is fun,’ Moonves said. ‘I’ve never seen anything like this . . ..’ On December 17th 2018, Moonves was fired for cause—sexual misconduct allegations. ‘The people’ always have ways to reign in ‘the powerful.’
This rapidly changing, difficult-to-predict, wildly vacillating world, we believe, is largely influenced by a failure in the debate to explore the Whole Problem that is our political crisis and possible approaches to address it. Voters want this larger conversation, and some of the outlier candidates are articulating parts of it.
Understanding and explaining the widespread voter alienation and proposing reforms to reduce it would transfuse new ideas into a debate that has little to offer in new ideas. It would produce a sensational media story, theatrically pitting a candidate against the other candidates and also against the media.
Anyone who runs against the media and the candidates from both parties — and explains that posture in serious ways — would be on their way to instant super-stardom in the center of the stage. Developing a policy agenda that draws from both sides and learns to identify how transpartisan proposals benefit from and integrate the four quadrants will dominate all conversations.
Conflict and polarization undermine policies in all areas including foreign policy because no one can trust the government to sustain policies people can rely on. With such conflict, no reform proposal has any chance to succeed. It is time to start listening to positions that bring people together and have a chance to solve real problems. None of the major positions in the current debate comes close to making that claim.
Missing Elements in the Matrix
Our Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix sketches the multiple values that people (voters) value. The crisis in our politics arises from the tension between the people, committed to all four quadrant values, with supporting institutions and policies, and the political system and media, which see the quadrants as separate, conflicting visions. The current debate, as represented by both political candidates and the media, presents only disconnected ideas from each quadrant.
To some extent, the ‘outliers’ and unconventional candidates present parts of the missing whole. Except for Trump, their challenge is to win the media attention that will give them the visibility they currently lack.
Being in the entertainment business, the entry fee is the theatrical quality that makes up ‘stories’. Donald Trump is the destructive master of this. The challenge for anyone opposing him is to develop a strategy for stories that bring people together, avoiding Trump’s master theme of stories that often promote conflict between citizens and tear the country apart.
These principles suggest strategies for political outliers to transcend partisan politics and win media coverage—and thus public attention—for new ideas with transpartisan appeal. The importance of ‘transpartisan’ here lies in a vision that integrates the quadrants and speaks to the large number of voting age-eligible citizens (as many as 70%) who are alienated from the mainstream system and who avoid participating in it.
Herewith some thoughts on the broad electoral tournament as a Matrix; storytelling to reach them; and breaking open the hard-shell policy conventions with new ideas from and for the Transpartisan constituency.
Lessons from Trump: The Disempowered Citizen/Voter Constituency
1. Voters: ‘Populism’ is ‘in’; yet in the current debate ‘the people’ are a tiny minority of voting age-eligible citizens standing in for the totality of ‘The People’. The vast majority of ‘The People’ avoid association with either major party. They register as Independent or, so turned off, don’t register at all. These citizen outliers form the political outlier’s primary audience.
The 2016 Presidential popular vote split 46% for Trump and 48% for Hillary. If you compare the vote for each to the votes that each did not get, the numbers are 26% for Trump, and 74% who did NOT vote for him. 27% voted for Hillary, and 73% did NOT vote for her. Over 70% of age-eligible citizens failed to vote for the winner who is now our President. That 70%+ seeks new ideas and new candidates.
We are governed by a small minority. Why are so many opting out? The material is there for a national debate. The answer could become a powerful media ‘story’. The following sentences might lead off a campaign, especially if the candidate surrounds him/herself with representatives of their ‘base’—the American People, especially when the People are represented theatrically by mixing people from the ‘victim’ groups in Identity Politics that form the electoral ‘bases’ of the two major parties (white working people [especially with Southern accents], blacks, women, LGBTQ, those covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act, and so on:
“I am running for the votes of the large majority of citizens who are turned off by conventional candidates of both governing parties who act as more dedicated to their closed system than to government by the people. Their closed system has produced the conflict that is paralyzing positive public action. An open system would bring people together and empower them to play active roles in solving public issues from education to health and others. Now is the time to register and vote for new ideas.”
