National Review meets Nader’s Raiders. Modern pioneers of seeing political differences as a strength. Get inspired from one of the founding friendships behind the Transpartisan movement.
Among the many inspiring ‘subversive friendships’ across the political aisle, these two who helped launch what has been called the ‘Transpartisan Movement’ might be the ‘Grandaddy(‘s)’ of them all! Lawry & Jim are authors + co-authors of two (soon-to-be three) books on transcending the red-blue divide, along with scholarly papers, 100 weekly Transpartisan Notes over the past two years and an online journal they co-founded and co-edit.
Lawry and Jim believe that much of the conflict between left and right results from failure to resolve conflicts within what is called the left and within what is called the right. The conflicts are between the two principal values in modern societies: ‘freedom’ and ‘order’. (The quotation marks are important because each named ‘side’ emphasizes different aspects of these two values). Chickering and Turner propose expanding the simple left-right spectrum into a Four-quadrant Transpartisan Matrix, with ‘freedom’ and ‘order’ quadrants on both left and right.
Each quadrant, they argue, is true but incomplete without its relationship with the others: each quadrant needs the others to be complete and make its full contribution to the true. They present ‘four-quadrant’ solutions (integrating the quadrants) for issues ranging from health care policy to school reform and from race to foreign and security policy, immigration, governmental budgets, and indeed as an additional way to approach and act on any and all matters of public policy.
So in sum: If you’re looking for the sophisticated gravitas of why a left/right collaboration matters . . . well then, Go. No. Further. Jim and Lawry head right at the truths in each quadrant with so much creativity and gusto that a larger view is almost inevitable, and new ideas constantly emerge. (Just imagine if our elected leaders tried that for a change.) Take a look at what Jim and Lawry were telling us almost a decade ago (videos below).
Ask yourself, what if we had listened to these transpartisan friends back then? How about now?
Californian Napa wine country loving, Early job working with William Buckley at National Review, Gnostic (influenced by R. Steiner), Amateur hypnotist, Spacey (ADD)-and-Hyper-focused, Author, Linguist, Mediator, Political and Social Entrepreneur, WASP married to a fiery Italian.
Jim on Lawry: He’s a great friend, and both thoughtful and wise. Lawry is also curious, cautious and conservative, while also staying inventive and “life-appreciating.” I also admire him as a concerned parent.
Washingtonian DC Type (with a touch of Ohio), Early job as an original Nader’s Raider, Progressive Democrat (Stevenson- type), Consumer activist/organizer, Gnostic (ditto)/Agnostic/Congregationalist, Attorney, Writer, Integrative Health Proponent, straight single partnered parent (of two).
Lawry on Jim: He’s funny and good company. More than great lawyer, Jim’s a philosopher and historian, and remarkably non-judgmental, detail-oriented, and fair.
Jim and Lawry met in 1993 at a book party in Washington for Lawry’s first book, Beyond Left and Right. In their words, they “felt instantly connected around our shared instinct to see beyond simple formulations of political positions, especially to see that ‘both sides’—which we believe are really four positions (see below)—hold important truths.” What brought them together, in other words, was a “shared recognition that every individual from every side of every issue has important contributions to make” (that’s a LOT of “every’s”!)
More than some mere highfalutin philosophical indulgence, this shared conviction felt consummately practical to this political odd couple with all the messy issues of the day. As they write, “All perspectives need to be articulated and represented to solve many unsolved problems” – holding out the possibility of an expanded discourse that includes the creation of “new trans-ideological, transpartisan explorations to address current problems and opportunities.”
To help expand that cross-political analysis, Jim and Lawry came up with what they call the “Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix” as one tool that brings together key insights from the ‘freedom’ and ‘order’ themes in both left and right in a way that multiplies nuance and possibilities associated with any given issue.
