See How They Run, Part 2

See How They Run, Part 2

by A. Lawrence Chickering, James S. Turner & Anitha Beberg

Showcasing the Outlier Candidates in the 2020 Presidential Election

And they’re off!  Twenty-three Democrats and two Republicans currently running for the White House.  The Democratic field looks like a Where’s Waldo? children’s’ book. Nevertheless, from our transpartisan perspective, the least ‘professionally political’ candidates — Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Pete Buttigieg and Donald Trump — are the most interesting because their campaigns shed interesting light on real issues mostly ignored by the frontrunners.

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.  All, but Trump, struggle for media coverage.  Theater 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.

Understanding the Actors in Terms of the Transpartisan Matrix

Understanding all candidates requires background understanding of our Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix, which ‘maps’ political values and positions far more accurately than the simple left-right spectrum in common use.  For readers unfamiliar with the Matrix, we are providing here a description, which summarizes each of the quadrants, with a ‘Freedom’ and ‘Order’ Quadrant on both the left and the right.  Readers already familiar with the Matrix may skip to the next section, Introducing the Players.

The left-right spectrum presents political values and issues as if left and right were both consistent and coherent sets of ideas.  The core conceptual assumption of the spectrum is that each side is a discrete ‘package’ of ideas, in total conflict with the other.  In this conceptual framework, there is no overlap at all between the ideas set on one side versus the other.  This assumption is completely inaccurate.  Yet it sets up a perfect darkness-and-light binary conflict of visions that, while ideal for candidates emphasizing their differences and for the media coverage on the evening news, has no value whatever for any other purpose.

The binary frame has nothing whatever to do with what real people actually value, which is much more complicated (and often conflicted within the left and within the right!) than the spectrum describes them.  Our Four-Quadrant Matrix presents a map of what real people value even in politics, with a ‘Freedom’ and ‘Order’ quadrant on both the left and the right.  Here is a graphic describing the Matrix:

Introducing the Players: Pete Buttigeig, Andrew Yang, and Marianne Williamson

A front page story in The New York Times recently explored the meteoric rise of the “playwright” 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.  He focuses on stories about the breakdown of civil society institutions.  This aligns strongly with a consistent theme in our writing, which emphasizes strong, transpartisan institutional reform and self-governance, based on personal citizen engagement at every governance level, local, national and global.

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 and spoke to his vision.  His biggest problem is not seeing how his insight and vision can be translated into proposals for institutional and policy reform.  If he fails in this, he 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.

The Playwright Pete Buttigieg (peteforamerica.com)

In trying to explain, the first words out of his mouth were something like: ‘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 principals to the conflict who can, by themselves, actively solve it.

Mayor Pete’s informal, engaged style evokes the intimate (close-by) relationships of OR, but his vagueness on policy until now 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 his policy ‘conventional liberalism,’ and he may be right, given his account of his 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 the author.  It is not surprising, given the alignment of his ‘connected’ values with the OR.

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.  But his more specific need is to think more clearly about how subjective, personal, local connections can shape national and global policy—how to promote reforms that encourage those connections.

The second paragraph of a Buttigieg speech following ‘Now is the time to . . . vote for new ideas’ might sound something 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 depend on finding empowered, empathetic, and engaged citizens.  We highlight many of them in our more than a hundred 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.  The need, at this moment, is to develop new institutional structures, promoted by active citizens, to fill the void, bringing people together and solving problems.

Mayor Pete’s policy proposals must now join his 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 will ground ideas in the actual experiences of real people, telling their own stories.

If Buttigieg fails to develop such policies—or even if he succeeds—other candidates can adopt his style and manner and combine it with a powerfully connected policy agenda.  There is plenty of room for this ‘connected’ campaign vision, especially as it will speak in powerful ways to the transpartisan constituency, vision, and opportunity.

The Outliers Explore the Other Quadrants 

We suggest the challenge for Democratic Presidential candidates is to search beyond their current focus in the Order Left to the other quadrants.  We find the other quadrants in the less conventionally political, outlier candidates.  We started with Mayor Pete dubbed him The Playwright in our theatrical metaphor because his rhetoric comes across as powerfully ‘connecting’ and transpartisan.  We see him as a scribe to rewriting the performance.  We also find elements of the Order Right in his stories of engagement between people ‘close by’.  It is no accident that Order Right conservatives are attracted to him even as most of his policy proposals are straight Order Left.  Yang and Williamson seem to us to contribute additional access to the four quadrants of the transpartisan constituency.

