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Rob Stein: Political Renewal Is Possible

America’s disintegrating political cohesion will not, and cannot, be repaired by twentieth century political systems.

In 2005, Rob Stein founded The Democracy Alliance which has, over the past decade, become the largest network of donors dedicated to building the progressive movement in the United States, playing a leading role in fostering the infrastructure necessary to advance a progressive agenda for America. Although firmly progressive, his work with the Democracy Alliance has given him a unique perspective of the political landscape.

In an article published on Medium earlier this year, Stein describes a dangerous political optimism embraced by many...

In spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, we presume that our political past is somehow prologue to a reasonably well-functioning political future. We hold tenaciously to the mistaken belief that restoration of cohesion among our party, movements and politics is imminent, if only we had bigger data sets and more predictive models, better narratives, clearer messages, more money, larger voter turnout, sharper candidates and wiser leaders.

This is both delusional and dangerous. Delusional because the forces of political disintegration are accelerating, not abating. Dangerous because our political dysfunctions are triggering the collapse of constructive political cohesion. This is a combination lethal to our constitutional ideals of self-governance and to the conditions necessary for a thriving democracy.

He recently followed that article up with another, Political Renewal Is Possible, where he lays out some thoughts on how to affect political renewal in this age of political fragmentation...

The possibilities for political renewal are endless, but there are several immutable principles of human nature, political exigency and modernity that will influence the nature of twenty-first century political engagement and alliance.

1. Human beings are animated by differing political passions.

2. People generally seek political affinity among those whose views and experiences align with their own

3. Spirited political competition is a sine qua non of free people.

4. Twenty-first century political cohesion is dependent on a conscious commitment to new means of fostering constructive political relationships.

These principles, and the political realities that flow from them, will influence the nature of our political renaissance and the pace of its development. We cannot predict the future, but America’s political renewal is likely to be dependent on new leaders, new forums and new sources of financing.

It's a long article, addressing many transpartisan perspectives and describing the transpartisan community as...

Nascent, “alternative course” models for networking and consensus building across traditional political divides are emerging with greater frequency than ever before. They are the affirmative, creative response to the disintegration of twentieth century political cohesion. These alternative course initiatives are new, “non-partisan”, “bi-partisan”, “multi-partisan” and “trans-partisan” forums for political conversation and networking. These are not political “parties” and they are not performing electoral functions. Rather, they are experiments in the art and science of bridging political divides. They are building networks, identifying shared political values, seeking to define new, alternative ways to re-integrate American politics.

...

“Alternative course” experiments such as these must be respected and scaled. They are the test beds for twenty-first century political cohesion. They are convening the citizens and leaders, and inventing the structures and systems, necessary to reform our parties and/or create new forums for political cohesion among and between political perspectives, institutions and actors who share common values.

Obviously, Stein's renewal will require substantially more than can described in a single article, but in Political Renewal Is Possible, he embraces transpartisan strategies of value to all sides of political discourse. The real value of this article, though, lies in the discussions it can encourage. What does he get right? Where does he miss the mark? As a movement, what do we need to do to bring about a "political renewal" in the United States?

Stein has some interesting points, intrigued to see their applicability over the course of the next year.

Is he respectful of religious conservatives and working class values? I'm an educated secular social liberal myself, but most of my family are working class people in "fly over states" and many of them are religious. I haven't asked, but I expect quite a few of them voted for Trump. I personally loathe Trump, but the condescending tone of the "coastal elites" has played a significant role in Trump's popularity. I believe that one of the most important moves that can be made to reduce the alienation of the Trump electorate is for progressives to begin to be much more respectful of them. One never wins anyone over by despising them.

I agree with Michael Strong's comments immediately above about progressives.The lack of respect for persons who believe in prayer in school and who are pro life, for example, is very destructive to bridging divides in our body politic. Disagreeing with such positions is one thing, contempt is another. These are morally complex issues that should not be reduced to partisan sound bites. From the " Great Awakening" early in our Republic, there has been a discomfort with a society disconnected from religious values.

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