Left-Right Grassroots Common Ground Growing

I attended a Tea Party Patriots meeting last night in Issaquah, WA and gave a presentation about bridging political divides. Tea Party Patriots is the most grassroots (i.e. unwilling to give power to leaders who want to speak for them) of all the Tea Party groups. They have three core values: fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. They are VERY clear they are a movement to restore decision making authority to the grassroots and don’t want to be co-opted by the major parties.

They were very receptive to bridging and in fact it was a major theme in the presentation before mine by Keli Carender, aka “Liberty Belle”, as a strategy for finding support their Sunshine Review agenda which evidently has interest from someone at the progressive Daily Kos. We talked during my presentation about the fact that they had been dismissed by the media as “angry white racists” and they laughed. Some of them – about 40 or so in the room – were former Democrats (about half women) who had gotten fed up with federal fiscal irresponsibility. The two organizers were not your typical politicos, neither had been very active in politics.

I was there to tell them about an upcoming “open space” session on Dec. 4 in Seattle called a Transpartisan Chautauqua. The Tea Party has been burned by being dismissed for their town hall behavior and seemed very curious about an alternative format.

For those of you who are serious about bridging political divides, below is the Left-right Common Ground identified at two recent Seattle Transpartisan Alliance Meetups, 10/10 and 10/27, among a total of 33 people from all different political points of view (but mainly green/progressive and libertarian/conservative). In some ways these meetups serve as a “focus group.” We will offer a session on this at the Chautauqua on Dec. 4.


Situation (Problem)


  • How do we ask the right questions
  • How do we see the whole situation as opposed just through our own filters
  • How do we balance micro-macro
  • How do we deal with personal time constraints to become an active citizen
  • How do we develop an organizational structure that has influence with institutions
  • How do we create wiki government
  • How do we best spend our energy, reforming the old or creating the new
  • How can citizens take charge/responsibility in their own neighborhoods
  • How do we teach ethics
  • How do we value various types of intelligence
  • How do we the people educate each other and take action as we the people
  • How do we pivot off what is in place
  • How can we use alternative media to overcome corporate media

Parties and Politics

  • How do we do other than war
  • How do we unite on things that matter
  • How do we look at ourselves for solutions rather than our political heroes
  • How do we influence all the parties
  • How do we get to a party that unites all parties
  • How do we become accountable to each other and hold office holders accountable

Government and Corporations

  • How do we follow the money
  • How do we penetrate the paralysis
  • How do we create transparency
  • How do we deal with broken systems
  • How do we bring entrepreneurship into government
  • How can people lead within the systems
  • How do we overcome monopolistic capitalism, abuse of power by hierarchy
  • How do we get accurate and reliable budget information from the government
  • How do we address corruption of the monetary system by the Federal Reserve


  • How do we tap into solutions that are already going
  • How do we encourage local innovation in education, food, money
  • How do we repair broken agreements between the rich and poor, overcome disparity, and stop the decline of middle class
  • How do we reform education to include non traditional subjects


  • What do we do if the money system breaks down
  • How do we find alternative to debt money
  • How do we tie monetary systems back to time
  • What is a person’s time worth
  • How do we find other ways to motivate people other than money



  • Become aware of fundamental needs
  • Remind ourselves that we are in charge
  • Convene forums about fundamental principles and philosophy of government
  • Create new fundamental agreement for society, i.e. evolve the constitution
  • Connect social networks — self organizing, non coercive, free associations
  • Adopt bottom up and top down strategies
  • Educate each other by connecting the dots
  • Teach collaboration and innovation in education
  • Investigate sociocracy and dynamic governance

Parties and Politics

  • Lobby the people, not the government
  • Define tribes and rules of interactions between them
  • Become a PAC rather than a party
  • No enemies, we are all in this together
  • Be careful of language
  • Join coalitions together
  • Embrace tolerance

Government and Corporations

  • Define the role of government and the role of corporations
  • Find allies within the system
  • Organize neighbors to take care of themselves in challenging situations
  • Connect globally act locally
  • Adopt a market system within corporations to reward merit


  • No need to agree on action, encourage a diversity of approaches
  • Focus on fundamentals — food, water, health care
  • Activate working groups
  • Partner between officials and community


  • Vote with our dollar, spend our money in alignment with our values
  • Build a barter network
  • Share places to stay, have meals, share resources
  • Meet the needs of individuals, families
  • Begin the gift culture – live the gift – create gift groups
  • Change win/lose economics by modeling alternative
  • Do not accumulate stuff – buy used
  • Move your money and support local currency

