Pattern #85

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Transpartisan Inquiry Card

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Transpartisan Inquiry

Transpartisan Inquiry Symbol

Pattern Heart

Partisans are parts of the political puzzle, offering partial insights and solutions. The parts are valuable but must interact creatively to address and benefit the whole. So help partisans become transpartisans, maintaining their ideological center of gravity while engaging in civil, productive interactions with the Other for personal and social well-being.

Some related patterns:   39 Generative Interactions   44 Healthy Polarity Dynamics   48 Integrity and Authenticity   51 Metabolizing Polarization
66 Proposals and Outcomes Emergent   71 Realizing Essential Aspirations   80 Story

  • How can we set things up so that those who are strongly partisan can talk civilly and productively with people of the “opposite” partisan persuasion without feeling pressured to change their minds or compromise their values?
  • Given that they aren’t changing, what’s the value of that?

Transpartisan Inquiry – going deeper …

This is an edited version of the video on this page.

This comes out of my knowledge of American politics and to a certain extent the politics of European and other countries. In many places there are two major parties which tend to be identified with the Left and the Right. In a polarized system that tends to be a really good way to frame it. Most of the Left and Right parties have big grains of truth in what they are trying to say. But they are framed in ways that allow them to battle over who gets the power.

But I am coming from a collective intelligence/collective wisdom perspective, rather than a power perspective, and looking at the fact that these sides both have a vital part of the truth, if we can get them to not fight together, but to work together, to include the valuable parts of their insights into what gets to be actually done, things that actually make sense rather than wheeling and dealing behind the scenes which doesn’t actually have to do with substantive issues at hand, or negotiation, where people are trying to get the better of each other.

I’m looking for actual creative insights, creative interactions, where people are trying to address the whole: “What is the best solution for everyone in this situation, and what perspectives or resources do I have to help bring that about?”

In the United States there is a transpartisan movement. I don’t know to what extent it has expanded to other countries. It’s still useful as a concept. It’s not that they are trying to become the same kind of holistic thinkers, so much as coming from a position of “This is who I am, I am a Republican or a Democrat (in the United States),” or “I am liberal or conservative,” or “I am a Green,” or “I am a Libertarian,” whatever it is. “And although I am that, I really want to get where you’re coming from. You are so different from me, and I want you to get where I am coming from, and for us to look at that and deconstruct it a bit, and see what we each have to offer, and to try and learn from each other and be creative without ever giving up what we feel.”

This is very different from, “I want to change myself to shake off the partisan of frame of reference totally from my world, and become somebody who is simply seeking the common ground, the thing that will most commonly benefit everybody.” But it’s a very useful stance, and having whoever is partisan maintain this attitude, allows for people to actually work together across major divides and there’s ways to support that.

Video Introduction (6 min)

Examples and Resources

In Sweden – and I have a blog post about this – they have an Almaden Week, where there’s a big celebration with booths and activities and people who are promoting their political perspectives and their political options, and they organize conversations between these people. It is an actual celebration, people take time off to go and do this thing. And I think they go singing together. It’s one of the most dramatic examples of the kind of transpartisanship that this pattern points to.

In the US there’s a “Living Room Conversations” project which involves getting together people from opposite perspectives.  You have a person who is a liberal, a person who is conservative, say, the left and right positions. They are friends but sort of ideological enemies. They each bring two or three likeminded friends with them to talk in somebody’s living room, and to try to understand each other.

The Public Conversations Project is famous for this kind of event. They have brought pro-life and pro-choice, pro-abortion and anti-abortion people together in conversations through which they actually came to understand each other and worked in various ways to support each other even while they continued doing their partisan activism.

The Coffee Party, which is a response to the Tea Party in the United States, is trying to be transpartisan.

And the Transpartisan Movement itself. There’s a book of two guys from the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, one is conservative, one is liberal, and they got together and had two years of conversations and created a book, that said “You’re not as crazy as I thought but you’re wrong anyway“. You can actually watch in this book two people from left and right talking in ways that are actually trying to understand each other. When I read it the conservative guy is very sweet and seemed much more empathic and willing to stretch over the boundary. The liberal guy is fascinating to watch, coming on with a strong progressive perspective.