In addition to the disengaged, one of the most puzzling elements of the 2016 election, at least for a lot of Americans according to Vox (Oct 16, 2018), is that between 6.7 and 9.2 million Americans switched from Obama to Trump. Since the 2016 election was decided by 40,000 votes, Vox went on, ‘It’s fair to say that Obama-Trump switchers were one of the key reasons that Hillary Clinton lost.’
2. Learning from Trump. Trump, by chance, skill, instinct, or electoral interference, navigated through the voting morass to a narrow, minority, Electoral College victory. We think seeing the electorate as a Matrix, broader than a left-right spectrum and with four quadrant values, offers an expanded way to see, understand, and respond to the electorate’s intentions and to its 2016 reaction to Trump. By looking closely at outlier candidates in the current campaign, we can gain further clues to understanding why integrating the quadrants is essential to end the crisis in our politics and bring people together again.
Shoehorning today’s electorate into the tiny confines of a left/right spectrum unnecessarily distorts public communication. New York Times Columnist Ross Douthat made the point when he introduced a matrix into his analysis of American politics (‘In Search of the American Center,’ NYT 6/21/17) based on data from The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. Douthat also relied on a report by Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the Political Reform program at New America, using the Democracy Fund data. These data formed this matrix.
We wrote about this matrix when Douthat’s article first appeared. We focused on the empty lower-right quadrant, noting that this matrix ‘does well capturing voters, but poorly describing the totality of the electorate, which includes the 44% of nonvoters.’
Our more general Transpartisan Matrix (left/right and freedom/order axes) accounts for non-voters. We believe it offers a broader picture of the U.S. political system and electorate and of their transpartisan political values and opportunities. Here is that matrix.
Trump, viscerally, intuitively, and in real TV entertainment mode, scattered stories, slogans, insults, and preening all over our Transpartisan Matrix. Since he chose to switch from being a nominal Democrat to being a nominal Republican, commentators worked hard to put him on the conservative side of the left/right spectrum, but many traditional conservatives called him a ‘fake’ conservative.
In fact, he intuitively reached out to the counter-authority (freedom) quadrants. Bernie Sanders did much the same on the Democratic side. Sanders gathered a motley crew of, like himself, ‘independent’ followers not seen before and not expected in elections.
These followers unique integration of pro and antigovernment sentiment was best captured by a campaigner who said “I want the government to keep its hands off my Medicare.” “What ant-governmental sentiment do you see for Sanders?” asks one freedom advocate. “His proposals are ALL-GOVERNMENT.”
Our point is elections are at least as much (we think more) about the constituencies than candidates. It appears to us that many free-left constituents saw Hilary as more authoritarian than Bernie and many of them saw Bernie as more authoritarian than Trump. We think this might be a beginning for understanding why 6 to 9 million voters went from Obama to Trump. It also points to a way of understanding why more than twice as many people did not vote for Trump as voted for him.
In a straight-on battle between a devotee of conventional authority (Clinton) and a free swinging anti-convention, anti-authority, media master (Trump), voters had a hard time choosing, and Trump squeaked through. In a straight-up battle between conventional authority and free-swinging anti-authority, Trump could win again—especially if 44% stay home.
We take away this lesson from Trump: a disciplined critic of conventional authority telling compelling stories, illustrating systematic ideas, and creating a positive vision of how empowered citizens could be recruited to play active, engaged roles in bringing people together solving problems might, win or not, significantly affect the course of the 2020 election and America’s future. Stories could range from education to health and law enforcement even to security policy.
When we look more closely at the outlier candidates, we can learn more about this opportunity. Before we consider some of them, we want to say a few more things about the challenge of integrating the four quadrant values and why this is essential to the larger purpose here.
Integrating the Quadrants—Learning from Critiques of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’
The key values here are ‘order’ and ‘freedom’. The quotation marks are important because these words mean different things to conservatives and to progressives. For example, ‘freedom’ to conservatives tends to mean economic freedom, freedom from government. ‘Freedom’ to progressives is concerned less with economic freedom than with social freedom, freedom from values imposed by tradition, especially religion. ‘Order’ to conservatives means traditional order, often religious. ‘Order’ to progressives means Justice through equality.