Yang presents a High Tech Blueprint

Andrew Yang brings strong elements of the Freedom Right.  We see no hint in Yang of Identity Politics or of seeing the disadvantaged as ‘victims’ oppressed either by oppressors or by culture, unable to help themselves.  He comes from an immigrant family; his father was a scientist whose research at I.B.M. resulted in 69 patents with his name on them.

Andrew is an entrepreneur, politician, and philanthropist who founded Venture for America (VFA) in 2012.  Its mission is ‘to revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship’ by training recent graduates and young professionals to work for startups in emerging cities throughout the country.  That makes him a venture capitalist investing in entrepreneurship and job creation—core objectives of the Freedom Right.  He was, as Freakonomics Radio interviewer Stephen Dubner said, ‘a pretty big winner . . . [but] along the way, he came to see that for every winner, there were thousands upon thousands of losers.’

VFA’s goal is to have its Fellows create jobs at companies where they are initially placed or by starting their own companies, which hire people.  VFA has placed over 700 Fellows in 450 startups in 19 cities in 15 states, which have 219 of the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the Presidency.  VFA’s programs, headquartered in Detroit, take place in Cincinnati, Detroit, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Denver, Providence, Baltimore, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Columbus, Miami, San Antonio, St. Louis, Birmingham, Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Nashville and Kansas City, a rainbow of the American backbone.  Building a Presidential campaign out from these cities, where he has established personal ties, gives Yang a transpartisan tool of enormous potential.

Yang set up VFA to recruit recent college graduates to work in various startup industries, or the related industry of venture funding, for two years in economically challenged US cities.  All Fellows attend a five-week summer training program in Detroit, Michigan, where they are taught and mentored by investors, venture capitalists, and innovation firms.

Breaking out of the left/right, blue/red dichotomy straightjacket frees him to re-imagine the electorate.  Yang is almost the rhetorical opposite of Buttigieg—sharper tongued but bookish compared to the soft-spoken and eloquent yet policy-diffused Buttigieg.  Yang’s campaign platform has 107 discreet policy proposals and he speaks with the sharper voice of someone who sees wide entrepreneurial potential.

The Entrepreneur Andrew Yang (yang2020.com)

He says things like:

As an entrepreneur, I feel driven to try and solve problems, and this [all the jobs are about to disappear] seems like the greatest problem that we face.  And you think, ‘Hey, if I bust my ass for several years, I have a chance to potentially accelerate the eradication of poverty and helping my country manage through the most difficult transition in decades.  And I think if I put my heart and soul into it, I have some chance of making that happen.’ And then if you don’t do that, you must be an asshole.

He describes one of his earliest jobs as a knife salesman.

Freakonomics Radio’s DUBNER asks: A knife salesman?  YANG: Oh yeah, Cutco, I still know the sales patter.  DUBNER: Let’s hear it.  YANG: What’s really dangerous is not a sharp knife.  It’s a dull knife, because then you start putting elbow grease into it, and that’s when accidents happen.’

Yang spices his campaign with proposals that make headlines like ‘The President should make $4 million a year’, and he supports a program that will pay Americans $1,000 a month.  Yang proposes $4 million-a-year for the President to discourage post office corruption by abuse of free mail privileges extended to all former Presidents.

The $1,000 a month is a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI), which, despite some problems, is a concept with growing acceptance around the world.  He proposes it as a hedge against the massive job elimination that he—and many others—see coming from new technologies such as robotics, Artificial Intelligence and information analytics.  Andrew can contribute the High Tech section of the Transpartisan stump speech:

I’m Andrew Yang, and I’m running for President as a Democrat in 2020 because I fear for the future of our country.  New technologies – robots, software, artificial intelligence – have already destroyed more than 4 million US jobs, and in the next 5-10 years, they will eliminate millions more.  A third of all American workers are at risk of permanent unemployment.  And this time, the jobs will not come back.

I’m not a career politician—I’m an entrepreneur who understands the economy.  It’s clear to me, and to many of the nation’s best job creators, that we need to make an unprecedented change requiring bold steps.  As president, my first priority will be to implement Universal Basic Income for every American adult over the age of 18: $1,000 a month, no strings attached, paid for by a new tax on the companies benefiting most from automation.  UBI is just the beginning.  A crisis is underway—we have to work together to stop it, or risk losing the heart of our country.  The stakes have never been higher. 

