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An Agenda for Action

flag and enough is enough

A Call to Action

The upshot of our current levels of hyper-polarization is that enough is enough.  Apartisans can no longer sit on the sidelines.  We can no longer prioritize our private interests over our public ones.  We can no longer outsource our duties as citizens to the partisans around us.  As much as we hesitate in doing so, we must step up and enter the arena ourselves.  We must work together to create and offer an alternative to the political mayhem that has erupted. 

We may feel inadequate to the task.  We may feel we lack the knowledge, skills, and time to make any difference at all, let alone a difference that offers a positive and sustainable way forward.  This is of course what the partisans – and the would-be tyrants – depend on and have depended on for decades and centuries; the probability that most Americans will be too overwhelmed, too depressed, and too disillusioned to resist their worldviews and their agendas. 

But we can utilize the same technologies and tools that partisans have used to direct our frustrations with their failures towards a new direction.  A direction towards unity, not discord.  A vision based on ideological openness, not purity.  A politics of pragmatism focused on identifying solutions that work, not a politics of procrastination distracted by petty differences and pointless posturing.

Technologies and Tools 

What technologies and tools?  Of course the obvious – the internet, social media, well-crafted messaging.  But also the less obvious – meetings and calls, for example, that give people a sense of community and belonging.  And perhaps the least obvious – ideas and norms that provide structure and meaning and hope for those who otherwise have felt lost in the turbulence of change that has gripped and continues to grip our lives. 

But partisans use these tools to manipulate people towards endorsing a particular set of policies.  They see politics as a game to win, as an opportunity to advance their particular vision of the world to become a reality.  We will use these tools to instead encourage the public to endorse not a particular political platform but a new political process.  One that views politics not as a game for two sides to win or lose but as a collaborative adventure that we all either win or lose together.  One that is founded on basic principles of authentic honesty, mutual respect, basic fairness, and robust civility.

Idealism and Action

An idealistic enterprise, perhaps, but one that apartisans can and should support, as the partisans with their own battling forms of idealism have led us into a distinctly dystopian abyss.  We can all be both idealistic and realistic; the question is what ideals do you choose to follow and what reality do you choose to respond to?  Ideals that narrow or exclude or ideals that broaden and include?  A reality that has limited options or one that has a multitude of them, including the possibility of new political options and opportunities?  A glass half empty, or half full? Which will you choose?

Make no mistake, it will not be easy, this enterprise to rescue our republic from its current trajectory.  The partisans will resist, and will use all the power they have to stop efforts that may take that power away from them.  There are many obstacles ahead of us, many moving parts to take into account, many pieces to fit together.  If it was easy, it would have been done already.  But the moment necessitates action, action that will result in incremental changes at first, but over time, they will become substantial.  Such action must have a long game and a short game – immediate moves today that fit within a broader holistic strategy.

So what must be done? In short, four things. Four inter-related tasks that are as difficult as they are essential. The first is the defeat of Donald Trump in the upcoming election. While he did not create all of the problems we face today, he has certainly contributed to them. But more importantly, beyond any policy differences we may have with him, he has fundamentally undermined our democracy in ways that should be deeply unacceptable to all Americans. His bald and unyielding partisanship should particularly offend all apartisans, and his removal from office should be paramount for us. Check out this Apartisans blog post for more on how he has failed us.
But the threat of partisanship does not end with Donald Trump or the Republican Party, as it lives strongly among the Democrats as well. Joe Biden has promised to work for “all Americans,” and we will see if he upholds that promise, should he be elected. But in the meantime, we must advance to the second task – the creation of a viable alternative to the current two parties that dominate our politics.

This new political community will require significant cultural change. It will enable us to change how we think about engaging with each other and our disagreements. It will in a sense be an anti-party, devoid of a narrow focus on totalizing ideologies, special interests, and specific policy positions.

It instead will be animated by a commitment to dialogue and deliberation among those who may disagree, and disagree strongly, but share a commitment to listening, learning, and addressing each other’s concerns. It will welcome anyone willing to abide by the norms of egalitarianism and respect that make true democratic agreement and action possible. Anyone who believes they have a monopoly on the truth and is not willing to abide by those norms will be welcome to join one of the current parties.

For that matter, apartisans do not seek the abolition and destruction of parties that have a clear ideological vision and platform. Far from it; we see them as essential to a healthy democracy. As in the religious sphere, some of us are true believers in a particular political agenda and have decided it is the end all and be all for them. Their ability to pursue that agenda is what liberty and equality looks like. And their voices can provide important insights and ideas for the rest of us.

But not all of us have seen that particular form of light, and are still seekers at heart. We desire a space where we can do that seeking with our fellow citizens who share a similar sense of uncertainty and seek nuanced answers to complex political problems. Lacking absolute faith in a particular platform, we demand a platform that addresses the concerns of as many of us as possible, regardless of where we come from. And we refuse to be dominated by the true believers, as pure as their sentiments may be.
In order for this type of political community to be viable, we must do a third thing. We must catalyze the implementation of major institutional reforms that eliminate the two parties’ stranglehold on our democracy. Otherwise there will be no air for our new community of political seekers to breathe and grow. And no wide-reaching policy changes that transcend the bickering and provincialism of the partisans will be possible until such reforms are made. The parties will simply block and derail them with the levers of power they now control.
But once such reforms are enacted, then and only then can we – and we must –put forward new laws and programs that actually address the many problems facing our country. This is the fourth and final task for our movement of apartisans. The development and implementation of innovative, evidence-based, and efficient strategies that create good and well-paying jobs, educate our children for the 21st century, protect the environment, provide us with high-quality healthcare, and keep us safe while respecting our rights. In short, policies that, as the Preamble of the Constitution expected of our new republic, truly and comprehensively, for all Americans, “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, [and] promote the general Welfare.”

Future posts to “The Apartisans” blog will articulate more about each of these tasks, as large and important as they are.  They will explain in more detail why and how hyper-partisans must be defeated, what a new political community might look like and how to create it, which institutional reforms are necessary and why, and how we might come to agreement on new policies that address our most pressing problems. 

If you are persuaded at all about the necessity of apartisans to step-up and offer a new path for our nation, then sign-up for updates below.  If you have suggestions for moving forward or want to get involved in implementing this agenda, email info@apartisans.org. As those who have for the most part stayed out of the political fray that has led us to this moment in history, apartisans have unique perspectives to bring and critical roles to play in creating a better politics and a better world for ourselves, for our children, and for all future generations of Americans. 

Click below to read recent posts on apartisanship and different aspects of this agenda.

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