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Appreciative Interviews

Occupy Express Plenary

Our Divided Political Heart, by EJ Dionne

Date posted: Friday, July 20, 2012, 8:09 AM
From: Bruce Schuman
Msg ID: 106553
Posted: Sent to all subscribers

Good morning, long time no type. Happy Summer.

I've been working on the book "Our Divided Political Heart", by Washington Post columnist (and MSNBC commentator and Brookings Institute Fellow and Georgetown Professor) EJ Dionne. Some of you probably know that EJ was here on June 20, at the Lobero, and spoke to a full house about the thesis of his new book. We bought a copy then, and another one since then.

I'm into it, and developing a project based on it -- and how we could organize a coordinated movement that is based on "redefining American democracy" in the balanced and comprehensive and inclusive way he describes and proposes.

The essential concept is his theme of "Long Consensus" -- which is basically a kind of implicit and tacit understanding that has held the American political conversation together for 100 years, or maybe since our founding, or the Constitutional Conventions and Federalist Papers.

I think we need a big-time high-kick project that can help focus and spearhead this vision -- a comprehensive approach to the definition and revitalization of American democracy.

So, I am banging away on what it might take to make this possible. Here's an overview, posted to another SharedPurpose network this morning.

- Bruce


I thought it would be helpful to post the table of contents from the EJ book, Our Divided Political Heart.

This book IS a "course in logic" -- in political logic and history -- and also a course in political illogic, and how goofiness and distortion can become dominating and dangerous political influences.

I am into this book -- not because it is an interesting miscellaneous book on the current political scene -- but because it seems to me to be a powerful, central, comprehensive overview of our situation -- written by somebody who really knows what he is talking about, and has the skill and mental balance and grace -- and the heart -- to speak in a measured and accurate and well-documented way, and who gets to the absolute core of the problem with such clarity and historical detail.

So, where this is going for me is -- into the fine detail of what he says -- and how exactly we might proceed to follow or enhance his stated agenda -- which is the revitalization of "The Long Consensus" -- as he suggests in Part 3, Chapter 10.

The brilliance and significance of the book, for me -- is that as an historian of American politics, EJ Dionne documents clearly throughout our national history -- and starting with the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist Papers -- how these basic threads have been woven together over the years.

The core theme -- is the tension between individualism and community -- which, by analogy, extends to many other essential questions -- such as states rights versus federal control, or private initiative versus government regulation, or personal freedom versus personal responsibility, or the tensions involved in "public/private partnerships" and how they have succeeded throughout American history.

What is happening in politics today -- is that the balance and complexity of these core issues is being ignored or shattered, by crude and aggressively self-righteous marketing initiatives that are designed to influence voters -- who are succumbing to bad habits and self-indulgent ignorance.

Jon Haidt's theme of "self-righteousness" is very germane -- and thank you Al, for pointing us to that long and very excellent review of Haidt's book, "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion".

Yes, a lot of political activists -- maybe most on this list -- simply want to take sides and shake their fists at the perceived bad guys. I don't disrespect that -- we need civic activists who show up, who care, who will push.

But more than this -- we need civic activists who know what they are doing, and who are getting to the real core issue of what is wrong in American politics today.

EJ says it clearly, and in a way that many of us were sensing when we first got involved with the Coffee Party. Yes -- "big money" is a huge problem, and we have to deal with it. But -- we will fail to solve this problem if our movement remains fragmented and divided and splintered in a million ways -- which it is.

Before we can build a strong movement -- and the Occupy movement proves this, I think -- we have to fuse and weld together a new vision of inclusive democracy -- that accurately recognizes our national history, and the full spectrum of the fundamental core dimensions of our "democratic republic".

EJ's book is a brilliant text book on this theme, and points the way forward. I have not seen anything like it, or as promising. Yes, we need Haidt's thesis -- and more ideas like it, to fully understand the sociological and psychological forces that are driving fragmentation and division (see Bill Bishop's "The Big Sort" for another series of reasons why we are so aggressively divided into competing micro-demographics --

So sure, get out there in the streets, or write or corner your congress people. But let's get this basic framework straightened out. More than simply an "outside the box" solution -- today we need to redefine and rebuild the box itself. EJ's book gives us a master-overview of how to do this.

He introduces the theme in at the beginning -- liberty versus community -- and how these twin forces have been balanced throughout American history. We don't need "one or the other" -- we need them both, in balance. And we need to get this through our thick heads, or we as a nation are going to continue to tear ourselves apart.

      Who We Are
      Liberty, Community, and the American Character

    Why Are We Yelling at Each Other?

      Two Cups of Tea
      The Tea Party in History and on History 29

      The Politics of History
      Why the Past Can Never Escape the Present 53

      Lessons from the Humble Penny
      The Striver, the Seeker, the Puritan, and the Patriot 69

      Reinventing American Liberalism
      Why the Left Embraced Community 83

      From Tradition to Revolt
      How Conservatives Left Community Behind 101

    What History Teaches Us

      One Nation, Conceived in Argument
      The Revolution, the Constitution, and the Origins of the American Debate 127

      The American System
      How Strong Government, Strong Individuals, and Strong Communities Have Supported Each Other 155

      What's the Matter with Populism?
      Why Everybody Loves It, Except When They Don't 189

      The Long Consensus and Its Achievements
      The Quest for Balance from the Progressive Era to the Reagan Era 213

    Recovering Our Balance, Restoring Our Greatness

      The New American System
      Building a Community of Freedom 245

    • A Personal Note 269

    • Notes 279

    • Index 315

--- On Thu, Jul 19, 2012, 12:20 PM PST, Al Cannistraro wrote ---

Leon S said: "The radical and totally insane concept I propose is ... an upper level college course, hiding in the darkest corner of the Philosophy Departments where only those insistent students dare look for it, is, ... LOGIC! It seems as if elementary schools that should be teaching LOGIC are only teaching subjects that are amplified by emotions, and are meant to have the students start fights that the teachers either instigate or have to disrupt (sometimes by calling in the police to handcuff five-year-olds). Much of what has left America in the dust is the lack of LOGIC in education (see the arguments between (the scientifically theoretical) "(UN)Natural Evolution" and (Biblically proven) "(GOD MADE) Intelligent Design")."


Deal Leon S.,

Logic, schmogic!

I already know lots of stuff, so I don't need no stinkin' pointy-headed logic!

It's just some kind of trick! Everybody in his right mind knows that! Even Jonathan Haidt!

. . . . . . . .

Just kidding. But the effectiveness of logical argumentation is postulated on a common goal of truth-seeking. Most people, most of the time, feel with certainty that they already "know" the truth.

Our only hope is to NOT believe everything we think. But that would be un-American.

Al Cannistraro