Stein is an organizational and political strategist who has worked with dozens of for-profit, not-for-profit and political and public sector organizations over the past 50 years. He currently serves as a researcher/writer, consultant and champion of the work of cross-partisan cultural and political organizations and initiatives. This is the first in Stein’s new monthly column, Cross-Partisan Visions.
The dawn of the third decade of the 21st century has ushered in an age of hyperanxiety.
On every continent, and in virtually every country, conventional wisdoms are being shredded. Changed circumstances and altered conditions are the predominant constants. Clarity about the future is obfuscated in the fog of cultural, economic and political upheaval. Certainty is primarily the refuge of extremists across the cultural and political spectrum.
This toxic stew threatens personal mental health, social and political cohesion, security, justice and prosperity everywhere, and the very foundations of civilization.
Our hyperanxiety is being fed by powerful forces that have been unleashed by negligence, poor stewardship of our natural world, ineffective governance, wanton consumerism and greed. These forces include, but are not limited to, population-growth-based natural resource depletion; climate-induced fires, floods and storms; mass human migrations; species extinctions; pandemics; escalating economic inequality; civil and regional wars; racial reckonings; and the increasing avalanche of disinformation and conspiracy theories being manufactured and spread by hyperpartisan organs of mass communication and social media.
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There are no glib answers, quick fixes or short cuts back to truth, trust, reason and civility. Whatever the future holds, and however traumatic and relentless the age of hyperanxiety ultimately becomes, we have no choice but to do the painstakingly difficult work of discovering new faith in ourselves, one another and our institutions.
And the diligence and resilience we are called now to muster can only be animated, and therefore can only emanate, from a new global consciousness and crystalline clarity about our collective commitment to meaningful changes that improve human life and sustain our humanity.
This is the hope and promise of “Cross-Partisan Visions.” In the months and years ahead, we will explore how people from across traditional divides can imagine, and therefore collaboratively implement, strategies to realize their common interests and shared destinies. In turn, this will require a deep commitment to building a new values-based constituency with a collective vision and a compelling new cultural and political voice.
Such a constituency will be realized when, initially, hundreds of thousands and, ultimately, millions of people pledge allegiance to a “Cross-Partisan Creed”:
Fidelity in these times to this Cross-Partisan Creed will advance a modern “Cross-Partisan Ethos” which:
Reproductive rights advocates marched in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to protest Texas’ new abortion ban, which recent polling found to be a key motivator for voters ahead of the 2022 midterms.
With the midterm elections just over a year away, two issues are top of mind for voters: Covid-19 and abortion, recent polling found.
Texas’ new ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy has sparked protests in the Lone Star State, as well as nationwide. The new law is also galvanizing some voters, mainly Democrats and women of color, to participate in the 2022 elections, according to a survey released Monday by All In Together, a nonpartisan nonprofit that encourages civic and political engagement among women.
The pandemic is also an issue of high importance for voters, as more than 700,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. While Democrats and independents indicated the coronavirus was the most important issue to them, Republicans rated it as third most important, behind national security and rising prices.
Just under three-quarters of all registered voters said they are “almost certain” or “probably” going to vote in next year’s elections for Congress, state offices and local positions. Republicans showed slightly more motivation, with 59 percent almost certain of voting, than Democrats (49 percent) or independents (42 percent).
Women (53 percent) were slightly more likely than men (49 percent) to be almost certain about voting next year. A majority of Black women and Asian American or Pacific Islander women said they were likely to participate in the midterms, whereas only 40 percent of Latinas said the same.
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Additionally, older Americans showed more certainty in voting next year than younger people. More than three-quarters of voters 65 and older and almost two-thirds of voters ages 50-64 said they were almost certain of voting in 2022, compared to two-fifths of voters ages 30-49 and 28 percent of voters under 30.
However, Texas’ recent abortion ban could drive more people to the polls next year. While Americans are evenly split on their views of the new law — 46 percent favor it and 47 percent oppose it — nearly three-fifths of voters said Texas’ law makes them more interested in voting. (Other polling has found a majority opposes the law with less than 40 percent supporting it.)
The abortion ban is particularly motivating among young women, with 73 percent saying they are more interested in voting next year because of it. Latinas of all ages also indicated more interest in voting (64 percent), as did Asian American and Pacific Islander women (63 percent) and Black women (58 percent).
When it comes to partisan turnout, Democrats are the most motivated by the new restrictions on abortion (68 percent indicating a higher inclination of voting in the midterms). A slight majority of Republicans (52 percent) said they were more interested in voting because of Texas’ new law, whereas less than half of independents (48 percent) said the same.
The survey of 1,000 registered voters nationwide was conducted by Lake Research and Emerson College Polling for All In Together from Sept. 22 to 24. The survey oversampled Black women, Latinas, and Asian American and Pacific Islander women, but those oversamples were adjusted to reflect actual population proportions. The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.
