Evolving Beyond the Two-Party Duopoly

Two Projects to Represent US and
“WE-Distribute” Political Power in America

“We don’t need a revolutionary uprising to overthrow the system. We need an evolutionary upwising to help us overgrow it.” — Swami Beyondananda

Every now and then, there is a defining moment that coalesces an idea that has been cooking over low heat for a while. And while we can point to the current “government shutdown” as one final straw to bring together our collective disgust from all sides, the defining moment I am referring to came last October when Green Beret and former NFL player Nate Boyer wrote this open letter to Donald Trump, Colin Kaepernick and the American public in general. Writes Boyer:

Simply put, it seems like we just hate each other; and that is far more painful to me than any protest, or demonstration, or rally, or tweet. We’re told to pick a side, there’s a line drawn in the sand “are you with us or against us?” It’s just not who we are, or at least who we’re supposed to be; we’re supposed to be better than that, we’re Americans. This doesn’t even seem to be about right or wrong, but more about right or left.

Here we have a mainstream American, a conservative probably, who is affirming and lamenting that the average American from all sides has just about hit “peak disgust” at our corrupt, dysfunctional system that pits one side against the other so that the fundamental things we agree about get obscured, making it impossible for us to act as a single coherent body politic to hold our governance accountable to any standard whatsoever.

While that’s not the exact focus of Boyer’s letter, the subtext is we have an untrustworthy government, and untrustworthy media. And all this upwelling frustration has turned us against one another, when it would be much more practical and sane for us to work together for solutions rather than defending our positions.

Were we to state the obvious — that our government is run by the power of money and is so beholden to special interests that we the people have been effectively disenfranchised — the majority of Americans would say, “Yeah … that’s right!”

Signs of the Upwising

So before we move on to two different — and worthy — strategies to address the disenfranchisement of “we the people” from government of, by and for the people, let’s take heart at the awakening that I call “signs of the upwising”.

Consider these news items:

News Item #1 The first story, in response to the government shutdown, appeared in Axios and is a quote attributed to “a senior GOP House aide”: “The largest country in the world, with global responsibilities, shutting down the government over a squabble … 100% for short-term political gain.”

News Item #2 One year after Donald Trump’s inauguration, a new poll says that 82% percent of Republicans age 18-24 want another Republican candidate to challenge Trump in the 2020 primaries.

News Item #3 According to an NBC News poll this past November, 71% of millennials don’t like either of the two major parties and would prefer a new third party.

News Item #4 On the eve of Election Day 2016, pollster Frank Luntz put together a focus group for “60 Minutes” with 25 voters from all sides. He asked, “How many of you will be voting for your candidate of choice on Tuesday?” Three raised their hands. “And how many of you are voting against a candidate?” The other 22 raised their hands.

News Item # 5 A 2014 Princeton University study concluded that the US system of governance is an oligarchy, not a democracy: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on US government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

So … what can we conclude?

Young people in particular are disgusted and discouraged by the two-party duopoly and the candidates they put forth. By a ratio of more than seven to one, voters last year voted AGAINST the other candidate rather than FOR “their” candidate. Those involved in government who haven’t been “ethically cleansed”, are frustrated by two entrenched parties duking it out at our expense. And finally, even the establishment (Princeton University) acknowledges that the power of money and influence has caused our democracy to devolve into “mockracy” — a toxic mimic of what it was created to be.

OK, that’s what’s so. So what? Other than complain or protest or withdraw, what can be done?

Two Chances to Overgrow the Two-Party Duopoly

This New Year brings two heartening solutions, one strategic (good) and the other meta-strategic (even better) to “represent US” and to “WE-distribute” political power.

The first project is called in fact Represent.us.

Founded by activist Josh Silver and based on the work of Harvard law Professor Lawrence Lessig (Please watch this clarifying 18-minute TED talk), Represent.us is designed to address what Lessig and Silver both agree is the one thing that has disenfranchised the people: corruption.