What we all agree on

  • Democratic system is not representing us
  • We don’t support corporate or government structures that encourage predatory behavior
  • No taxation without equal, full representation
  • Local response is most empowering
  • We all want to build a sense of neighborhood, tribe
  • We all have common needs: love, autonomy, fairness, safety, basic services
  • We need to balance rights with responsibility

Obama’s Opportunity … And Why He Won’t Take It: The Transpartisan Alternative

“The antidote to Big Brother is bigger brotherhood.” — Swami Beyondananda

It’s amazing how stepping outside the comfort zone of identity and beliefs can transform your perspective. I am reminded of the classic story of the two Jewish gentlemen – we’ll call them Abe and Max – who see a sign in front of the local Catholic Church: “We’ll pay $500 to any Jew who converts.”

Abe is outraged, but Max says, “You know, $500 is $500. I’m going to do it.”

Over Abe’s protests, Max goes inside the church. Abe waits outside. A half hour passes, and then an hour. After an hour and a half, his friend emerges. “So, Max,” Abe asks, “did you get the $500?”

Max looks at his friend contemptuously. “Money? Is that all you people think about?”

With political positions now held as closely as religious beliefs, and with each side hearing only its own barking dogmas, walking into the other guy’s “church” and really listening can radically restructure one’s understanding. That’s why I’ve really valued working with my friend Joseph McCormick on our transpartisan upwising book. Joseph is coming from a very conservative background, but is “going to” an integrated, holistic and emergent politics.

One of the most helpful distinctions Joseph has offered is the “bipartisan” vs. transpartisan. He quotes conservative activist Grover Norquist who says: “Bipartisanship is when the Republicans and the Democrats get together to screw the people.”

And “bipartisanship” is what the conventional unwisdom is clamoring for, now that the Republicans have captured the House and the Democrats cling to the White House. Here is a quote from the Wednesday, November 17th San Francisco Chronicle: “The political needs of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama are diverging sharply, as the San Francisco Democrat seeks election today as the leader of a decimated but more liberal minority while Obama seeks a way to govern with Republicans and casts an eye toward his re-election in 2012.”

Read deeper into the article, and you will find more conventional unwisdom that says Obama’s only recourse is to give in to corporate conservatism, while Pelosi’s fate is to rail at windmills and proclaim progressive positions that cannot pass. Thus, we have the persistent pattern of the left who is “right” – but ultimately gets left.

Meanwhile over on the right, there is another conflict that mainstream media is taking great pains to misinterpret: The Tea Party movement vs. the Republican establishment. Are these Tea Partiers a bunch of reactionary yahoos who want to take America back to a time and place that never was? Is there validity to their anger, and if so how can this anger be tapped constructively? If they are so “populist” why are they taking corporate money?

To understand some of their outrage, and why progressives are so baffled, I refer to a conversation I had the day after the elections with my friend Sir Peter Anderson. Sir Peter is the Secretary General of a “5th world nation, a state of mind,” called the Conch Republic.

We were sitting at his home in Key West, Florida and Sir Peter began to talk about “know-betters.” Now Peter is a progressive at heart, an environmentalist, and a free thinker with some libertarian tendencies. But he has an issue with “know-betters.” “Know-betters are people who take the position that they know better than you do, and because they do, they should have the final say. We have religious know-betters who want to impose their restrictions on everyone, and we also have the progressive and environmental know-betters who want to impose their rules as well.”

Now, if you’re coming from the progressive camp, you might be saying, “Well, Sir Peter is right about those religious folks … but we environmentalists really do know better … and we have science on our side!” Meanwhile, the religious right would be saying, “He’s right about those eco-nuts … but we religious folks really do know better … and we have God on our side!”

Lest we devolve into a “my dogma is better than your dogma” no win argument, let’s look at another distinction offered by my friend Caroline Casey. She makes the distinction between “offering” and “imposition.” An offering is an open invitation to participate and co-create. An imposition is a top down solution imposed by somebody or somebodies who know better. An offering opens possibilities, and has no stated or unstated “or else’s.” An imposition is coercive in nature, and when push comes to shove, will be enforced forcefully. That’s why Caroline calls any form of imposition “tyranny.”

And that brings us to Transpartisanism as opposed to bipartisanism. Bipartisanism involves the know-betters representing both faces of the two-faced corporate state imposing their inside-the-box solution on the rest of us. Transpartisanism is the rest of us discovering for ourselves what is so, and using our polarities to spin ourselves outside the box of failed institutions and unworkable compromises. Bipartisan is elitist. Transpartisan is grassroots.