What can one learn from critiques of these positions by opponents, and what do the critiques reveal about crucial missing pieces in each quadrant value?
Order Right (OR) – Critics of the Order Right (OR) focus on authoritarianism, the absence of freedom. Subjectively, OR is for many people and in its purest form a preconscious position, lacking the significance of conscious choice, which relies on and opens the way for freedom.
The most important positive (transpartisan) OR value is relationships ‘close-by’, which draws its strength from personal, spiritual connections. The missing piece is consciousness and freedom, which piece explains the counterintuitive, crucially transpartisan relationship that OR has with the Freedom Left (FL—see below).
Order Left (OL) – Critiques of the Order Left (OL) focus on authoritarianism, mechanized relationships, in which everybody is dead without consciousness and freedom, and lack of significance, which depends on free choice. Rousseau’s famous statement about the importance of forcing people to be free is at the heart of a pure Order Left vision.
Freedom Quadrants (FR and FL) – Critiques of the Freedom Right (FR) focus on greed and egocentrism – the absence of a higher good (order), without which all action also lacks significance. Critiques of the Freedom Left (FL) focus on anomie, libertinism, exploitation — absence of a higher good, which the left understands in terms of justice.
The most important positive (transpartisan) value is significance, which results from combining both order and freedom. Both values are essential to significance and meaning. Order, either preconscious (OR) or imposed and mechanized (dead from OL), without consciousness freedom has no meaning; and freedom, either economic or social, has no meaning without a vision of order (the higher good). Spirituality is essential because order without consciousness is mechanized, dead.
These thoughts may help reveal values in the outlier candidates that suggest elements that integrate the quadrants. All of these values, we think, imply significant roles for active citizens engaging each other in positive ways, revealing real integration of the quadrants.
We see and, in our writings, point to active citizens routinely engaging each other in positive ways across the country and around the world. We see this citizen action transcending traditional political and economic institutions.
We also see those institutions—political parties, governments, corporate head-quarters—fighting back to hang onto their power. This struggle between empowered citizens and weakening institutions seems to us to characterize political paralysis.
We believe ending the paralysis requires integrating empowered citizens into working institutions. In turn this requires escaping the left/right straight jacket. We see the Transpartisan Matrix as a first step in one approach to transcending left/right paralysis.
POLITICAL THEATRE ACT I: Why the Old Script Needs Rewriting
Theatre begins with Act I bringing the characters on stage. The content of what the characters say moves the production along. The Outliers have a chance to rewrite the script.
1. The Current Script – The traditional script for Presidential candidates is to act ‘Presidential’—remote, charismatic, promising effective leadership for positive agendas. Even as they differ on specifics, opposing candidates currently agree on one, central belief: they will use the federal government and the ‘rule of law’ to lead the way to their view of a ‘better tomorrow’. The 70%+ less politically engaged doubt the federal-government-will-lead promise. Their doubt comes in part from the same place as the doubt they feel toward past centralized authorities, especially the Church.
Before addressing the heart of developing an agenda for institutional and policy reform, we want to add a few words about the subversive role that ‘the rule of law’ is playing in mechanizing relationships, promoting conflict, and obstructing the engaged citizenship that is essential for real solutions.
‘The rule of law’ is a demanding mistress. It performs, primarily, as warfare by other means. Conflict decided by mortal combat (war) in the middle ages now gets resolved in ‘the courts.’ This is still conflict, meant to be conducted justly (blind justice weighing the evidence).
In fact, court conflicts tend to be decided by and for those who have social power. Courts make social change as a byproduct of resolving conflicts. To expect courts to reform society leads to disappointment—for both the left and the right. Courts are objectively mechanistic. They have far more interest in a smooth running society than in individual welfare.
While Democrats call for more government and Republicans for less, neither has a vision for actively recruiting empowered citizens into their campaigns or into active participation in schools or housing projects or health programs—recruiting them as principals into public institutions. Both see a strong government providing services to passive citizens, in the model of passive consumers, which Republicans tend to oppose and Democrats tend to support.
