Professional partisans present a vision of American politics where everything is divided between the far left and the far right. Lately, they seem to be dominating the nation’s political debate. But there’s a powerful backlash brewing—a movement of voices from the vital center who are declaring….Continue Reading
…their independence from play-to-the-base politics. In fact, the center does not only have the numbers, it has the intellectual coherence and strong advocates. There are academics like the Hoover Institution’s Morris Fiorina, author of Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America and McGill’s Gil Troy, author of Leading From the Center. There are centrist think tanks, like Will Marshall’s Progressive Policy Institute and The Third Way associated with the Democratic side of the aisle and the Main Street Partnership for the GOP. There are centrist radio-show hosts like Michael Smerconish, Ronn Owens, and Alan Nathan. There are centrist Web sites like TheModerateVoice.com, Donklephant.com and BookerRising.net—as well as aggregators like Fark.com that skewer absurdities on both sides. Most important are the grassroots groups that are growing up on their own, like the Village Square movement based out of Florida, the Transpartisan Alliance, or the newly formed Pragmatic Center, which announced its presence in the wake of Kathleen Parker’s column.
The purpose of this list is to show that there is a coherent and strong centrist movement growing in America right now. It is principled and civil. It is independent of the two parties’ influential, entrenched special interests. And it is on the rise. Read the whole article…
Originally published March 31, 2010 in The Daily Beast www.thedailybeast.com
Remember the fracas surrounding the town hall meetings on health care? The founders of The Village Square do. Their efforts to bring together diametrically opposed ideological groups has earned a $72,000 slice of $24 million offered through the Knight Foundation’s Community………Continue Reading
Information Challenge. The money will be used to support programs that help concerned individuals follow Albert Einstein’s charge: “To the village square we must carry the facts … from there must come America’s voice.”
The Village Square is the type of resource citizens of this country, and more distinctly, area residents will need as we consider opposing points of view with a mind toward strengthening our republic.
Through conversations over group dinners, political discussions over a pint of beer, and soon, online tools that will allow community members to post, read and edit information on locally focused topics, Executive Director Liz Joyner and members of the board are striving to “bring communities back together again as neighbors taking care of what neighbors used to handle.”
Round-table and panel discussions sponsored by The Village Square, through the use of the Knight grant, could serve as the antithesis of the well-intentioned — but easily maligned — local “town hall” meetings.
A good example was the one held on health care reforms Aug. 25 at City Hall. Though it was attended by U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, it quickly fell victim to an ideological shouting match because it was sponsored by some community agencies that stood to benefit from federal stimulus dollars. An opportunity to meet with our congressman was drowned out by rhetoric from both sides, and an opportunity to truly hear and understand opposing views was crushed.
By contrast, Village Square forums would primarily focus on the local issues, including topics such as the great biomass debate, coal plants and constitutional amendments. The group’s outreach efforts encourage individuals to read, think and opine for themselves rather than allowing their talking points to come from nationally focused partisan agendas.
The first test of bringing the community together in such a down-home fashion is to raise matching funds for the Knight grant. The group is halfway to its goal, but it’s important that donations (and participation) come from throughout the community.
“Knight wants to see that the community supports the idea,” Ms. Joyner said.
Input is sought on how The Village Square can best use its grant money to unify the community in the exchange of ideas.
“There is a way for anyone who’s interested to get involved, whatever their abilities are,” she said.
Whether residents of this area support The Village Square with their dollars, their attendance, contribution to an online Wiki of information pertinent to local topics or in some other form, Ms. Joyner and members of the board march forward with a charge by writer Patricia Nelson Limerick: “Let friendship redeem the republic.”
We hope that it can, and will.
Originally published January 28, 2010 in The Tallahassee Democrat www.tallahassee.com
Americans say they’re sick of partisan politics, and some of them really mean it. In Norman, Okla., and Tallahassee, Fla. – two university towns where football usually matters more than governance – local leaders weary of blood sport have begun taking matters into their own hands…….Continue Reading
…Next week in Norman as the media hordes forget they ever heard of Iowa and descend on New Hampshire for the nation’s first primary, a dozen or so renegades from the major parties are convening a forum to develop Plan C. A third way. A bipartisan solution to business as usual. Their immodest goal: To end divisive partisan polarization, create bipartisanship and bring the country together after the 2008 election.
