Who'd've "Thunk" When We Started All This?

Who'd've "thunk" when we started all this, we'd be here.  But that's how movements work.  You take a step or two in the direction of being the change, take a look around, make adjustments and then take another step or two.

So hold on Red Booters.  This is going to be fun, inspirational, celebratory, rich with wonder and something we can all feel very, very good about.

The Fantastic Ms. RooseveltThis in from Molly:

I’ve started this post over twenty times.

I want to get it just right so you will read it.

If you’ve read my stories, my stuff, my wanderings then hang in here until the end of this, because the spirit of all of them…love, hope and compassion are there tucked into what I believe is a radical idea…a true wake-up call and one that ...has the capacity to bring trust back to a government and its people, where currently there is none.

For the past two years I have served on the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission for Political Reform. We are a group of 29 people from across the United States. We are former Senators, Representatives, Governors, Executive Branch Members, non-profit leaders, educators and business folks. It has been a tedious and often times contentious series of conversations.

Today the Commission released a list of 65 recommendations that we believe will decrease the current debilitating state of hyperpolarized politics in our nation

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My Commission-Mates have become my friends- my good friends. Olympia Snowe is, without question, one of the most passionate, caring and tender-hearted leaders I’ve ever met. Vicki Kennedy, showed me the fine art of “gently disrupting the status quo” with her courageous quest for the “Why?” Jason Grumet's (the ED of the Bipartisan Policy Center) soft and humble tone set the stage for safe dialogue from all camps to hammer out some truly nation-changing recommendations.

(I will attach a link to media on today’s event in the comment section.)

And yet…and yet I must be truthful with you. I’m not completely satisfied. The recommendations are on target, but still…still I’m searching for the deeper why/

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Why we’re in the mess we are in?

Why are young people, our future, not just voting and participating in the electoral process, but actually choosing NOT to vote as an act of defiance against a system they perceive as corrupt.

Why are 80 percent of Americans turned off by politics, rank the status of Congressional Members as lower than low.

Why do we all feel this frustration and yet why is nothing happening to bring about the change EVERYONE so desperately knows is needed.

I think we need a shake-up, a shake-down and a shake-in-every-space-in-between…political maracas if you will. We need something fun, joyous and inviting.

We need something different to get the party started. I mean who doesn’t get tired of the same-ole-same-ole meal, time and time again. Sure you can take a plate of peas and corn and turn them into succotash but at the end of the day, they are still peas and corn. Give me something more. I want spice and sugar and some hot Chile peppers in that succotash. Serve ‘em up on a colorful plate that my kids made at camp or gave me for Mother’s Day. Get crazy with it. Play some music, dance, do something…heck anything other than a plate full of this or that, them and us, you and me, over there and over here. Give me something that will excite me, inspire me, give me joy.

So get ready. I’ve got an idea. I’ve shared this idea with several folks…a dozen or so…and because they are my friends and because they ponder life from the deep spaces I so gently love and celebrate exploring…they listened, let it in, and smiled.

“Radical, man,” Charlie said with his peace fingers lifted.

“It’s like…duh,” my friend Saralyn shared.

“I wanna play. Can I play?” Jim chimed in.

"That's an easy, I'm in." Todd is in.

I think the whole thing, frankly, comes down to one very simple “why” and one very simple “what we can do about it.” (To me it’s so simple in fact that I can’t believe somebody hadn’t thought of it before now.)

And it goes like this. Our entire political system is built on the idea that in order to be elected one must first win an election. Immense amounts of time, energy and money are directed into winning. Winning also requires that one person prove his/her agenda is more right than another person. This naturally attracts a certain kind of individual…one who is highly motivated by competition.

Now of course in years past this kindly form of competition has worked quite nicely. Yes, there were differences and some hotly contested elections (we’ve all heard of the duels of yesteryear when the government was in its baby stages), but nothing like what we’ve seen in the last twenty years. Something has interloped the process, or at least complicated it, and that thing my friends, is called the media. (First cable and then the internet.)

The easy access to media…lots and lots and lots of it…has changed everything. To be heard, one must be loud….and in an arena that now has a thousand different megaphones, the folks with oftentimes the most shocking voice are the ones who get heard. Negative campaigns and anonymous comments guarantee ears which eventually translates into votes.

I am not suggesting that the election process itself is at fault, but what I am suggesting is that the election process, and how it is perceived and played is more likely to attract those “folk” who use winning/losing, right/wrong, ideologies and separation of ideas as their means to victory…basically people who resonate with polarized thinking and now with the introduction of all that media, EXTREMELY polarized thinking. This will, by nature of how they see and approach the world, carry into how they go about their daily lives, including how they run the nation.