So now, perhaps, we can begin to see the natural alliance between Tea Party populists and grassroots progressives. Each in its own way is seeking to assert autonomy from the bottom up in response to perceived tyranny from the top down. The progressives are focused on the abuses of the corporation, the populists on the abuses by the state. When we begin to understand the Republicans and Democrats as the two faces of the same corporate state, and individual politicians as little more than middle managers, we can begin to comprehend the outrage of the Tea Partiers, and the perpetual frustration of progressives.

In the wake of the Tea Party “up-wising,” consider what Obama could do. He could call a town hall meeting and invite Tea Partiers and grassroots progressives. He could hear concerns from each side, and then he could invite them to spend an hour sitting in circles that include individuals from both sides, and ask them to discover what they agree on. He could then have spokespersons from all the circles offer their conclusions, and have these conclusions summarized into a clear, concise statement. “This,” he could say, “is my – your – mandate. I will take it to Congress, and make sure all legislation reflects the shared will of we the people.”

He could do this, but he won’t. He can’t. He doesn’t have the power.

But we do.

In the coming months, we will hear the mantra, “Bipartisan, bipartisan, bipartisan.” When we hear these words, what we should be hearing instead is, “Carefully managed parameters of debate and conversation.” Consider that last year, a “town hall” was convened to discuss health care issues and explore “all sides.” Somehow these “all sides” did not include the Single Payer option. Why? Because the powers in power did not want that option even considered.

The transpartisan up-wising we are talking about leaves nothing off the table. In a circle of respectful speaking and listening, every voice is heard. As in Native American councils, when all is said there is nothing left but the obvious truth. While it is obviously true that Red Tribe Americans and Blue Tribe Americans sharply disagree on certain issues of “God, guns and gender,” it is less obviously true that what we agree on is far more important. The more we gather around the shared virtues and “heart-core” values we share in common, the more possible it becomes for us to do what elitists in both parties insist we cannot: rule ourselves.

It’s time for us – left, right and center – to stop being children dependent on political parents who insist they know best, and evolve from children of God to adults of God (or at least adults of Good).

Viva la upwising, and long live the “ruly masses.”

Join the upwising, and put your money where your mouse is. Small donations from large numbers of awakening citizens are what will fuel this movement. And remember, if you are seeking to live in a happier, healthier, more peaceful and just world … you are only fueling yourself! Click here: http://transpartisan.us/

And go to “Chip In” on the right, just under Control Panel.

Transpartisan Moment

We are living in what Tom Paine would have called “soul-trying” times.

In the face of multiplying crises – economic, ecologic, political and spiritual – it’s becoming more apparent that fundamental change is required. The good news is, what is needed isn’t revolution, but evolution. The other news is, this evolutionary alternative must be clearly expressed, carefully developed, and made tangible to the millions and millions of Americans who see that something is profoundly wrong, but don’t know what to do about it.

Many of us have spent time and resources over the years supporting causes we believe will create a better world. Until now, the vast majority of well-meaning organizations have either worked within the system, or worked around it. It is now time to confront the elephant – and the donkey – in the living room. The bipolar insanity of a fiercely divided body politic has largely paralyzed us in the face of huge problems, as we have devolved into an orgy of impotent blame and dogmatic positioning.

There is now a unique opportunity to seize the time, and take advantage of what we are playfully – yet seriously – calling “an evolutionary upwising.” All across America and all across the political spectrum, people are waking up and wising up to recognize that neither political party truly represents them. And as people are awakening from the partisan trance, there is a growing Transpartisan movement, not to be confused with “bipartisanism.”

Transpartisan and bipartisan are two different things. The corporatist elitist element at the “center” of both parties – Brad Blanton calls them “Dempublicrats” – are now scrambling to channel the discontent with partisanship into a “bipartisan” rule that will further narrow the scope of conversation and increasingly enforce top down rules “for our own good.” Or, as conservative activist Grover Norquist puts it: “Bipartisan means the Democrats and Republicans getting together to screw the American people.”

We the people of America – and indeed the world – are at a crossroads now. There is disheartenment in the heartland. In the past, a discontented populace would rise up to overthrow its government in a revolution. Today we are called upon to wise up and overgrow the corporate-state in an evolution. And there is very good news in this regard. Thanks to the work of pioneers like Tom Atlee and Jim Rough, and the very recent work done in Seattle through the Transpartisan Alliance, we now have the tools to use the existent polarities to activate the collective intelligence and wisdom in any community. In other words, We, the people, are finding that we have access to something “the system” lacks, wisdom.

