Transforming the Political Climate of Our Country Through My Private Member Community
Making Positive Politics My Job
As a political science major in the 1990s, I spent numerous classes arguing with professors and other students and was sure that by the end of each year they’d see things my way. I marveled at the students who debated against me with such fervor, and then would ask me [with a handshake and a smile] to go out for coffee afterwards. I’d still be fuming and thinking, I can’t hang out with those people! I took every issue personally, but they did not. By my junior year, I was burnt out, frustrated, and had changed my major.
As a teacher for almost twenty years, I have encouraged other teachers, students, and parents to share with me their political opinions. Instead of barking out my agreements or disagreements, I’ve learned to ask questions and try to better understand what all of those varying ideas have in common. The surprising conclusions: Very few of them have turned out to be radically right or radically left, and rarely are they happy with the two final candidates in any of the presidential elections as far back as 2004. For many, their dissatisfaction stems from the fact that the candidates often ARE too far to the right or left for their taste.
In the wake of last year’s election, many of us were left wondering how in the world the process became so broken and if it can ever be fixed [ideally before 2024]. Personally I began to wonder if I could find other groups and individuals who are interested in shaking things up and thinking outside the steel-coated, iron-clad, highly protected box to come up with new and better ways to discuss issues and find political candidates.
After brainstorming “What if…?” scenarios with my two “woke” daughters and not-so-woke husband, together we stumbled onto a few ideas.
What if… #1: What if most Americans want to protect the environment, but also want to find a way to not penalize businesses and individuals in the process? What if we’re happy with the progress that our society has made toward women’s rights [namely birth control options] over the past century, but also feel that human life begins sometime before birth and want to find a way to protect both? What if our heart breaks for the billions of men, women and children around the world who suffer at the hands of poverty, dictators, and war, but also realize that trying to bring them all into the U.S. might not be the most realistic way to help them, and would like to come up with a more effective win-win solution for everyone involved? What if we believe that most Americans are great, hard-working people, and that most police officers are too? What if we want to bring together the outstanding folks on both sides of these issues and many more, and allow them to discuss practical, relevant solutions? What if we in the middle are tired of the extremes dominating these conversations in such divisive ways, and are finally ready to form an alliance with each other so as to come up with solutions that we can all live with? What if we could create a community membership platform that allows this “middle alliance” to voice opinions without fear of criticism, retaliation, or being “cancelled”?
What if…#2: Now let’s take it to the next level. Democracy is wonderful, but what if it needs a “face-lift” every decade or so. How frustrating is it when primary season arrives only to find out that a short list of candidates has already been selected for you by “The Party”? Then, once you’ve done your due diligence, you find that the person you like has been eliminated before the election process has begun through little more than rumors and backroom deals. What if we used this “middle alliance” platform to create a grass roots campaign focused on hosting our own nomination?
If reality shows can be used to find brides for bachelors, and podcasts can make famous comedians even more famous, why can’t we use them to allow all 50 states to nominate 50 presidential candidates? I know it sounds weird, but stay with me…
While the idea of using podcasts and videos seems a bit odd at first, it’s hard to imagine it being any more chaotic than the past several election cycles that we’ve been forced to endure. Naturally it would have to be managed and produced in a classier way than most of the typical shows we’ve seen, but that’s entirely possible.
What if… #3: “Would the DNC and RNC participate?” is the obvious question. There’s a good chance that their antiquated "good-’ol-boy" systems would cause them to recuse themselves from something this new.
Which leads to the next question: What if the focus of my new membership community during the first year was on creating a “centrist 3rd party alliance” that encourages voters in the middle to participate? Along with creating a platform that encourages weekly voter participation, it’s popularity could eventually force the other two parties to step up their game and make improvements within their organizations…which is just as desperately needed as increased voter participation!
This is the point where I pause and answer the obvious question: Does being part of this middle alliance mean those involved have to change their stance on the issues that they believe in? ABSOLUTELY NOT! It would be all about bringing together those on both sides who want the opportunity to openly discuss the issues without fear of repercussions. There would be no 3rd party stance on each and every issue. The only requirements for being part of this new alliance would be:
1- NEGOTIATE & COMPROMISE- All participants must be willing to negotiate with anyone who disagrees with him/her. You must allow all parties to discuss the “gray areas” of an issue and not demand that he/she be completely for or against it without any exceptions. Find a respectful way to negotiate and compromise on our differences without smearing each other in the media. If you can’t come to a consensus, have other voters give input, or simply agree to disagree.