Josh Silver

I like the word “corruption”. It doesn’t single out one party as the culprit but rather points to a system that has for all intents and purposes “legalized lawlessness.” While no legal authority would call our pay-to-play system outright “bribery”, when 30% to 70% of an elected representative’s time is spent raising money for re-election, it becomes obvious that much of what legislators do — or don’t do — is for money.

Represent.us advocates a grassroots campaign of citizen-led ballot initiatives passed at the city and state level to build momentum towards national reform. Writes Josh Silver:

Every municipal and state Anti-Corruption Act creates common-sense ethics, conflict-of-interest, transparency, and campaign finance laws. State Acts create the opportunity for federal candidates from that state to campaign on the anti-corruption platform – accountable to their constituents, not special interests.

Candidates who win election on this platform have a built-in incentive to champion Anti-Corruption laws in Washington, D.C. (because that’s what got them elected). Every state we win gets us one crucial step closer to passing the American Anti-Corruption Act in the federal government.

To move forward their agenda that transcends party lines and ideological positions, Represent.us is holding their Unrig the System Summit February 2nd to 4th in New Orleans to gather energy and awareness and is focused on shaping the future of: “Money in Politics, Gerrymandering, Citizens United, Voting Reform, Transparency and more.”

I will be there to interview presenters and participants, and the Wiki Politiki radio broadcast on February 13th will focus on the summit and the implications. I suggest you watch Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk (see above), check out the Unrig conference, and if it suits you, come join us.

At a time when too few projects and programs are strategic, this one is. With enough participation, it can and will move the dial.

Richard Lang

And now … another program that is not only strategic, it’s meta-strategic. In other words, it offers a platform that has the potential to transform the system from the outside, through totally legal means that requires no act of Congress, no government participation, no new laws, no corporate ownership and no media buy in.

It’s called the National Town Square and is the brainchild of software developer Richard Lang (Burst.com, Democrasoft) whose new book Virtual Country: Strategy for 21st Century Democracy lays out the plan for this entirely new and transformative institution that can be considered “Freedom of Assembly 3.0”.

Writes Richard, “For the first time in known human history, it is now possible to convene an unlimited number of citizens, in one place, at one time, to cast collective, non-binding, advisory votes on any issue of collective concern or importance.”

He continues, “National Town Square is a new national institution for civic engagementfocused on issues instead of political parties and blind ideology — a powerful new counter-balance to the corrupting influence of big money in politics.”

Imagine … a space — nongovernmental, non-corporate, nonpartisan, independent of the mainstream media — where each citizen can have a voice and a verifiable vote , and these votes can be tabulated to indicate not just how citizens feel about certain issues, but how strongly they feel.

What if ten million or twenty million or fifty million American voters declared, “We want this”? While that vote would have no legal standing, simply recognizing the overwhelming support for a certain policy would provide pressure on legislators to adhere to the people’s will. Or face opposition at the polls.

Another important feature / factor of National Town Square. Each citizen who participates has a verifiable and secure (as secure as a bank card) vote on any issue that can be changed, should new information emerge. No “bots” about it, only real people.

I have been watching this project develop for three years, and I am so heartened by its potential that I’m devoting TWO Wiki Politiki broadcasts to it. The first, tomorrow Tuesday, January 23rd (http://omtimes.com/iom/shows/wiki-politiki-radio-show/ scroll to next episode) is an interview with Richard. Then in two weeks, on February 6th Richard will be joined by Rev. Lupton Abshire, National Town Square’s Director – Strategic Outreach and we will be taking phone calls from listeners!

After the broadcast, this (and all other shows) will be available on the Wiki Politiki archives and on iTunes.

And so finally … this American evolution we’re hinting at requires that we evolve from helpless and hopeless victims of a bad system to aware, awakened advocates and activists for a new one. Here are two chances to make one!

Yours for an evolutionary upwising,

Steve Bhaerman

Yes, You CAN!

