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
Kansas City Star: Village Square chapter in KC will hold its first dinner and public conversation Thursday
Think of the Village Square as a Southern front porch or a small town’s diner counter — a place where folks can come together and talk civilly about community and world issues. That’s what Allan Katz, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, intends to bring back across the country with the launch of Village Square events. Katz is a co-founder of Village Square, a national organization started seven years ago in Tallahassee, Fla., as a way to restore civil discourse to national politics. The organization’s headquarters are at UMKC. On Thursday, Katz, a UMKC alum and a former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, and Kansas City’s newly formed chapter of Village Square will have its first local event — Dinner at the Square at 6 p.m. at Kansas City’s Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. Read the entire article in the Kansas City Star.
From Sunday’s Tallahassee Democrat, Mark Schlakman of FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights writes about extreme partisanship and mentions The Village Square:Closer to home, The Village Square, a project conceived by former Tallahass…
From yesterday’s Tallahassee Democrat:What grew out of a contentious 2006 coal-plant debate, is now being embraced elsewhere as a model for fostering civil discourse.The Village Square, a Tallahassee-based civic and social-engagement organization…
Village Square co-founder Liz Joyner in The Christian Science Monitor:From TALLAHASSEE, FLA. — In the early 1800s, things weren’t looking particularly good for the American experiment in self-governance. Coming to Washington with differences of opi…
By Karl Etters:At the Village Square’s final meeting of the year, a crowd of several hundred addressed common community problems, moral character and the rise of public corruption.Members of The Asteroid Club, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Lucy M…
A profile of the Village Square by Glenn Davis published by Independent Voter Network:“All politics is local.” – former House Speaker Tip O’NeillThe Village Square is about as local and as grassroots as an organization can get, taking a very …
From the Tallahassee Democrat, Friday March 28, by Karl Etters: (Photo credit: Amanda Rodriguez, Leon County)In the pub-centric style of town hall gatherings in the 1700s, Tallahassee-area residents, dubbed The Club of Honest Citizens, met Thursday nig…
From the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board: “In the hubbub over the mute button with which the mayor can silence citizens speaking at City Commission meetings, there is a point that may be overlooked: Citizens should feel engaged with their g…
From today’s Tallahassee Democrat, by TaMaryn Waters:Forget about matchmaking: Thursday’s “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” event gave residents face time with some of Tallahassee’s most powerful leaders over pizza and cold drinks.A bell di…
From today’s Tallahassee Democrat editorial:How often have you wished for a few minutes with Tallahassee’s community leaders, to share an opinion, offer a suggestion or even learn more about them? Sure, you see them at community events, fundrai…
“Decisions made by local elected officials play a huge part in our everyday lives, but think about it: How often do you get to interact with these officials?Usually, it’s not until there’s some crisis like a rezoning issue, a fee-increase pro…
The asteroids are coming! The asteroids are coming! OK, I don’t mean literal asteroids made of rock and metal. I mean big problems that polarize us and therefore paralyze us. If you’re on the left, you probably have extremely acute vision for threats such as global warming and rising inequality. You’ve tried to draw attention to the rising levels of carbon dioxide, the rising average global surface temperature and the rising seas. You’ve also grown increasingly disturbed by the percentage of the national income taken home by the richest 1 percent. Read the whole piece online at Tallahassee.com
Senator Olympia Snowe names Village Square as one of eight groups working for political common ground
In her book, “Fighting for Common Ground,” Olympia Snowe, the former senator from Maine, writes that the “fastest way” for citizens to push for compromise in Congress is to “support the efforts of existing national groups” that advocate bipartisanship. She recommends the following eight organizations, urging people to “browse their websites, visit them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter… The Village Square is a local, nonpartisan public education forum – not an advocacy group – that promotes fact-based discussion of local, state, and national issues and is based in Tallahassee, Fla. Read the entire article…