However, in today’s world, citizens, consumers, and non-voters affected by government policy see themselves less as objects and more as subject-actors and partners. More to be listened to, as partners, than pitied and commanded. They engage in ways that mobilize larger communities in support of solutions, engaging in ways that are extremely difficult for governments. 
Existing institutions, particularly political institutions, have yet to figure out how to best accept this engagement and encourage it. All programs that successfully engage ‘difficult’ populations, mostly NGOs, operate from this ‘strong concept of citizenship’.
The passive producer-consumer relationship is detached and separated. The passive citizen model of the relationship between governments and The People explains, we think, an important reason why citizens are alienated from the political system—especially from the two major parties.
Since the 1950s, society has been marked by an ongoing decline of tradition in structuring identity in favor of increasing ‘individuation’ and demands for self-expression, which has profoundly changed all social relationships. The power of personal connection—enhanced by new information media—has been replacing passive with active citizens.
The challenge of individuation is especially great in relation to all very large organizations, including religious organizations.  This broad social current is increasingly influencing politics as citizens demand greater roles in creating institutions and making them work. Yet our political institutions, including the legal system, have been the slowest and least responsive in adapting to citizen demands for empowerment.
Political system lethargy creates the impression of disengaged people. The real story, however, is about the system’s lethargy, and it is all but invisible in the current political, all-powerful-government, mythos. As Les Moonves and his cohort now know, The People, pushed out of politics, have other ways of being heard.
The institutions most needing active citizen participation include schools as the highest priority, with health care right behind, followed by policing, national security and all other social institutions that affect individual lives. While engaged citizens offer live examples of success, even working with the most difficult social populations and problems, politics backed by law and then police and the army shuns them and leaves large groups of citizens behind.
The old script is losing contact with people. Futurist John Naisbitt saw this starting to happen in his concept of ‘high-tech, high-touch’ in his bestselling 1982 book, Megatrends, a guide for corporate leaders to understand the future. Based on researching thousands of newspaper articles and interviewing dozens of experts in science, medicine, sociology, psychology, education, business, and theology, he asserted that in a world of technology, people long for personal, human contact.
The tech/touch separation, we believe, powerfully affects contemporary politics as transpartisan voters seem to scan for candidates who are looking for connection, which an active self-governing role in public institutions. Connected candidates can build empathy with and empower constituents by making live site visits to successful programs. They will connect best with voters if they speak in the friendly, informal language like that which Mayor Pete Buttigieg uses and most politicians avoid. Voters will respond to and connect with any candidate who speaks in their language: plainly, with empathy, and even profoundly to them.
The challenge of opening opportunities for citizens to ‘break in’ and become active in public spaces is partly caused by political institutions that want to maintain control of the theater. But the problem is not limited to political institutions alone. There is a larger, related problem that needs to be understood and addressed: ‘The Media.’
The Mass Media and the Theater of Politics
While pretending to be in the news business, the mass media are really in the entertainment business, delivering audiences to advertisers. While some people complain about media’s ideological bias, we believe that theatrical bias is at least as distorting as any ideological bias.
Theatrical bias determines the stories the media cover, and it often emphasizes conflict as the most entertaining material attracting audiences. The media own the theater, and they decide what to show. Their bias toward conflict of course fits powerfully with politicians’ bias toward conflict to differentiate their ‘products’ from each other.
The media’s theatrical bias toward conflict is aligned with the highly centralized government system combined with theatrical, convulsive public policy change. How are our television impresarios supposed to show ‘organic change’ on the evening news? Organic change is powerful precisely because it is NOT THEATRICAL. Theatrical change brings theatrical conflict—which destroys hopes for real change.
Our centralized/high conflict system is modeled on the Medieval Church. Its time has now passed for the same reason that highly centralized religious institutions are now struggling to maintain credibility with their followers. Tradition has weakened before increasing demands for individual knowledge and self-expression.