For the past eight months, we have been convening a bi-weekly prototype Transpartisan meet-up in Seattle that began with 4 people and now has 71 from all “tribes.” This meet-up has served as a focus group to refine a meeting format that will keep people from all political stripes engaged on a sustained basis (allowing the group to move, month by month, through stages of empowerment from problem identification to “choice creating”). Over the course of the months, we have expressed our differences loudly and clearly – on everything from guns to health care to the role of government – but inside the container of a mutual desire to have a happier, healthier community. In Native American circles, they say, “we just speak until there is nothing left but the obvious truth.” And so it has been in our circle. After exhausting ideological positions, having expressed every emotion, having soberly recognized that we all agree the current system is unworkable, one question emerged:

“So what? So what can we do about it?”

With this key question came the spark of evolution. Political “children” and “adolescents” (relying on “parental corporate-government” to take care of them, rebelling when it doesn’t) began to evolve into political adults. Together we came to the same realization: “It’s up to us.”

We are at a pivotal moment now, at the beginning of a movement to reunite America – but not around worn out clichés masking the same old same old. We have the opportunity to reunite America around its true heart and soul – the “heart virtues” and values that the vast majority of us, regardless of political affiliation, agree on.

As an example of the kind of wisdom that can be generated using the energy of opposing polarities, here are some of the things that ordinary citizens – right, left and center – have agreed upon:

  • We don’t support corporate or government structures that encourage predatory behavior
  • The democratic system is no longer representing us
  • We don’t want taxation without equal, full representation
  • We agree that a local response is most empowering
  • We need to balance rights with responsibility to appeal to left and right
  • We all want to build a sense of neighborhood, tribe
  • We all have common needs: love, autonomy, fairness, safety, basic services

During the next two years these conversations will extend to every part of the country in the form of Chautauquas – a revival of the famous 19th Century community meetings of citizen policy makers – where people step away from the TV and internet, and come together on the “outernet.” In coming face to face with one another outside of the bipolar, bipartisan divide-and-conquer game, the long lost moral authority of “we the people” will come to the fore. This is the only thing that can counterbalance the weight of money, and the power of money that seems to make all the decisions in this society.

The first prototype Transpartisan Chautauqua will take place in Seattle on Dec. 4. It is co-hosted by three political parties and groups as diverse at Campaign for Liberty and Transition Seattle. We are also planning another in the series of Reuniting America transpartisan national leadership retreats (eight between 2004 and 2007…see alumnae.) The purpose this next retreat, planned for May 2011, is to engage leaders of national networks in seeking practical, safe, creative ways to engage their local members in self-organized meet-ups and Chautauquas in search of bottom up solutions (i.e. citizen created policy options that become attractive to officials because 80% plus can say “Yes!” to them.)

We are also in the process of writing a series of e-books (that will become print books) that will serve as a manifesto to move the “up-wising” forward. Reuniting America: A Call to Evolution is designed to weave together the narratives of both left and right to enable us to come front and center to “face the music and dance together.” Addressing the questions, “what’s so, so what and now what,” this book offers the practical experience and toolkit for transpartisan organizing. A second book, Heartland Security: From Ideal to Real Deal, is a practical guide intended to inspire deeper cross-pollinization and weaving of the various green/progressive and libertarian/conservative economic re-localization efforts.

We are asking you to financially support this movement at a moment when it can make all the difference in the world. Will our children and their children grow up in a world that is healthier and more free than the one we have now? What happens in the next two or three years may very well determine whether civilization evolves to greater heart intelligence and wisdom, or whether we dissolve into neo-feudalism. If you are in a position to make a tax deductible year end gift it will fuel our writing and organizing efforts (please make checks payable to our 501c3 fiscal sponsor, Empowerment Works, Memo: Transpartisan Upwising, 1801 Lincoln Blvd., #138, Venice, CA 90291.) Alternatively, Chip-in whatever amount works for you via PayPal. NOTE: All contributors will receive a free download of our first e-book when published in early 2011.

In supporting this endeavor to bring awakening, awareness, courage and functionality to our body politic, you are playing a significant role in the history of our species and civilization. We hope you will join the “upwising!”

With faith in us all,

Joseph McCormick and Steve Bhaerman