This matrix has subsequently been extensively applied to policy discussions in education, health care, foreign and security, property rights, civil society/citizen engagement and religion/spirituality. Jim and Lawry are, however, quick to point out: “We are less interested in specific solutions to specific problems than in highlighting a wide variety of approaches currently excluded from formal political debate/process. Including them in the discourse, we suggest, enlivens our politics with new ideas.”
As de-facto leaders in this new approach to politics, Jim & Lawry were invited in 2006 to be advisers to Reuniting America, touted as the first ‘transpartisan’ organization, made up of leaders of thirty or so national organizations, self-identified as half-right and half-left, with about 50 million members.
Along with their co-written text, “Voice of the People,” in 2016 they co-founded and now coedit an intermittent online journal, The Transpartisan Review, which features cutting-edge transpartisan writing, and also short, weekly Transpartisan Notes (95 as of 5-27-17) exploring individual issues. They are also planning to launch Transpartisan Study Groups that explore and propose possible transpartisan solutions to problems that elude partisan solution.
Their new book, A Transpartisan Manifesto will be ready in 2018.
“A Transpartisan Manifesto: The History, Present, and Opportunity of the Transpartisan Impulse.”
Possible themes of the talk, in their own words:
One meta-theme is our view that the current debate is not really about solving problems, but a theatrical way for politicians to differentiate themselves from ‘opponents’ and for the media to perpetuate our political theater, thus maximizing conflicts for ratings. This theater of conflict is tearing us apart as a people and a nation while intensifying the challenge of solving real problems.
Note: Appearing together, we will interact very differently than most people in ‘conflict’. While others will (negatively) search for ways to get past their differences, we will actively (positively) explore how to integrate our commonalities into powerful approaches to solving issues in new ways, which no one has thought about. Our positive focus on solutions will emphasize ideas and approaches that have been left out of the current debate. While the current debate can sometimes center almost exclusively around government-engineered technical solutions, our proposals will promote empowerment of citizens to play active roles in fashioning solutions, in cooperation with government officials.
As we say in voice of the People: “Although the evidence shows that our country does suffer deep political and cultural divisions, the conflicts are not among ordinary people: they are between ordinary people and political elites. In our highly stylized political structures, everyone, winners and opponents alike, play dehumanizing roles that cause the whole apparatus to resemble a cross between sumo wrestling and Kabuki theatre.” We intend these different elements of design in our presentation to demonstrate the confines of this stylization and how if promotes conflict while also suggesting approaches that guide the energy of the process away from such conflict.
A central part of this design is illustrating the utility of the aforementioned “Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix” as a way to see old issues in very new ways. Put simply, the Matrix ‘deconstructs’ ‘left’ and ‘right’ into two themes each, one focused on ‘order’ (for the left, justice; for the right, virtue and responsibility) and ‘freedom’ (from compulsion from either public or private institutions). Each quadrant has part of the truth but is incomplete: all need integration with the others to be complete. Each also has a ‘dark side’, which we actively oppose. (See article here explaining more.)
This bringing together focuses more on what has been left out of the continuum approach then on one or another of the individual’s preconceived notion/belief/desired outcomes. Fairly regularly the suggested solution(s) that comes for this effort bear(s) only passing resemblance to any of the preconceived ideas the parties held when they entered the conversation.
We believe that people will be most interested to see in action our positive-oriented 4-quadrant solutions on different issues. We’d therefore suggest an “improve” part in our presentation—i.e. where we ask the audience to submit or call out multiple issues and let them help choose what we talk about – picking a topic to analyze using the four quadrant approach. Alternatively, we could also call four self-identified individuals—conservative-liberal/progressive-free and order—to come up and we could run them through a similar process on a given issue.
We could combine this approach with calling four self-identified individuals—conservative-liberal/progressive-free and order—to come up and we could run them through a four-quadrant process.
The time-space continuum to consider: Lawry is in California. Jim is in Washington. Worlds apart. Same country!
What the pair would need to come to your school: Travel and hotel and “whatever you pay a speaker filling the slot you are asking us to fill.”