When ya think about it…it just seems so oddly obvious. The election is simply the prelude, the warm-up, the kick-off for the real game…elected office.

Now imagine if you will, a group of people who run for office, but their ultimate goal is not to win, but to truly impact the nation for good. I’m not suggesting that the others do not wish for this. They do, but they believe winning must come before impact. With just the slightest shift in intention, these new candidates would approach their candidacy focused on impact. They can, because they are not tied to an outcome focused on winning, focus on process. They do not need to be right. They do not need to prove themselves. Heck, they don’t really even need to raise money.

They can, throughout the election process, change the conversation and really seek out dialogue and diverse ideas to innovatively approach age old problems. They can, because they are not tied to winning or any particular ideology, agenda or belief system, be in creation with their constituents to engage in dialogue and create policies that actually address our nation’s most pressing challenges. Perspective becomes fresh rather than crafted trying to conform to some sort of “party box.”

This new candidate is not drawn to the election process as it currently exists because (and I am one of those people) competition is not how I operate in the world. I do not resonate with polarized thinking. In fact, I am a bringer-together and a community-builder. Ironically, this is precisely what our nation needs and yet that is precisely who does NOT run for office because we are so focused on the competitive and hyper-polarized (if not downright mean/cruel) election process.

Let’s face it. A certain amount and kind of ego is necessary to enter the election process as it now stands. As a matter of fact, It’s easy to understand why a current member who has been elected by the system as it is now…would be unwilling to support a change to the very system that got him/her to his/her ultimate goal…winning the election. (Please note that all members on this commission were previous elected, appointed officials, previous being the operative word.)

But what if we excited folks like me and you…the innovators, the social entrepreneurs, the teachers, the social workers, the philosophers, the tender-hearted, the “broken,” and the compassionate to run for office by defining victory on our terms? Victory for us looks like exactly what our nation needs…coming together, solutions, diverse dialogue and an election process that allows us to bring our ability to accomplish those things to the table. We love getting down to the core of “why things are the way they are” and then crafting solutions that address the underlying why. We enjoy diverse viewpoints, hearing from those who are different from us. We toss the word love around because we think it is fun and we laugh easily at ourselves. We find joy in connection and always first seek out the good in others. We are not motivated by money, prestige or power. We would, if we could sustain ourselves otherwise, do the work for free. We are likely to have colored pasts, but are so comfortable with WHO WE ARE, that these previous life mistakes simply cannot be used against us because we own them. We become unmessable with. We own our humanness. We are people…one of them…one of us.

These types of leaders gain followers and believers…not voters. They build their following by building trust, listening and connecting.

And so this is the part where I get a little bit scared and a little bit excited all at the same time. I don’t know yet exactly what this will look like, but I do know that this idea really plays to my skillsets and strengths and will certainly attract people who are NOT attracted to the game as it is currently being played. We (my radical dozen or so) have tossed around the idea of building a 60 plus team of candidates who are willing to “go first” into the election process with this new approach. These folks will be supported and loved by each other as well as supported and loved by a team of brilliant and loving experts who are behind the scenes providing expertise and data on various topics/policies.There is also likely to be a "training curriculum" for these candidates deeply grounded in a set of core values that goes with this non-polar way of thinking and being.

I guess what it boils down to for me is this: those currently playing the political game are playing by a set of rules that inherently, just by the nature of how they approach the game and how we as citizens expect them to approach the game, will do little to reduce the polarized state of the nation. I’m not judging or angry. It’s just a fact.

The only way I see to bring about a coming together of people to change the culture, is to bring about a coming together of people who are the culture we wish to see. Wasn’t there an awesome leader who once said, “We have to be the change we wish to see?”

As you all know I'm headed out on a personal journey to engage people in a dialogue on this. My little Red Boot Ride has already garnered the support of 22 groups across America and individuals willing to host the dialogue.

So…if anything in this calls to you, write me at theredbootcoalition@gmail.com. Share this idea or this post with others. Let the media know. Tell me what you’d like to bring to the conversation…what qualities and skillsets are you excited and inspired o bring to the Red Boot Coalition. Believe me all skills are needed. If you’d be up for hosting a conversation that is inspiring, fun and rich with positive dialogue on reshaping American Politics, hop on, to the Red Boot Ride this August. No skill is too small and all are needed.

I mean what’s there to lose? The truth is I know no other way to bring about change…than to begin.