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Founding Sponsors. These are the “early wisers” who recognize the value and have the financial resource to kick in the magic figure, $333. Founding Sponsors are listed (if they so choose, some want to remain anonymous) on our Founders Page with their logo and a link to their “work of heart” and they will be celebrated on that page in perpetuity. (We also have other categories for those who are willing and able to donate more.)

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The Great Upwising

It’s Time For We the People to Face the Music and Dance Together

“There are no sides, only angles. And when we see it from the right angle, we are all on the same side.” — Swami Beyondananda

One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is from the 1951 classic, African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. The film is set in Africa at the dawn of World War I, and the heroine and hero are struggling to get their little boat, The African Queen, through a mucky channel to the open sea. The ship’s propeller is broken, so they are slogging through the bog pulling the boat with a rope through the deadening heat. Finally, they can go no further. They are exhausted, and realize they are doomed. They lay down on the boat’s deck, ready to die.

At that point, the camera pans up and we see they are a very, very short distance from the sea. Then suddenly, there is a downpour, and the rising waters from the typhoon lift their boat, and sail them out to open waters.

Call me a hopeless hopium addict, but I believe that we — the sane and reverent* Americans on all sides — are “in the same boat”. Our ship of state has run aground, because the “propeller” (the guiding principles of our founders, along with perennial and native wisdom) is broken. The rule of gold has overruled the Golden Rule. In the place of the sacred, we have been leveraged to live by the principles of predatory, extractor capitalism: Doo-doo unto others before they can doo-doo unto you.

And what will lift our boat is nothing short of an “upwising” on all sides, where we wake up to how we’ve been divided into two warring tribes, and consequently “conquered” by those who benefit from keeping the body politic in ignorance and turmoil. When we “wise up” to how much we the people truly have in common, and how much more powerful we are united around the virtues and values we share, then we’re in “open water”, ready to face the daunting real problems we have with equanimity, creativity, resourcefulness, determination, and love.

In the half a year — hard to believe as it is — since Election Day, I have gone through what many others who identify with the progressive “tribe” have experienced. My immediate concerns were threefold: First, the families that will be unnecessarily and cruelly broken up by the immigration crackdown. Second, going way backward on the environment and climate change. Third, and most dangerous is a “lone nut” whose party is in control of all branches of government, with no qualms about making himself dictator.

One thing I recognized immediately was that Trump didn’t win — Hillary and the Democratic Party she and Bill created 25 years ago — lost. They lost because their brand, “We’re not as bad as the other guys”, didn’t work anymore. People were waking up left (Bernie) and right (Trump) and Hillary was stuck defending an indefensible status quo.

In light (or dark) of that realization, here’s what I did.

I took a deep breath, and then a deeper look at “deep history” to see how we got to where we are. Immediately after the election, Trudy and I watched every episode of Oliver Stone’s 12-part series, The Untold History of the United States. Watching this was a sobering reminder of the Democratic Party’s role in enabling predator capitalism, from the purge of Henry Wallace as Vice President in 1944, to allowing and empowering the secret government since the end of World War II.

And then I reached out to my friends and colleagues who chose Donald Trump as THEIR lesser evil. In the atmosphere of polarization and misunderstanding fed by the media (on both sides) the easiest thing in the world is to see and fixate on the “shadow” of our opponent. It’s in seeing and acknowledging our own shadow that true learning and breakthrough takes place.

There is no need to elaborate on the shadow, and the flaws of Donald Trump. Even those who voted for him — at least the ones I know — have no illusion in that regard. It’s in seeing the shadow of progressive liberalism, the contradictions and disconnections behind the well-meaning façade of caring and compassion, that we can find an awareness deep enough to transform a toxically unworkable system to one that moves us toward “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.”

