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Sender: Mark Gerzon
Subject: TRANSPARTISAN DEFINITION 1.0: Proposed April Conversation
Date: Wed, Apr 9, 2014
Msg: 100909

Dear Transpartisan listServ Colleagues,

Thank everyone who has contributed so far to the Transpartisan dialogue on this listServ. We are heartened by both the number of people who have joined in less than a month (approximately 200) and the vitality of the conversation. We strongly encourage the *ongoing spontaneous conversation*that has proved to be so rich.

Shortly after starting this listServ, we suggested potential monthly conversation topics that might focus our thinking about this emerging field. In *March*, we invited those who joined to introduce themselves and share something about their interest in transpartisan work. (Please continue this process, if you wish to introduce yourself.) We now propose that in *April* we directly address what "tranpartisan" means to us.

Specifically, we wrote:

*What does "transpartisan" mean to you? Are there other words or phrases that describe this "field" better, or touch your heart and mind more deeply? What kind of work do you do that is part of this emerging field? How would you define the borders of the "Transpartisan field"? Why does the field becoming aware of and connected to itself matter?*

In addition to the continuing organic conversation, we welcome comments on these questions. TO catalyze the conversation, *we share below our* *Transpartisan Definition 1.0*. Please take a look at it and either endorse it, modify it -- or take us in a new direction altogether!

All the best,

Mark Gerzon with the Mediators Foundation Team


*A Working Definition*

*Partisan (adj.)*: adopting and defending a particular political party's position on all or a substantial set of public policy issues

*Bipartisan (adj.)*: inclined or undertaking to seek consensus or agreement between two major political parties (e.g., in the USA, the Democratic and Republican Parties)

*Transpartisan (adj.)*: working to strengthen the relationship between political parties while seeking innovative solutions to policy issues that respect but transcend specific party positions

While each of these three definitions simplifies a more complex reality, they are nevertheless useful. Each of these three political dispositions has civic consequences. While honorable people can (and often do) migrate among all three of these positions, the three still can be distinguished from one another.

A *partisan* tends to be interested in victory for their party. Since partisans equate best outcome or success with their particular party's position, being "partisan" is to them typically preferable to being "bipartisan" or "transpartisan." To the extent that partisanship equates to best outcome, party loyalty may suppress open-minded inquiry. "Collaboration" or "bridge-building" may be considered distractions, or even wrong. If one's party is seen as having a lock on truth and virtue, then the end (victory) can rationalize the means. However, partisans also often believe in the value of incremental progress toward their partisan goals, and so may recognize the virtue in and necessity for compromise. *See *bipartisan.

A *bipartisan* disposition contemplates the virtue or necessity of compromise with another major political party to achieve shared goals to the extent practicable. It assumes two major parties -- which represent the vast majority of one's fellow citizens -- to be worthy competitors, each with competing strengths and (usually) vulnerabilities. While people who value bipartisan efforts may still be Democrats or Republicans, they recognize the practical benefit of across-the-aisle agreement. For this reason, they are far more likely than partisans to accept a negotiated compromise, because they believe the resulting policy is more likely to endure and be effective or, often, because it is a current expedient. Note that a given person may be a partisan on some issues and bipartisan on others.

A *transpartisan* perspective differs from both in that it places a higher value on independence from partisanship, open-mindedness, and inclusion of the range of legitimate policy positions. The third of the U. S. electorate who self-define as "independents" typically find the major parties' positions inadequate to meet the nation's problems and may see even bipartisan approaches to be too narrow. This outlook may indicate a transpartisan attitude, focused on effectiveness and innovation not contemplated by either political party. Whatever (if any) their party label, transpartisans are as interested in the relationship between the partisan adversaries as they are in a victory for their own party.

The two components of "trans-partisan" respect that each person may at times be a "*partisan*," with strong policy preferences, but also recognize that for the nation to flourish (or even function) we must have "*trans*"-partisans who believe in a more inclusive civic culture.

To repeat: all three of these descriptions are simpler than the reality that they describe. But the distinctions are useful because a healthy body politic needs all three perspectives to flourish. Partisan-only politics leads to win-lose seesawing, paralysis, or even violence. Bipartisan-only politics leads to a duopoly that may exclude points of view outside the parties' canon. And transpartisan-only politics is impractical because party structures are necessary for organizing and clustering 330 million people's civic activities, at least as currently practiced.

At the moment these three kinds of civic disposition are dangerously out of balance. Partisanship is epidemic; bipartisanship is rare; and transpartisanship is almost invisible. Governed by their marketplace realities, the media accentuate the most partisan voices, neglect bipartisan breakthroughs, and only recently have begun to grasp the emergence of transpartisanship.

The transpartisan movement is designed to provide this vital, missing civic perspective.

There is a *process* or relationship aspect to transpartisanship, which focuses on the relationship between political adversaries and enhancing their capacity for collaborative problem-solving. This involves providing a safe place for competing voices in our civic culture to engage, challenge, and inspire each other to form a chorus than can break through the partisan din and bring a new mix of pragmatism and idealism into the public square.

There is also an emerging *content* aspect of transpartisanship, which focuses on developing transpartisan positions on difficult issues. This is primarily about overcoming polarization through policy innovations that go beyond bipartisan compromise and focus on what works best -- not based on Left or Right theory, but in actual civic practice.

We welcome your voice to the unfolding definition of our movement. Let's continue to clarify and strengthen our understanding of this vital dimension of civic life.


*Written by Mark Gerzon*

*Edited by Rep. David Skaggs, Steve McIntosh, John Steiner, Gabriel Dayley, and others.*

-- Mark Gerzon Mediators Foundation 2525 Arapahoe Avenue E-4 #509 Boulder, Colorado 80302 3038171409

"Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them." - Albert Einstein


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