When citizens are disempowered—when the old script still dominates the stage after the show has closed—they surrender to ‘narratives of grievance’ and demand things from governments that can only come from empowerment. When narratives of grievance dominate political discourse, people are always turned ‘OUTWARD’ (toward the government and the TV cameras).
Empowerment creates shared ownership of public spaces, starting with schools and continues on to every aspect of contemporary daily living. When citizens are empowered, they turn INWARD (engaging each other, working for common purposes—which is to say away from both government and the TV cameras). Their power will be felt if not within the formal political system, then without it.
When ‘narratives of grievance’ become the dominant language of politics, polarization and conflict take over—especially when the two principal leadership groups—political leaders themselves and the mass media, who own the theater— ‘maximize profits’ by surrendering to grievance language and promoting it.
Strong citizen engagement on issues as diverse as school and health policy, criminal justice and penal reform, and local food production are now appearing throughout the Matrix, across the country, and around the world. It is in such citizen activism and engagement that the four quadrants in the Matrix become integrated. We believe that candidates will strike their most potent transpartisan appeals when appealing to this ‘connected engagement’.
2. Connecting Policy to Stories – Issues on which people are acting locally, we think, are ideal instruments for candidates to promote citizen engagement and political connection nationally. Focus on such issues would combine the most important approaches to citizens’ empowerment with reforms more powerful than any ideas currently in play. This approach suggests combining three campaign strategies:
- First, concrete proposals for institutional reform empowering citizens as active participants in programs such as schools, health centers, law enforcement, and other subjects , which address major social issues;
- Second, Buttigieg’s story-telling rhetorical style, connecting candidate and voters in narrative examples of the value of self-governance and how it works; and then
- Third, combining these rhetorical appeals with live visits to model institutions that are succeeding with both affluent and ‘difficult’ populations. Candidates need to recruit citizens who are active in citizen-empowered organizations as advocates for and exemplars of this new empowered vision.
For anyone skeptical that such engagement with empowered citizens can play any role in a Presidential campaign, we cite as a theatrical example the third season of Designated Survivor, starring Kiefer Sutherland and produced by Davis Guggenheim, the legendary political campaign film maker who directed Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. In one episode, Sutherland is President and is running for re-election. A conventional, staged & canned speech to an audience falls through, so he improvises and gives a spontaneous talk to people on the street. They went wild, and his direct appeal to citizens breathed new life into his campaign.
From Mayor Pete Buttigieg we are learning that stories about citizen engagement can add substantive and rhetorical momentum to political campaigns. They make real experiences come alive and create intimate experiences for anyone sharing them. These stories—every candidate and community has them—can be enhanced by visits to model institutions and programs that work and by intimate conversations with empowering citizens who are living their empowerment.
The visits can be produced (‘staged’) to create powerful contexts for ‘stories’ for media that have an unlimited appetite for compelling narratives. Combining stories with location, people, and narratives explaining their success could, when well-conceived and produced, combine into powerful, concrete proposals for new leadership and institutional reform that are also compelling media.
‘Reform’ means reform in and of any and all institutions—schools, hospitals, policing, criminal justice, housing, work, gender, all aspects of community life. A campaign highlighting powerful, real life examples of current success showcasing empowered citizens as real change makers working in civil society institutions, will greatly expand the political stage and bring citizens onto it. They will showcase how active citizenship is an essential feature of every healthy democracy and every successful political campaign.
3. Empowering Citizens Without Mobilizing Political Opposition – Connecting stories and rhetoric to successful experiences is actually the easy part. A more difficult part is the policy challenge of empowering citizens in institutions that are failing and where citizens are disempowered. The challenge is empowering citizens without mobilizing political opposition from current power structures (e.g., teachers’ unions)?
Powerful examples exist showing how to do this even on issue consumed by political conflict on this very subject. The issue is demands for empowerment and ‘choice’ in education, which is very conflicted in either of the two forms it takes in the U.S.: charter schools or full voucher programs. This is too large a subject to discuss in detail here. A summary of a solution is to focus choice on empowerment, available to all schools. When benefits are available to everyone and no one needs to fear being ‘left behind’, all fear disappears, and it can gain political support from everywhere and will enormously reduce opposition. 
