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Towards a Strategic Political Movement

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Few people would argue that our current political process is balanced and fair. Big money and special interests skew the decision-making of both major parties. Third parties that are focused on fundamental reforms of the system may inadvertently play the role of spoilers when they attempt to draw voters away from the duopoly. The way the political game is currently architected, the best we can often do is to put our energy behind the party that we believe will do a moderately better job.

This approach, though, almost guarantees that we will not see a major upgrade of the whole paradigm of politics. Neither major party has an interest in seeing the nature of the political process change in a way that threatens their base of influence. Each electoral season, they corral reform-oriented groups into voting within the duopoly by threats of how dire the situation will be if the other party assumes power. Thus we remain in the Democratic-Republican tug-of-war, which doesn't allow for more significant forms of collective evolution. Alternatively, if we become a third-party voter, we may undermine our goals in the short term by helping the other political wing, as happened with progressives who supported Nader in 2000.

What do we do, as concerned citizens who know something much better is possible and even required for us to address current planetary challenges?

My answer is that we have to become really good at strategy. Strategy often takes a bad rap in new paradigm circles: it's not idealistic or pure enough. Far better, purists say, to just speak our vision in a way that magnetizes the future. But strategic thinking done well entails a grounded respect for the reality of the moment. Strategy provides a pathway forward that takes into account people's human motivations, the nature of power dynamics, and an understanding of organizations, politics, and movement-building. Strategy illuminates how vision can become reality.

Most people don't know that Rosa Parks' famed bus protest in Montgomery was part of a much larger strategy for the civil rights movement. She had trained at the Highlander Folk School for nonviolent change only months before her protest galvanized the movement. For those who want real evolution of the United States' political system, we must become better at long-term strategy, or we will continue being relegated to the sidelines, either voicing torrid critiques of the "system" or waxing about idealistic visions of the future without having any real impact on power dynamics today.

Developing a strategic approach to major political change requires a number of things. First, we've got to be willing to believe that a major change is possible. If we're fixated in believing the system is stuck and unfixable, it saps our energy and creativity from finding the evolutionary path forward. Instead, we can see stuck areas as opportunities - each is a point of pain that can help galvanize people to work together on creating a shift.

After we've opened ourselves to larger possibilities, the next step is gathering leaders or potential leaders who share a common vision of what an evolution of our political system will look like -perhaps including elements like a commitment to sustainability, reduction in the military, health care reform, instant run-off voting, clean money elections, global accords, etc. When these leaders can find enough common ground - a vision of the most essential reforms required to create the next "blueprint" - then we can create a movement guided by strategy.

Given the current duopoly's tight reins on power and the nature of the "spoiler effect" without instant run-off voting, a precondition for such a new movement is that it cannot be located within either political party OR exist separately as a third party that runs its own candidates. It will emerge as a political force that is committed to creating a new political paradigm and willing to work with leaders across the political spectrum. Serving as an antidote to the power of special interest lobbies, it will resemble a collective interest group that is willing, just like more narrow special interest groups, to cast support behind those political leaders who are willing to advance its blueprint for a new society.

Such a political force sees everyone as a potential collaborator but is also willing to be tough with those that undermine key goals. If a particular candidate vows to back a specific reform, such as instant runoff-voting, and then backs out, such a political movement would be willing to expose this vocally and publicly, as well as fund opposing candidates in future elections. Being willing to play hardball is a form of respect for the change we're trying to create.

An evolutionary political movement could become an influential lever to gain commitments to major reform planks from both sides of the aisle in D.C., eventually opening the door to a truly multi-party system. In order to do this, though, the evolutionary movement will require a robust infrastructure, including media, think tanks, organizing groups, technical infrastructure, PR expertise, organizers, strategists, fundraising mechanisms, and coordinated actions. It will also require a sizable base of support. However, if such a political swing force gains the support of even a few percent of the United States population and use that effectively, it could act as a major tipping force in elections from local to national.

Sacred America Series #14
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Stephen Dinan is the author of Radical Spirit and the founder of the Radical Spirit community, as well as the Director of Membership and Marketing for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in human (more...)

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