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Evolving Our Political Polarity

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Debate rages in political circles about the best strategy for reforming the two major parties and opening the door to a deeper wave of political change. Typically this takes the form of an insider-outsider split. On the one hand are the people who consider themselves realists and advocate for working within a major party - third party "spoiler" effects, they say, make working outside the system potentially dangerous. The fear is a repeat of Nader in 2000.

On the other hand are people who believe that the major parties are so beholden to special interests now that no meaningful reform is even possible from within. If we allow ourselves to be corralled into the fold, our voice will largely be irrelevant. The only way, in their opinion, to shake the system out of its stagnation is by working from the outside. Both positions have some serious drawbacks. Even the attempt to find a "third way" political position that integrates the best of conservative and progressive positions tends to please no one because it ultimately doesn't represent people's true values.

What I want to suggest today is a strategy that may hold more long-term potential to evolve politics towards a more conscious level of expression. This strategy starts with respect for the power of a polarity to advance evolution. The polarization in much of the animal world into masculine and feminine sexes is something that has had clear evolutionary advantages. There's a positive evolutionary tension that comes from this polarity - a reshuffling of genes, a specialization into roles, a complementary synergy. If this kind of polarization did not have evolutionary value, it simply would have been weeded out.

In the political realm, humans seemed to be wired to orient around two primary political leanings, one that is more conservative and the other more liberal/progressive. Instead of trying to erase that dichotomy, or even synthesize, perhaps the most helpful task is to encourage each of those political impulses to find their highest, purest, and most effective expression. This approach builds from a foundation of respect for the importance of the supposedly "opposite" position. If we adopt such a position, the conservative's task is then not to convert people who are naturally disposed to liberalism, for instance, but to encourage their highest and most evolved expression.

We could model this as a series of stages through which people with different political inclinations pass, from more egocentric ("What's in it for me?") all the way to worldcentric ("What's best for the world?"). At each stage of development, the polarity remains but the context is increasingly one of caring for larger wholes and seeing the polarity with respect.

In analyzing the Democratic-Republican polarity in America, we might go beyond the usual critique that the duopoly is detrimental and open to the possibility that there might be an evolutionary advantage to have power held in this polarized way. The polarization of political power has been in effect throughout much of our history, although the names of the parties have changed. Perhaps this relatively balanced polarity of power has been one of the things that has given us a competitive advantage and allowed us to grow a strong nation.

If that is true, the task isn't necessarily to break up the duopoly but rather to provide a mechanism for each side of the polarity to find a more mature and even enlightened expression. Over time, that next-tier center-of-gravity within each party can draw an increasing number of people into it and eventually take over the reins of power. What I'm suggesting on a practical level, then, is the creation of a wing of the Democratic party that embodies the next, higher political expression of the liberal/progressive impulse. It would be more integrative and whole, but it would still be authentic to the liberal/progressive impulse.

This wing would maintain a certain level of intellectual and ideological autonomy, developing its own platform, recommendations, strategies, and candidates. It would provide a magnetic force for an emerging culture to articulate a new political-scientific-social-spiritual vision. The big difference from a third party is that it would ONLY run candidates for Democratic primaries. If its candidates won the primary, they would then become the Democratic nominees. It not, support would be thrown behind the Democrat who did.

Such a wing's ultimate aim would be to supplant the Democratic party with an Emergent Left that is based on more enlightened principles. However, it would respect that such an evolution might take decades. In the meantime, it would back those candidates that most closely mirror its position, while also building a solid power base of its own.

The trick with this approach is that it would necessarily be paired with (and engaged in some level of collaboration with) a more enlightened expression of the conservative impulse, which would also run its own candidates and platforms for Republican primaries. Over time, a more evolved wing would grow in both parties until whatever point our collective consciousness was ready to switch to the next tier of political expression. On that next level, the polarity would be seen more synergistically, based on the recognition of the "opposing" values as necessary and complementary.

The names that came to me to describe next-tier versions of both parties are the Sacred Democrats and the Radical Republicans. Sacred signifies that the worldview of the next-tier Democrats would be grounded in sacred reverence for our entire planet - it would have a spiritual heart that the current Left often lacks. It would also have a deeper respect for opposing political positions and think more integratively about the evolution of the whole. On the other side, Radical Republicans would have the dual connotation of getting to the "roots" of the Republican impulse - the impulse to cherish what has already been created and to respect our sovereign nature through self-reliance, for example. But "radical" would also signify a willingness to embrace experimentation, change, and elements associated more with the Left. Both emergent parties would thus have a continuity with the past, as well as represent a higher octave of expression.

People from across the political spectrum who share the recognition that our political life needs to make an evolutionary leap would thus have a way to showcase spokespeople for their views in the short term via running primary candidates, while also building a long-term power base to take the reins of leadership at whatever point a sufficient number of people resonate with their platform and perspective.

Sacred America Series #19
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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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