The mechanism of empowerment will also be important. In Western democracies, change happens mechanically, ‘on Tuesday’ (the arbitrary day when a vote or decision happens). When change is mechanical ‘on Tuesday’, fear of uncertainty from a sudden change, tends, by itself, to mobilize opposition (recall the saying ‘People tend to prefer a known evil to an unknown good’).
Programs featuring choice without opposition happen when change mechanisms are implemented organically (gradually) rather than mechanically (by order). When change is organic, there is no difference between Tuesday and Wednesday; and there is no moment when pressures build for opposition. Educate Girls Globally (EGG), promoting citizen empowerment in government schools in India, has used an organic process to install its program in thousands of schools serving hundreds of thousands of kids, and in fifteen years it has not encountered significant conflict or opposition in a single school.
The challenge of running for office, including President, is largely a theatrical challenge because success depends on visibility, and visibility depends largely on media attention. Theatre begins in Act I as the characters come on stage. What they say moves the production along. The Outliers now have a chance to rewrite the script.
Compelling Stories: Learning from The Playwright Pete Buttigieg
A front-page story in The New York Times recently explored the meteoric rise of Mayor Pete Buttigieg from an unknown Mayor of a small Midwestern city (South Bend, Indiana) to a serious candidate who is getting major media coverage and is raising significant campaign funding. The writer, Alexander Burns, describes Buttigieg’s style as ‘story-telling, wrapping conventional liberalism in an earnest, youthful persona. . ..’ 
Burns quotes Buttigieg himself, citing his interest in ‘the interaction of “narrative and politics,” and how people connect with people beyond policy decrees.’ He believes that voters long for a ‘values-led message,’ and he is holding off a release of a heavy policy agenda to avoid ‘drown[ing] people in minutiae.’
We think Buttigieg is making a powerful statement of a truth we are emphasizing, which is also important to voters. His biggest problem is not seeing how his insight can be translated into policy prescriptions in the real world, which runs the risk of reducing his sentiment to an empty abstraction. The most obvious example of this failing became apparent in his first debate, when he tried to explain the continuing racial conflict in South Bend.
In trying to explain, the first words out of his mouth were: ‘Because I failed to solve it.’ Those few words revealed a sentiment precisely opposite to the position quoted above, suggesting he has no clue what really matters. The other debaters shared his ignorance by their failure to respond to him.
‘I failed to solve it.’ Conflict between citizens cannot be solved by government officials. Only citizens themselves can solve such conflicts; citizens empowered to work together and engage each other to address issues of common interest. Government officials, especially using their convening power, have an important role to play by bringing people together and facilitating conversations that move people beyond conflict. But they are not — should not be — principals to the conflict who can actively solve it.
Mayor Pete’s informal, engaged style evokes the intimate (close-by) relationships of Order-Right conservatives (OR), but his vagueness on policy may reflect real uncertainty about how to institutionalize policies promoting engaged relationships and spiritual connections that create ‘spaces’ for bringing people together and solving problems.
Burns calls Buttigieg policy ‘conventional liberalism,’ and he may be right, given his account of Buttigieg’s handling of the race issues in South Bend (Katie Gallioto, Politico [04/10/2010]), but conservatives (especially Order-Right) are also attracted to him, which surprises Gallioto. It should not surprise her, given the alignment of his ‘connected’ values with the Order-Right.
Reactions to Buttigieg suggest he is striking a cord across the Matrix. He would strike an even stronger transpartisan cord if his policy proposals were consistent with his vision. One may assume that criticism of him comes mostly from traditional public policy types who see governments as the major (if not exclusive) policy implementers, solving all issues and problems. He needs to think more clearly about how he sees subjective personal, local, connections shaping national and global policy—and how to promote institutional and policy reforms to encourage those connections—to have a message consistent with his story-telling.
