The Politics of Tomorrow

For all you Democratic Party strategists, Jon Stewart sees what’s going on.  So do millions of young people who watch his show.  We’re building the future political system to remedy this abysmal failure of leadership and tactics.

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We saw what happened when John Kerry refused to fight for what he believed in during the 2004 election, instead opting to follow the latest poll conducted by an “approved” consultant on the insider list of the party leadership.  We observed the tactics of the status quo in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, including the adoption of Rovian attacks in the infamous “3 AM Ad” that used fear to discourage voters from caring about Barack Obama as a way to undermine his electability (and throw the entire progressive agenda under the bus at the same time).  Most recently, we’ve stood by as a “super majority” which has more representational leadership in the federal government than any party in our lifetimes, waffled and caved in to a non-existent opposition in the debacle called health care reform throughout the last year.

Our current political system is taking us to the brink of collapse.  It brought us the financial meltdown and massive bail outs to the super rich, while leaving the economy in tatters.  It denies the urgency of our faltering global ecological commons, putting all of humanity at risk of extinction.  And it is poisoned by the moneyed interests of health insurance companies, oil and coal companies, financial institutions, and bloated defense contractors.  These entities are part of the problem.  They will go down when the structure topples, like a neglected bridge in rush hour traffic or the unmaintained levies of a coastal city in the eye of a hurricane.  It is clear to anyone who cares about the environment, universal health care, livable wages, and fair taxation that our current political infrastructure is broken.  It’s time for an upgrade.

Our job is to be sure that new and better systems arise to take it’s place.

There are many of us working day and night to build the new models for politics based on civic engagement, social technologies, the needs of real people, and an earnest desire to solve problems instead of cater to bullies from decades past.  We’re applying microcredit lending strategies to help those in need to help themselves, starting social businesses that earn a profit while doing good, organizing communities of empowerment to meet each other and share ideas, starting our own media centers to bypass the corporate filtered “mainstream media” (the one that manipulated the populace into a war in Iraq) and so much more.

The political establishment isn’t going to know what hit them.  They didn’t recognize our tactics when Howard Dean asserted that we’ll only win if we engage as many people as possible (through his 50 State Strategy).  The conservative “wisdom” of Democratic leadership was that the only way to win is to turn off as many people as possible while still securing a 50+1 percent of the vote. This may be the case if winning means preserving the status quo.  But 50+1 doesn’t stave off the climate crisis.  It doesn’t remove entrenched interests either.

We’ve entered the second decade of the new millennium.  The digital natives among us, those who cut their teeth in an internet world, are wired for collaboration and thinking in terms of systems.  And they are starting to come of age.  The politics of tomorrow is upon us.  Let’s go about the work of creating it.  This will require a re-tooling just like any system replacement.  During the 20th Century most of the standard tools came from the fields of law, economics, marketing, and accounting.  In the 21st Century, our tool set will include computer programmers who design “civic software”, adaptive management experts who can navigate through ongoing periods of significant change by creating learning organizations that nurture people, eco-design architects who shape public spaces that encourage meaningful interactions in our built environment, and much more.

For my part, I am focusing on the insights coming from cutting-edge research in human cognition and social behavior.  My operating premise is that the institutions of society need to be built on solid understandings of how people actually work.  We don’t learn like widgets in a factory.  Nor do we conduct cost-benefit calculations in order to reason and act in social settings.  Instead, we learn by growing through our experiences and our actions reflect emotional drives and core beliefs that vary from one culture to another with a plurality of means for valuing something.  I’ve already written about my vision for politics in the 21st Century, the need to build trust in politics, and the importance of thriving through times of immense change.  This is my way of helping to lay the foundations for where we’re heading.

There’s plenty of room for you too.  It is literally going to require billions of people collectively building solutions that don’t currently exist.  What do you bring to the table that can help increase trust, stimulate creativity, promote interaction, or improve upon existing designs?  You can carve your own niche in this new world by looking into the future with an eye to the possible.

The time for the politics of tomorrow is today.

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Cognitive Policy Works specializes in providing organizations and individuals with frame analysis, policy briefs, strategic advising, and training.