Possibilities for Transpartisan Governance
Transpartisan Note #56
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
In Note #54 we introduced the Centrist Project. This group promotes cooperation and collaboration among state legislators. It seeks out sitting legislators willing to declare independence from current parties and willing candidates to run as independents. They expect Independents to use their leverage to reduce conflict in politics.
The Centrist Project aims to get a minimum of five Independent legislators into each state legislative house across the country and in the US House and Senate. It believes these Independents—we might call them Transpartisans—can use their strategic positions to reduce partisan conflict and promote bipartisan or transpartisan legislative action.
Here are some of our thoughts on achieving this objective:
First, concentrating force wins wars. The Centrist Project follows this principle by concentrating first on the state of Colorado. This focus gives the energetic Colorado transpartisan community a goal for effective action. It creates the opportunity to build a model for other states and Congress.
Second, finding five or more Independent legislators—by conversion or election—works best if the assembled group comes from diverse political backgrounds. Sitting members from ‘safe’ districts offer the most enticing prospects. Working through key donors can be particularly effective.
Most importantly, we believe, recruiting with policy proposals aligned with our Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix and focusing on issues of special interest to prospects can be especially powerful.
The Matrix shows both Democrats and Republicans split between ‘freedom’ and ‘order’ factions. Understanding individual legislators’ places on the Matrix allows recruiters of potential Independent legislators to appeal both to their immediate prospects and to people in other quadrants. Five or more Independents in a legislature broadens the policy playing field for new ideas and offers ‘cover’ (broader space for political action) for legislators who remain in their parties as partisans.
In Beyond Left and Right, Lawry Chickering, a conservative, told of approaching radical black lawyers about financing legal services for the poor. He proposed that instead of paying poverty lawyers from outside affected communities in effect to take clients from private lawyers, the government should pay the clients and let them choose their own lawyers.
This empowerment strategy would allow the indigenous bar to work for local clients who need help. Even the most radical black lawyers were indifferent to the fact that Lawry developed this idea working for conservative Governor Ronald Reagan. They responded to the empowerment vision behind this transpartisan proposal.
In The Chemical Feast: The Nader Report on food protection at the FDA, Jim Turner, a liberal/progressive, told of consumer initiatives that over time led to Congressionally-adopted policies such as Organic Food Production, Nutrition Labeling, and the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
Conservatives and progressives such as Senators Orrin Hatch, Tom Harkin, Richard Lugar and Patrick Leahy championed these initiatives, which passed Congress with robust bipartisan support. Each of these initiatives created citizen/consumer empowerment programs that support individual people making personal choices that fit their specific needs and resources. They exemplify transpartisan.
This is a very large subject, which we explore in Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life, our book on a transpartisan politics, our weekly Notes, and The Transpartisan Review.
As the Centrist Project and others seeking legislators and candidates to get Independents into power (or anyone considering office as an Independent) look for policy guidelines, we urge them to use The Transpartisan Matrix. It is a tool to help find policies that advance people’s desires for freedom and choice in a framework of security and order.