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 150 people gathered on Tuesday night to better understand what’s at stake in the ongoing immigration debate on Capitol Hill. “I think we needed to get the information out and I think we needed to understand what the issues at stake are,” said Temple Israel Rabbi Jack Romberg, who moderated the panel. “I think that you will find very few people who are truly anti-immigrant — I think more do not understand the depth of the issue.” The panel and its audience were gathered by The Village Square at St. John’s Episcopal Church for “Immigration & the American Melting Pot.” [Read article at Tallahassee.com]
The event, co-sponsored by The Village Square and Leadership Tallahassee, was designed to create conversation as participants nibbled on pizza and sipped lemonade and sweet tea. Tallahassee-based Village Square calls itself a unique model for civic engagement in America, attempting to bridge partisan divides to solve local problems. Last year, it expanded to St. Petersburg, Fla., and hopes its ideas will catch on. “A lot of times, they wanted to know about projects in the community,” Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge said about the constituents he met… Read the whole article at USA Today.
It wasn’t really a dating scene. Although, every seven minutes, a bell sounded to alert a dozen featured officials and leaders that it was time to switch tables at The Village Square’s “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” event Thursday night. The inaugural event attracted more than 60 people, all eager to pose questions and get face time with some of Tallahassee’s most influential people. Their questions ran the gamut. Some quizzed leaders on water and air quality, budget issues, Frenchtown and the homeless, development in rural areas, educational programs and school-resource officers in schools. [Read more]
For a second consecutive year, residents saw a glimpse of how local leaders feel on issues that matter most to them during the OUR TOWN: Local Leadership Forum, sponsored by Village Square. City and county commissioners fielded random questions Thursday evening as nearly 200 attendees listened with keen interest. Residents, many watching the event live on Tallahassee.com, asked officials how they plan to foster more tolerance, preserve Tallahassee’s precious trees as development grows and address the community’s most dire needs beyond jobs and economic development. [Read more]
In “Democracy in America”, Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of the uniquely American habit of “forever forming associations.” There’s good reason for that. In a new country without a king, someone was going to have to make a few decisions. Our first and strongest associations in America were with the people who shared a common geography and, amid many threats, likely a common fate: our neighbors. The town hall meeting was born early in our republic, and in one form or the other they’ve been happening ever since. Read the entire article at Tallahassee.com
Thursday’s Tallahassee community conversation about firearms did its job in opening the dialogue on how student safety and the Second Amendment play off each other on a local level. The panel, made up of local community leaders in school safety, law enforcement, faith, education and law addressed an American culture that hinges on violence. “Being an American community, we are addicted to violence, especially gun violence,” said panel member Rev. Brant Copeland. “We have invited violence into our culture. Why should we be surprised that we can’t protect our children from violence?” Read the entire article here.
Living in America, I have long believed, is about the art of defending the rights of those with whom we most strongly disagree. Now, I would add, it is also the art of sitting down with and engaging in conversation with those same opinion holders. We hope that is what we will do as a community Feb. 28 as the Tallahassee Democrat and Tallahassee.com join with The Village Square to present a public forum and discussion on “Students, Safety and the Second Amendment.” With the horror of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy still fresh in our minds, the issue we present is national. Read the entire article at Tallahasssee.com.
“In 2011, Newsweek published an article naming America’s 10 most dying cities. Most cities on that list responded typically: they amped up their PR campaigns and put out enticing tourism ads. But Grand Rapids, Mich. responded differently, thanks to one 22-year-old named Rob Bliss with an entrepreneurial spirit and a heartwarming love for his city. He staged a citywide lip dub to Don Mclean’s “American Pie,” and thus the dying city showed America that it was rising again. This sort of inspiring behavior was the topic of Peter Kageyama’s lecture at the downtown… Read the entire article at the FSView website.
During the 2012 presidential election cycle, candidates fell all over themselves to earn the women’s vote. There was talk about “The War on Women” and “binders of women” as we jumped back headlong into a national debate about abortion rights, equal pay for women and even birth control. For many women, it seemed like re-litigating the last 50 years. But author Suzanne Venker answered all the campaign talk about the “War on Women” with an op-ed titled “The War on Men.” She immediately found herself swept up… Read the entire article in the Tallahassee Democrat here.
From WFSU: “The subject is religion in politics and public policy and three members of the Village Square’s “God Squad” bring their unique views to the subject. On the program, Reverend Betsy Oulette of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, Reverend Dave Killenn from St. Johns Episcopal Church, Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel and Liz Joyner, executive director of the Village Square.” Listen to the full program online here. Find more information about our “Faith, Food, Friday” series by clicking here.
Knight Foundation: Expanding civic engagement in Tallahassee with help from LocalWiki (and an enterprising retiree)
When The Village Square embarked on our hyper-local community engagement project called “Get Local” – funded by Knight Foundation through the Community Foundation of North Florida – we wanted to appeal to people who weren’t the usual ones who show up for local civic events. With deepening national partisanship increasingly playing out in local politics, hometown civic discussions have become angrier and therefore less attractive to the average nonpartisan citizen. And we think Tallahassee can hardly afford to lose what they have to offer. [Read more at knightfoundation.org}
There’s a quick way for anyone to add to or edit the city of Tallahassee. The website TallahasseeWiki has entries for everything from popular restaurants to the hidden treasures like Governor’s Park. And a good chunk of it is thanks to TallahasseeWiki’s number one contributor… She moved to Tallahassee a few years ago. She heard the city was one of the 10 best places to retire. “I like this place. It’s been good for me. It’s not just been good in the sense that I can get out. We’ve got so many incredible parks in this area. This to me is a treasure trove.” Says Westbrook.[Read more]
Liz Joyner, executive director of The Village Square, said Kageyama’s message was about aspiration. He also stressed, Joyner said, approaching with an open mind residents with ideas who may not be experienced, polished or fit the government mold. “I think sometimes it’s hard for the average person to find the right spot to be engaged,” she said. “And really what this was about today was creating those places where people can do what they already love to do.” Peter Kageyama will return for a free public forum with The Village Square from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Jan. 24. sign up for the event at tothevillagesquare.org. Read the entire article in The Tallahassee Democrat.