2- COMPLETE TRANSPARENCY- If you're not willing to say it on the evening news, don’t say it behind closed doors, or take it from a lobbyist, or sneak it into a bill.
3- EXPECT POSITIVE OUTCOMES- If you’re not excited about serving America and working with others who don’t agree with you, and if you can’t treat others respectfully and don’t think the end result of every situation can be resolved in a positive, constructive way, THIS ISN’T THE ALLIANCE FOR YOU!
What if… #4: Now, back to the show! What if along with vetting candidates, the show also focused on demonstrating positive new approaches to discussing and resolving issues? Folks on both sides could sit down and R-A-T-I-O-N-A-L-L-Y discuss the gray areas of issues that many are currently afraid to talk about. This means no black and white “If you’re not for us, you’re against us” mess. This means we talk about the nuances that many of us might actually agree on and be able to use to create common sense solutions that are less controversial and more productive. These gray areas could make us realize that moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans might actually have more in common with each other than they do with the extremists within their own parties. These areas could also help neutralize the hostility that currently exists in American politics, and weaken the influence of not only the extremists, but also the media outlets who thrive on these hostilities. Basically, here’s how it could work...
First, a weekly podcast would run between now and the next election. It would discuss the following:
* The pros and cons of creating more choices in our national elections than what the Republicans and Democrats offer.
* Finding Common Ground - Exploring the idea that compromise doesn’t always mean surrender. Focusing on what we have in common and how to create legislation that everyone can live with.
* The positive events that are happening around the country that concern today’s issues.
* How listeners can join with their friends and neighbors in finding a Presidential nominee from their own state to run in 2024.
* Updates on the progress of the movement and how many candidates have been chosen so far.
With the support of listeners, by 2023, 50 nominees (one from each state) would be introduced. In the first few weeks, “light” interview videos would be created by members in each state that allow each candidate to give guided tours through their hometowns to share about the local music, foods, and culture. They can also share what’s working in their community and if there are unique programs or events that have succeeded and could be duplicated around the country. Later, heavier interviews could be done that dig deeper into the issues. The expectation would be that each nominee has to answer to people on both sides of that issue and explain how the issue can be addressed in a positive way that keeps both sides in mind.
During this latter part of the vetting process, followers would be encouraged to vote on their favorite candidates, and each week five would be eliminated from the competition until a “top 5” has been selected, at which point the entire program would have drawn national attention. Anyone from any party could use RCV (Ranked Choice Voting) to help decide which final primary candidate would run against the other parties. 2024 would be dedicated to running the general election campaign in a more transparent and effective way than has ever been done before. Even the convention would be more positive, exciting, and interactive than anything Americans have seen up to this point.
Ideally this process will create an amazing 3rd party candidate that everyone can get excited about. However, even if that person doesn’t win the presidency, the political process itself will have been forever changed and voters will be energized to continue to participate and keep that momentum going in the future.
Due to the nature of the current political climate, people are looking for entertainment that they can interact with in a way that makes a difference. They’re looking for an end to the idea that “There’s nothing we can do about it.”
What if …#5? There are a lot more “What ifs…” that would undoubtedly arise if this was done right…”What ifs” suggested by listeners who are smarter and more creative than I am. That’s the point! If the end result of this idea turns out to be bigger and better than anything we can imagine right now, it could literally make America a better place to live and keep us from destroying our own democracy.
The idea isn’t to change democracy, but instead to make it more accessible and “user friendly” for the American voter. It could also be the solution to digging ourselves out of the self-destructive pit that we’ve been drawn into and becoming the unified Americans that we once were not so long ago.
I genuinely believe with all my heart that moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans have more in common with each other than they realize. I also genuinely want to be part of uniting these two groups. I’d like to create something that makes the voices of American voters louder, while drowning out the voices of the media and pundits. My dream is to create platforms for these events. I believe we could connect social media, politics, and the American people in a way that would create a positive experience that voters can get excited about. Together we might inspire a millennial in one part of the country to join with others in his/her state to seek out great candidates, while stay-at-home moms in another state and small business owners in yet another one do the same. As silly as it sounds, I can’t help but think of the phrase in that great movie Braveheart, “Unite us...Unite the clans!”
I might only be a forty-nine-year-old teacher from a small town, but with a little help, I think we can invent a new brand of Positive Politics!