A quick glossary:
Partisan: a loyal supporter of the Democratic, Republican, Green, Libertarian, or other party, whether through ignorance or willingness to compromise.
Independent: an isolated member of the majority.
Bipartisan: a subspecies of the Democratic Partisan native to Washington, D.C.
Nonpartisan: someone content with no representation in exchange for no taxation.
Antipartisan: One who would transfer power from parties to people.
Transpartisan: an American interested in introducing humanity and complexity (and civics lessons) into political communications by working around the corporate media.
These are my definitions, but I’ve drafted the last one after reading “Reuniting America: A Toolkit for Changing the Political Game” by Joseph McCormick and Steve Bhaerman (http://reunitingamerica.org ).
The categories above overlap, of course. I sympathize with the independents, antipartisans (there barely are any, and I invented the term), and the transpartisans.
McCormick’s book (Bhaerman contributes a foreword and numerous witty sayings scattered through the text) contains a lot of his own story as a recovering right-winger. He meets some folks from an intentional community in rural Virginia who open his eyes. He discovers the basics of US history and civics (imagine the benefits if our schools taught children those things and we didn’t all have to learn them as adults!).
But most of the book deals with transpartisan meetings that the author has facilitated. The story of Al Gore and Fred Smith sitting knee to knee and sharing their feelings amicably is interesting. But these are none-too-principled political figures; there are real activists who have attended some of these gatherings who might have been more usefully focused on. Because, agreeing to disagree amicably is clearly not enough, and the book’s repeated assertion that transpartisanship “recognizes the validity of all points of view” is problematic.
Respecting every holder of a sincere point of view is valuable. But the validity of the views themselves? Is the midpoint between slavery and abolition the ideal answer? Aren’t there cases in which somebody is wrong? Aren’t there cases, in fact, in which nearly everybody is wrong? McCormick’s transpartisans find common ground around patriotism; I want to amicably and respectfully persuade them that they ALL are on a bad track there.
A lot of useful common ground seems to have been found too. McCormick lists things “we all agree on”:
“The Democratic [is the capital D a typo?] system is not representing us.
“We don’t support corporate or government structures that encourage predatory behavior.
“No taxation without equal, full [full?] representation.
“Local response is most empowering.
“We all want to build a sense of neighborhood or tribe.
“We all have common needs: love, autonomy, fairness, safety, basic services.
“We need to balance rights with responsibility.”
Yes, there’s a lot of self-help-group “empowerment” here, but McCormick comes around to action, which he says is the real point. The example he focuses on as having usefully evolved out of transpartisan relationships is the campaign for net neutrality. That alone is enough to suggest to me that there is something to this. But the potential seems much greater. Most Americans want the rich taxed, the military cut, the environment saved, the banksters jailed, the money taken out of politics, the media reformed, and the two big parties brought under control. Can transpartisan coalition building get us there?
For decades our televisions have taught us that only wealthy liberals care about poor people, while noble working folks care mostly about the rights and privileges of billionaires. Wisconsin shatters that crazy pretense and presents a conflict between the super wealthy who look out for the super wealthy and the rest of us who look out for the rest of us. That’s a very different division from the primarily cultural division of partisanship. Can transpartisanship make something out of it?
McCormick develops his ideas for local community and power building, the election of citizens councils, the evolution of a fourth and people’s branch of government, all of which is excellent with many resources and ideas. He should be careful, however, of trying to counter unverifiable official elections by holding elections on the internet (where they can never be made verifiable) — elections really do require localization, and paper ballots!
Whether the movement that reverses our collapse is remembered as transpartisan or not, this is part of a widespread trend moving us in the right direction, what Steve Bhaerman, aka Swami Beyondananda, calls an Upwising. The Swami (his stand-up persona) also remarks:
“Now is the time to act. Why? Because it is too late to do it sooner.”