When we said the challenge for Democrats is to search beyond the Order Left to the other quadrants, no candidate is immune from that suggestion.  In Yang’s case, his proposal to give $1,000 to every citizen over 18 should include a proposal to promote community and connections—and the spirit of Order Right relationships ‘close by’—which could especially help ‘difficult’ populations (e.g., people suffering addictions) that might lack the discipline to spend the bounty wisely.  Yang does mention in his book The War on Normal People this type of proposal, but for some reason has ceased speaking about this during the campaign trail.

A UBI would address a significant proportion of the lack of work through increased humanity, caring, creativity, and enterprise. That said, we are going to have to do much more. Timebanking is a system through which people trade time and build credits within communities by performing various helpful tasks—transporting an item, walking a dog, cleaning up a yard, cooking a meal, providing a ride to the doctor, and so on. The idea was championed in the mid-1990s in the United States by Edgar Cahn, a law professor and anti-poverty activist as a way to strengthen communities. 

Now imagine a supercharged version of timebanking backed by the US government where in addition to providing social value there’s real monetary value underlying it. This new currency—Digital Social Credits—would reward people for doing things that serve the community. By creating a new currency, the government could essentially induce billions of dollars of positive social activity without having to spend nearly that amount. We could create an entirely new parallel economy around social good.

Healing the Soul of America — Marianne Williamson Presents a High Touch Challenge 

Marianne Williamson is a best-selling ‘spiritual’ leader and improbable politician.  In 1992, Oprah featured her first book, A Return To Love, which was on The New York Times bestseller list for 39 weeks.  She has published 12 other books, seven of which have been Times bestsellers and four of which have been #1.  Her books have sold more than 3 million copies.  She has 2.6 million twitter followers.

In 1997 Williamson published The Healing of America, which was republished and expanded three years later as Healing the Soul of America.  The book kicked off an effort to bring her widely popular self-help message into politics.  In it, she laid out plans to ‘transform the American political consciousness and encourage powerful citizen involvement’.

She published a 20th anniversary revised edition in 2018, and in it she wrote in her New Age, ‘spiritual’ language what could be the third paragraph of the ‘outliers’ stump speech:

It is a task of our generation [Williamson is 66] to recreate the American political system to awaken from our culture of distraction and re-engage the process of democracy with soulfulness and hope.  Yes, we see there are problems in the world.  But we believe in a universal force that, when activated by the human heart, has the power to make all things right.  Such is the divine authority of love: to renew the heart, renew the nations, and ultimately, renew the world.

Her candidacy challenges the political system from the ‘far-out’ world of the New Age, which is to say, from radically different epistemological assumptions and rhetoric than the assumptions and rhetoric that dominate mainstream politics.  Relying on direct appeals to spiritual and religious ‘higher’ powers that are difficult for mainstream political figures to understand, she speaks entirely from and to her New Age audience and makes no effort to ‘translate’ her message for politicians.

Her message speaks powerfully to her core audience.  We (Chickering and Turner) had the eye-opening experience of being retained by Williamson’s publisher to assist her in her 1997 book tour, and we saw—live—her powerful appeal.  We saw her in various venues, including some in Washington, DC, when she inspired 500 activists over an entire weekend meeting Washington policy pros and speaking to enthralled crowds at churches, fund-raisers, and book signings, uplifting them by reinvigorating the soul of America into the political process.  Her purpose, which continues today, was to promote the ‘spirit of America’ into Washington politics.

Media figures have struggled to understand her appeal, and many of them, commenting on her final appeal to Love in the first debate could only relate to it by laughing.

The Healer Marianne Williamson (marianne2020.com)

Although we understand why her appeal, articulated in ‘soft’ New Age terms, cannot reach beyond her own audience, we are interested in her because when one ‘deconstructs’ her rhetoric, it becomes clear that she brings essential pieces of the Matrix into the debate.  One way to state possibilities raised by her candidacy is by this question: can the brittle, ‘objective’ political contests that control our governing institutions accept and harness the ‘subjective’ energetic outpouring that is emerging and becoming manifest in communities across the country and around the world?

The challenge to understand Williamson’s appeal to ‘LOVE’ is to relate a word normally used only in the most intimate, personal relationships to describe relationships that are entirely impersonal in the political world.  That is, in fact, the central political challenge of our time: how to impart into national politics the values of local politics and private life into national politics.  These two political realms, national versus local, yield very different outcomes.  In local and personal relationships people work cooperatively, while our national politics is torn apart by conflict, distrust and resulting political paralysis.

Local politics reflects the realities and truths of what people value in private life—which is engaged, private interactions and contact—while national politics and policymaking are driven by calculations of private (political) advantage, pitting opponents against each other in darkness-and-light morality plays, choreographed for the mass media addiction to conflict.  James Fallows wrote a book exploring this very subject and exploring the same issues in national versus local politics, based on traveling 100,000 miles to every part of the country.