Before I offer two pieces — another article and an interview — that are guaranteed to upset the applecart of established progressive thinking, I want to share a bit more about my own journey. In December, someone sent me a 90-page article by Ken Wilber that you can now download, “Trump In a Post-Truth World” that calls the election “a backlash against the failure of the leading edge of consciousness (postmodernism and pluralism) to acknowledge the lie underlying the progress they’ve pursued.” The blind spot of progressivism — to tolerate everything except intolerance, expressed through the rigid application of political correctness — has replaced truth and justice with identity politics, and prevented us collectively from facing the deeper and more disturbing issues, often conveniently dismissed as “conspiracy theories.” (This eye-opening interview with journalist Mark Crispin Miller is well-worth watching!)

The gateway to transformation is clear-eyed self-reflection, and in that spirit I offer an article that might be even harder medicine to swallow than the Ken Wilber piece. It’s by Andrew Markell,  and the title only begins to unravel the yarn that has made “liberalism” a convenient tool of the exploiter/extractor class, The Progressive/Liberal Mind: Lost, Confused and a Strategic Failure.

No, folks. This is not masochistic self-flagellation but a clear-eyed assessment of how progressivism has worked “perfectly” to keep the current system in place — all the while giving the impression it is working “against” the forces of exploitation. Remember, the truth shall upset you free.

Just as surely as the upwising entails recognizing the shadow of our “opponents”, the exploiters and extractors, it is equally important to see how “resistance” itself is a fixed game, being played by the exploiters’ rules.

So … what do we do instead?

I’m glad I asked that question.

To answer it, we need to venture a bit further out of the (ballot) box, and for that purpose, I’ve linked to a provocative and yet promising interview with a blunt and visionary one-time Marine Corps and CIA intelligence officer, Robert David Steele.

 

Trudy and I met Robert — and his colleague on a new transpartisan venture, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-Georgia) — at the Transpartisan Citizens Summit in 2009. While you might not agree with everything he says, Robert is one of the few out there who understands why and how we need to overgrow the “two-party tyranny”. He is also an advocate of “open source intelligence” and truth and reconciliation. The intention of the movement they are launching — Unrig: Beyond Trump and Sanders is to awaken awareness of the “deep state” and coalesce a movement for electoral reform (the Election Reform Act of 2017) to make sure the missing ingredient in government by the people — the people — are actually represented. The planks include:

  • Universal registration of voters, including prisoners
  • Free and equal ballot access for all citizens
  • Tightly drawn, un-gerrymandered districts
  • Free and equal public funding
  • Free and equal media access
  • Inclusive debates
  • Open primaries
  • Election Day holiday, free public transport
  • Paper ballots and exit polls
  • Ranked choice voting, instant runoff to include minority party candidates
  • Transparency in legislation — no secret clauses
  • Economic and financial democracy — end opposition to unions, nationalize central banks

Recognizing that this platform has been formulated by a “left-winger” and a “right-winger” should be cause for encouragement, if not celebration. To me it illustrates what can happen when left and right come front and center to create a new conversation, instead of the divisive one that has kept corruption in the driver’s seat.

Oh, and in relation to the movie introduced at the beginning of this article, in Hollywood, the rains can magically come out of the sky and lift our boats. In the real world, we the people have to be the “rainmakers”.

Long may we “rain”!

 

 

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A New Precedent for President’s Day

It’s Time to Face the Elephant (and Donkey) in the Living Room … Together

“Only when red tribe Republicans and blue tribe Democrats stand together as one Purple People, will the peeps prevail over the perps. ” — Swami Beyondananda

 

We interrupt the insanity to bring you an important President’s Day message.

We the people of America are on the cusp of a Constitutional crisis. And if that crisis DOESN’T emerge, then we are REALLY in trouble. In the wake of the most toxic election in recent history, where we had two terrible candidates to choose from and one of them won by default, America is no longer divided merely into two tribes — we are now living in two realities.

Talk about a house divided.

At least in the run-up to the Civil War, with the dividing issue as slavery, everyone knew what slavery was, and both sides recognized slavery as a reality. They just disagreed about whether it was to continue.