The second paragraph of a Buttigieg speech following ‘Now is the time to . . . . vote for new ideas’ might sound like this:
We’ve got to get away from this kill-switch mentality that we see on Twitter. I have seen my once disapproving parents dance at their gay son’s wedding and homophobic military officers take back their words. I believe in the power of redemption and forgiveness. This idea that we just sort people into baskets of good and evil ignores the central fact of human existence—that each of us is a basket of good and evil. The job of politics is to summon the good—summon back the human—and beat back the evil, which is in the stereotypes. (adapted from Time, May 2, 2019)
Every candidate has such stories. Beyond the candidate, civic associations need — and are finding — empowered, empathetic, and engaged citizens. We highlight many of them in our more than 100 Transpartisan notes and additional articles posted in The Transpartisan Review since July 4, 2016. The role of traditional civic institutions as places of belonging for increasingly individuated people has grown weaker, leaving people feeling unconnected and isolated.
Buttigieg includes stories about the breakdown of civic society institutions. Now his policy proposals must join the stories. New and/or newly revitalized institutions must create welcoming homes for empowered citizens with compelling stories and new ideas. Visits to communities to showcase successes grounds ideas in the actual experiences of real people, telling their own stories.
Conflict in American politics, both within the parties and between them, is one among several forces alienating voters and driving them away from the political system. When voters are so polarized, government is paralyzed. Institutional factors push both politicians and the media non-stop to sustain conflict.
Understanding and explaining these factors could produce a sensational media story, putting anyone who raises the issue in the center of the stage. Anyone who in effect runs against the media and candidates in both parties and explains that posture in serious ways would be on her way to instant super-stardom. Developing a policy agenda that draws from both sides and learns to identify how transpartisan proposals draw from and integrate the four quadrants will dominate all conversations.
Conflict and polarization undermine policies in all areas including foreign policy because no one can trust the government to sustain policies people can rely on. In an environment of such conflict no reform proposal has any chance to succeed. The longer this conflict continues, the more alienated people will become. It is time to start listening to positions that bring people together and have a chance to solve real problems. It is impossible to say that about any of the major positions in the current debate.
This 4th of July 2019 article kicks off The Transpartisan Review’s commentary on the November 3rd, 2020 US Presidential Election. It looks at two outliers—Pete Buttigieg and Donald Trump. The next installment of our commentaries will feature Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson.
 They are not impossible, but they are not ‘natural’ for governments, which are used to promoting change by commands. Educate Girls Globally began in 2001 convinced that people in poor, traditional communities can mobilize, build skills, and act to shape new futures for their girls.
 Since 1417, we have been, for example, in an era of ‘two Popes’, representing competing visions of church authority: tradition-directed versus increasingly self-directed. At present, these conflicting visions are represented by Benedict and Francis, both living at The Vatican in Rome, as their respective followers vie for the soul of the Catholic Church.
 See www.educategirls.org.
 See Pete Buttigieg’s Focus: Storytelling First. Policy Details Later. NY Times, 04/14/2019.
About the Authors
A. Lawrence Chickering is co-founder and co-executive editor of The Transpartisan Review. He has helped establish several public policy organizations. In 1985, he co-founded (with Nicolas Ardito-Barletta) the International Center for Economic Growth, which worked with economic policy organizations in more than 100 countries to promote economic and social reform. In 1999, he founded Educate Girls Globally, which works in India and will soon expand to Africa and the Middle East. In 1993, he published Beyond Left and Right. In 2008, he and James Turner co-authored Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life. Chickering’s other transpartisan publications include The Silent Revolution (1991, co-edited with Mohamed Salahdine) and Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security (2006, co-authored with I. Coleman, P.E. Haley, and E. Vargas-Baron).
James S. Turner, founding partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Swankin & Turner, is co-founder and co-executive editor of The Transpartisan Review. As one of the original Nader’s Raiders, he directed the project and wrote the report, The Chemical Feast: The Ralph Nader Study Group Report on Food Protection and the Food and Drug Administration. He has served as Board Chair of Citizens for Health and Voice for HOPE (Healers Of Planet Earth). He has appeared before every major consumer regulatory agency, including the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Product Safety Commission and Federal Trade Commission, as well as the Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health. He considers himself a progressive Democrat.