National policy-making is a ‘representative’ system, in which empowered, active policymakers ‘make policy’ for disempowered, passive citizens in an almost entirely impersonal, mechanistic system.  Everybody is a machine in the mechanistic system of national politics, and that explains why so many people are alienated from it—because it forces everyone to be dead.

That is the world Marianne is trying to speak to in her larger mission to ‘transform the American political consciousness and encourage powerful citizen involvement’.  Our interest in her is that more than any other candidate, she is working to import into national politics subjective, spiritual values, which are crucially important in both private life and local politics.  This means deconstructing the word ‘love’ into the language of proposals for institutional and policy reform.

Marianne has made almost no effort to translate her spiritual appeals into policy proposals.  One fleeting moment occurred in the first debate when she responded to assertions, led by Bernie Sanders, about ‘the right of health care for all.’ Williamson shot back that the health care system they were advocating was a system focused on sickness, rather than health.  Her idea was that the subject being debated should be HEALTH not ‘spending money on health care’, which, in practical terms, meant spending money on Western, allopathic medicine and the American Medical Association alone while ignoring alternative modalities, including self-care.

Her translation challenge is primarily for those in the Order Left quadrant, suffocating under a vision of relentless exploitation and repression, whose vision of hope is confined to proposals enforced by legal orders and the heal of a boot.  They see no possibility for empowering ‘victims’ with the freedom quadrants, connecting people by transforming relationships with those ‘close by’ (from the Order Right).

They cannot see beyond the Order Left quadrant, commanding people ‘to be good’.  They cannot see why programs fail everywhere that feature only commands because they are unaware of programs everywhere that are achieving positive results by empowering people, including the poor, to experience the empowering effect the Freedom Quadrants can bring to people in community (the Order Right).  Their successes occur even working with the most ‘difficult’ populations in the most ‘difficult’ regions.  Those experiences contain the lessons for accomplishing social change that are often called ‘miracles’.

When Marianne (as quoted above) affirms her belief ‘in a universal force that, when activated by the human heart, has the power to make all things right,’ she is right even if her words still fall short of speaking to political elites.  She indicates she understands how to accomplish real policy change when she endorses the crucial element of ‘powerful citizen involvement.’

Focusing on Health would combine traditional health care with a variety of alternative care modalities, including self-care.  Self-care would bring in community and connection, encouraging it, which is part of Williamson’s appeal to love as a metaphor.  A really serious debate on the subject would focus on Health and would explore different components contributing to it without making false claims about the perfection of other health care systems without mentioning their severe problems.

In terms of the Matrix, Williamson’s appeal to Love is a metaphor for integrating the Four Quadrants.  If you follow her ‘love’ logic, first treat others, as you want them to treat you.  In our transpartisan political sense, this means being open to those in quadrants other than your own.

Williamson argues that our democracy will work only when people start listening to each other.  Across the country local jurisdictions are promoting this by creating new, programs, policies, and processes that encourage the transpartisan values of personal engagement and listening to all voices.

When Marianne starts introducing into her stump speeches ideas for policy reform that promote active citizenship, working together promoting change that only active citizens can achieve, people will stop laughing.

The perspective presented here aligns with the futurist John Naisbitt’s vision, which he first developed in his 1982 best-selling Megatrends, a corporate leaders’ guide to the future.  Naisbitt asserted, based on culling thousands of newspaper articles and interviewing dozens of experts in science, medicine, sociology, psychology, education, business, and theology, that in a world of technology, people long for personal and human contact.

We believe that a major cause of voter alienation from the political system comes from individuated citizens seeking empowerment to engage each other as change makers.  It needs to happen in public spaces such as schools, health projects, law enforcement, and other arenas of social need.  This vision is hardest to realize for the Order Left in relation to ‘victims’, following Identity Politics, unable to escape the Order Left Quadrant, and failing to see how freedom (FR and FL) is essential to facilitate conscious connections that are crucial to empower the disadvantaged and free them from their roles as ‘victims’.

Missed the Part 1?  Read it here:  See How They Run, Part 1


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 AdministrationEnvironmental Protection AgencyConsumer 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.

Anitha Beberg is the Founder and CEO of Seva Exchange Corporation, which works with organizations supporting blockchain for social impact and universal basic income, including TimeBanks.org, Mannabase, and Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard’s 2020 Presidential Campaigns. Anitha wants to use her software background to galvanize global volunteerism by reinventing timebanking services for the modern digital economy.

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