In one 2017 “reality”, President Trump is the fearless leader who will save us from terrorism, undocumented alien criminals, nuclear war with Russia, and from the corrupt “new world order” — not to mention pedophilia in high places. It’s Trump’s word against the “fake news” media, and everything he says is true.

Meanwhile in the other world, we have an insane liar as a President who creates his own reality and has millions of ditto-heads who will believe every unbelievable word he utters. In this reality, people see something even worse than the neoliberal empire — a kleptocracy where we not only have to deal with that big Putin, but we have our own Lil’ Putin to divide the spoils, while spoiling the natural world.

Each of these narratives is both true and not true, and only by seeing them through a meta-view can we survive this crisis that threatens our social order, our freedom and sacred institutions, and the web of life itself.

The bad news and the good news are one and the same: Our current political system cannot fix itself. We the people are the only ones — speaking in one voice and showing up in YUGE numbers — that can do the necessary intervention to hold our government and once-trusted press accountable.

So here are some new assertions that I believe point us in the direction of a common truth, and a common reality — that can be a starting place to restore sanity, and re-establish the heart and soul of who we are, beneath the fear and manipulation:

  1. We have a deeply UNITED body politic. The overwhelming majority of Americans are disgusted and fed up with the system as it is. This includes the majority of Trump voters, Hillary voters, Bernie voters and those who supported minority parties.
  1. Donald Trump lies with impunity … AND … the mainstream media has lied for years by withholding inconvenient truths.
  1. There IS such a thing as the “deep state” — a secret government that has been in operation since the end of World War II — and the “elephant and donkey in the living room” is that both political parties are ruled (or overruled) by the deep state.
  1. The current power struggle — Steve Bannon vs. the CIA — is a struggle between two ruling elites, neither of which have the best interests of the American people or the commonwealth at heart. In other words, what if they gave a war and there were no good guys?
  1. To further complexify the shituation, the most sophisticated mind-manipulation techniques have been employed to insure that people stay inside their “silo” and only get news (real or fake) that reinforce what they already believe. (Here is an eye-opening article on “weaponized propaganda” that shows you how it’s done).
  1. Trust in the government and trust in the media is at an all-time low. There is no such thing anymore as consensus reality. And … as long as we are divided not just into two tribes but two realities, we cannot unify around fair and just rules of governance. To put it bluntly, we the people have been divided, and consequently conquered.
  1. As the gap between these two “realities” deepens, the two sides are becoming more entrenched, forgetting they have been leveraged into seeing only the other side’s shadow, not their own. A perfect recent example involves the “progressives” who physically prevented right-winger Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking on the Berkeley campus.
  1. A central factor in the lack of a shared reality is the “absence of the sacred” at the center of our society. Where there is no “heart” at our core, heartlessness prevails, and disheartenment spreads. Because the rule of gold has overgrown the Golden Rule, we have seen “ethic cleansing” — the ethical people are washed out of our system where the “free speech” of money out-shouts all other interests.

OK, so assuming that’s “what’s so” … so what?

At the risk of hearing, “You’re proposing a sane world — you must be crazy!” here is what I suggest:

  1. What if independent citizens united? What if — in the tradition of the Consumer Union and Common Cause — we the people from all sides and angles created our own “citizens union” to advocate for our common interests and a healthy, wealthy commonwealth?
  1. What if we called forth, curated and supported a truly independent media, that drew from mainstream news, alt left and alt right so that we the people could emerge with a “likelier story” and a truth-based reality?
  1. What if we the American people — united, left and right — launched a “truth movement” so together we could learn about the origins, developments, deeds and misdeeds of the deep state, and consequently dismantle it? (This might not work if a mere million people called for this, like the number demanding the release of Donald Trump’s taxes, but if 25 million or 50 million showed up, that would be a different story. It would mean that a critical mass of the heretofore uncritical masses were aware of the “deep state”, and that would be a key first step in transforming it.)
  1. What if we created an independent political authority — and unifying platform — designed to “overgrow” the entire impeachable system, and then only voted for candidates who agreed to support this new “deep center” political movement that transcends political parties?
  1. What if we had a place where citizens could gather virtually where we could become aware of and expose the toxic forms of citizen manipulation, rendering them ineffective?
  1. What if a YUGE number of us united around uniform rules for verifiable voting, unhackable machines or paper ballots, and standard procedures for recount — so that the results of all elections are impeccable, and unquestionably honest?
  1. What if we initiated national conversations across political divides (like the Living Room Conversations are already doing) to cultivate civil discourse, mutual understanding, appreciation of how conservative and progressive values complement each other, and even begin to collaborate on transpartisan legislation, including voting and campaign finance reform?
  1. What if we gathered religious, secular ethical and spiritual leaders and organizations to convene a “truth and reconciliation” movement to reveal and heal the political shadow that has been haunting us and has stolen our integrity, our heart and our soul? And … what if we likewise gathered around the things that we want for ourselves, our families, community, country and world, and set a common intention for our country?

This may sound “utopian” but as the great visionary philosopher Bucky Fuller pointed out in his book with the same name, our choice is “utopia or oblivion.” In other words, unless we create heaven together … we’re stuck in hell.

And that Constitutional crisis is on its way.

I’ll put it this way. The only way Donald Trump’s war on reality can continue is if enough people pretend he is sane AND steps are taken to repress the contradictory, fact-based reality. Already he has come up against judges saying, “Not so fast, cowboy,” and while he has issued directives left and right (mostly right), many of these will not hold, particularly as Congressfolks return home to hear from their constituents.

The danger is that the assessment of Donald Trump’s integrity, discernment and sanity will become just another left-right issue, like “climate change” — you say it’s this, well I say it’s that, so there.

That is why it is all the more important for an independent political voice and authority emerge from “deep center” — that is, not just smoothing over polarized differences but using those differences as a dynamic to reach a higher and deeper truth, that address the real and not merely the cosmetic issues in front of us.

When that loud and clear voice of 10 or 20 or 50 million Americans say, “ENOUGH of this toxic bullshit — let’s get REAL, together” the media will have to report it, and our government will have to respond to it. Instead of government by default, and institutionalized and entrenched corruption, we will have the capacity for ordinary citizens to work together instead of fighting one another.

So here is the key question. We already know we don’t trust the government, and don’t trust the media. The question is, do we trust ourselves? Do we trust in the capacity for ordinary citizens to glean extraordinary wisdom through respectful conversation and open-minded (and open-hearted) listening? Do we trust that there IS a healthy, sane, coherent heart and soul beneath the toxic expressions of “politics as usual”?

I am reminded of another President’s Day weekend eight years ago, where a couple of hundred “transpartisan activists” celebrated the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth at the Transpartisan Citizens Summit in Denver. You’ve probably never heard of this event, likely because the idea of an emergent independent citizens movement that cultivates the best of what progressivism and conservatism has to offer was an idea whose time had not yet come. In February 2009, the body politic — at least on the progressive side — was still high on hopium. And too many people, comfy in their ideological silo, were strung out on that other drug, Deniatol.

Obviously, we the people have needed the sobering experience of the 2016 electoral season to ask, “Is there another way?”

There is.

In case you are curious, you can watch a video on transpartisan engagement featuring my colleague, Joseph McCormick.

The seeds are there for a new deep center movement. Now it is up to us to plant them, so that by the time 2020 rolls around — sooner, actually — there is an awakened, integral movement of citizens that leads from deep center: a true American evolution. Only by evolving beyond the bipolar insanity of this-or-that politics will our 240-year experiment survive.

Comments are welcome! If you see sanity and possibility in this approach, please respond to this and I will keep you apprised of developments.

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