Leading the charge are David Boren, Oklahoma University president and a former U.S. senator, along with former Democratic Sens. Sam Nunn of Georgia, Charles Robb of Virginia and Gary Hart of Colorado, also a former presidential candidate.
Republican sponsors include former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former Sens. Bill Brock of Tennessee and John Danforth of Missouri, and Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.
And yes, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be there, but he’s not running for president.
Other formers expected to participate include Bill Cohen, former secretary of defense, and former U.S. Sens. Alan Dixon of Illinois and Bob Graham of Florida. Also, Jim Leach, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Iowa, and Edward Perkins, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
Yes, this is primarily a forum of formers. In fact, only Hagel and Bloomberg are politically current, from which one may draw one’s own conclusions. Then again, former politicians may be the best kind. With hindsight comes wisdom and, having been there, done that, people formerly known as politicians have little to gain from speaking out except the rare reward of doing something for the greater good.
While these reform-minded formers are tackling national problems, their bipartisan counterparts in Tallahassee are acting locally through a relatively new Web-based creation called “To The Village Square.” The square is the brainchild of attorney and City Commissioner Allan Katz, a Barack Obama Democrat who used leftover money from his recent re-election campaign to create the project.
He tapped as his partner Liz Joyner, a social worker and stay-at-home mom, (who also ran his last campaign), and recruited a bipartisan board whose members agree with two simple premises: facts matter; solutions should be bipartisan.
“If you say you’re nonpartisan, nobody believes you,” says Katz.
With that reality in mind, The Village Square aims to remind citizens of “The Big Idea” for which our ancestors spilled their blood – that Americans should be self-governing. The Web site, tothevillagesquare.org, explains that history in the context of today’s political dialogue, which “wouldn’t be tolerated between 5-year-olds at recess.”
“We’ve turned ‘talking’ over to professional polarizers on television who make seven-digit careers surfing this wave of hostility,” reads the Web site. “They warp what were once perfectly useful ideas, when understood in moderation, into black-and-white caricatures of ideas, so oversimplified they become effectively useless in solving real problems.
“These entrepreneurial yellers build for us such a fundamental misunderstanding of (and contempt for) people who think differently than we do, we’ve stopped bothering to listen to each other. … We’re spoon-fed slick (and expensive) commercials that sell us snake oil rather than provide the facts so basic to building the informed citizenry envisioned by our Founding Fathers.”
To that end, Katz and friends sponsor topical dinners ($25/person) to air local issues. Next week, while Boren and Co. are figuring out how to advance civil discourse at the national level, participants in Tallahassee’s Village Square will be dining with experts to discuss: “Energy Alternatives Ã€ la carte: Fossils and Sunshine and Garbage, oh my!”
OK, so you’re rewinding your videos that night, but somebody has to take this stuff seriously.
It’s not quite a movement, but both Boren’s initiative and the Katz/Joyner project suggest the stirrings of a necessary political backlash. Just as an unhappily married couple nevertheless manages to produce a lovely and beloved child, the ugly divorce of politics from the people may yet birth a very American revolution.
If Washington won’t lead the way, then Americans will simply lead themselves.
Born-again Americans. Now there’s a concept. Syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group
About an hour after attending an encouraging forum Thursday night on race relations, I skimmed through Facebook and was struck by reports of 78-year-old John McGraw punching a black protester as the man was being led out of a Donald Trump rally in Fayetteville, N.C.
Apparently unapologetic about his actions, McGraw, who is white, is quoted in the New York Daily News saying, “Next time we see him, we might have to kill him!”
Talk about experiencing fleeting moments of hope and despair.
Read the entire article online in the Tallahassee Democrat.
Come here often? And with the most cliché of all pickup lines, the 2016 “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” began.
Local leaders went from table to table, sitting down with a handful of community members at each for 10-minute intervals. A bell chime signaled them to move and begin new conversations. During the two-hour session of “civic speed dating,” held Thursday evening at St. John’s Episcopal Church, anything was up for discussion. Topics included having honest conversations about race, supporting micro-businesses, pets, the future of public schools and building more bicycle lanes and sidewalks.
Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.
Seven projects will get a share of $174,400 in grants from the Knight Foundation Fund via the Community Foundation of North Florida. Selected from more than 40 applications, the winning projects were picked for how well they aligned with the target goals of the Knight Foundation, which endeavors to enhance communities through unique partnerships and […]
Context Florida: Our special guest Clay Jenkinson on “Restoring the American republic, beginning in Tallahassee”
As the 21st century finds its rhythm, and the 2016 presidential contest begins to take up most of our public space, it seems clear to me that we have two political parties in the United States, but they are both thoroughly Hamiltonian. We have what might be called the “greater Hamiltonian Party” and the “lesser Hamiltonian party.” The obscene dominance of money, political action committees, lobbyists, fundraisers, and unrestrained attack ads has essentially disenfranchised the vast majority of American citizens. Read the entire article online at Context Florida. (Also running in the Tallahassee Democrat in print.)
The communal hall in the elegantly appointed First Baptist Church in downtown Tallahassee is packed with noontime listeners this mid-September Friday. They are also lunchers, filling their plastic plates with tacos as they prepare to listen to ‘The God Squad’, five Tallahassee faith leaders perched on stools, who, as they have monthly for the last five years will talk about those places where religion, politics and societal issues bounce against each other like so many boats on a stormy sea. For this Faith.Food.Friday program, the crowd of nearly 200 people seems ready to eat it up. Read the full article in the Tallahassee Democrat.
Under the sweeping canopy of live oaks, the 350-feet long table, bridging two downtown blocks, was filled with trays of brownies, berries piled atop cheesecake squares and powdered snow-white desserts. Sweet tea, Southern barbecue and conversation were plentiful. The Longest Table, Tallahassee’s first community-wide dinner party of sorts, asked nearly 500 local politicians, faith leaders, educators, agency representatives and residents from all neighborhoods and backgrounds to go beyond small talk and discuss what was most at stake in their city.Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.
Village Square co-founder Bryan Desloge in the Tallahassee Democrat: Proud to meet with Pope and President
There was a time in our nation’s not too distant past when meeting with the President of the United States or even the Pope himself would be seen – without question – as an honor and a true privilege.
Yet, as I made the humbling journey to our nation’s capital to attend a meeting of both Pope Francis and President Obama, I felt somewhat uneasy and, frankly, a little worried about how this visit would be received by those in the body politic.
It shouldn’t be that way.
Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.
Byron Block writes in today’s Tallahassee Democrat: If you’ve been struggling to keep up with all that is taking shape in Tallahassee and wonder what’s coming next, hold on. You’re not alone. Tallahassee is experiencing a spurt of growth that is changing the face of retail, housing, entertainment, neighborhood life and more. To help residents […]
From today’s Tallahassee Democrat: Wilnick SaintCharles, 34, was a student at Florida A&M University when Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was student government president, but he never took the time to discuss issues. SaintCharles, who stayed in Tallahassee and now works at Citizen Insurance Corp., got that chance Thursday night while attending the annual “Speed Date […]
If you’re in Tallahassee and want to attend Thursday night’s Tallahassee Town Hall, click here. From today’s Tallahassee Democrat (print edition only): When it comes to getting things done in a country, there were actually some advantages to having a king. If a kingdom had a problem, a good king could send for the most […]
News from our Village Square Davenport Institute grantee, the City of Palmdale! PALMDALE – The City of Palmdale has been named as one of two cities in California to receive a 2014 Village Square Grant through Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute. Along with Palo Alto, Palmdale will receive services and expenses valued at $15,000 through the […]
Tomorrow night our newest Village Square location launches in Ft. Lauderdale under the leadership of Broward College. We are thrilled to be partnering with them. From South Florida Business Journal: Broward College and Village Square, a non-partisan public educational forum, are hosting a series of events designed to spark fact-based debates on a variety of […]
If you missed it earlier, there is a MUST READ piece in the National Journal written by Brian Resnik about what the Village Square does. Here’s an excerpt about the Village Square: When people consider themselves to be part of the same team, they do a much better job of dropping their combative stance and […]