Social media has become a prism that distorts our identities, empowers status-seeking extremists, and renders moderates all but invisible. The Braver Angels podcast speaks with Duke professor Christopher Bail about his new book, Breaking the Social Media Prism, which challenges many common myths and reveals that the solution to political tribalism lies deep inside ourselves.
President Biden issued an executive order in March asking federal agencies to come up with plans to promote voter access and participation.
While federal electoral reform legislation languishes in Congress, the executive branch is taking small but significant steps toward promoting access to the ballot box.
In March, President Biden issued an executive order asking federal agencies to evaluate how they can, within their purview of the law, encourage voter registration and participation. The deadline for agencies to submit their proposals was Sept. 23, and this week the White House announced the first set of plans.
Here’s how 14 federal departments and agencies plan to promote voter participation and access:
More initiatives from federal agencies will be rolled out in the coming months.
Before the agencies submitted their plans to the White House, the Campaign Legal Center outlined recommendations and best practices for promoting voter access.
Demos, a progressive think tank that advocates for democracy reform, celebrated this step forward, while also pushing for further action from the federal government.
“The actions outlined today are a good start and, with additional consultation, creative thinking, and commitments, have the potential to transform how and where people register to vote all across America. This is especially significant in Black, brown and low-income communities, where we see notably lower rates of voter registration,” said Laura Williamson, senior policy analyst at Demos.
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When announcing these plans for promoting electoral participation, Vice President Harris also emphasized the importance of Congress passing the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. However, with the filibuster still intact, both bills have a slim chance of success in the Senate.
“Our nation and democracy are stronger when everyone participates, and weaker when anyone is left out,” Harris said. “The president and I will help ensure these plans are fully implemented, and we will continue to work closely with these agencies to bring a whole-of-government approach to making voting accessible for all Americans.”
In this edition of #ListenFirstFriday, we hear from John Noltner who shares stories of hope, healing and transformation in overcoming the differences that divide us as a nation.
Who can honestly say they are satisfied with the government? Government is an easy target for our angst and woes. We pay taxes, but what do we get for it? Seems like an endless and hopeless customer service failure. But the government isn’t doing anything to us. The government is us.
When Ronald Reagan identified government as the problem in the 1980s, he intended to promote the idea of smaller government and more personal freedom. Given our endless human dissatisfaction with the government, a majority of people gravitated to his message. At the time, it was a clever turn of phrase that many of us took with good humor. But embedded in his cleverness were the seeds of separation, distrust and contempt for the system of government itself.
At the time, most people considered the government inefficient, but necessary. Business guru Peter F. Drucker is credited with saying he wasn’t in favor of small or big government, but effective government.
Today, a sizable percentage of our fellow Americans consider the government to be corrupt, evil and tyrannical. Even elected officials, with power to make the government more effective in serving the common good, share this view.
But what if we have it all wrong?
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A governing system is a significant part of how we manage to live in groups peacefully. The Constitution of the United States set in motion a governing system that allowed for self-interest to co-exist with common good. Not to dominate the common good, but to co-exist with it. This was radical in the 18th century when we were subjects to the monarchy — where only the monarch’s self-interest mattered. Instead, we agreed to abide by the rule of law, and the government was granted credibility by the will of the people.
In order for our democratic republic to function effectively, we have to be as equally committed to the rule of law and the rights of others as we are to our individual freedom. It’s a trifecta of priorities that cannot be separated.
Leading into the Great Depression, the stock market was at an all-time high. The oligarchs were profiting from a newly industrialized nation. Workers — from children to the elderly — were paid poverty wages to eke out their living. Alcohol prohibition led to increased violence and crime levels. Streets were filled with hungry and homeless people. The small government advocated by big business was failing to provide for the common good of all citizens.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt saw a role for government in ameliorating the excess of big business that dominated the self-interests of a few over the needs of the public. Like the Founding Fathers, he sought to disrupt the status quo where big business had influenced the government to benefit themselves. FDR’s “New Deal” was a series of reforms that gave us a 40-hour work week, eliminated child labor, oversaw massive infrastructure projects and provided Social Security for the elderly.
Passing the dozen or so laws that made up the New Deal took time — about eight years. It involved obstruction by the Republicans. Some of the laws passed were struck down by a conservative Supreme Court. The Democrats threatened to pack the courts with more progressive judges. Within the Democratic coalition of women, African Americans and left-wing intellectuals, deals were struck.
In times of unrest and uncertainty, we look to scholars and pundits to predict the future.
In his write up in The Washington Post, Robert Kagan predicts that Trump loyalists will be running elections in counties across the nation and the state legislatures that have given themselves the power to invalidate election results. He labels this a current and ongoing constitutional crisis, which will lead to civil war. The demagogue wins in his analysis.
Robert Hubbell takes a more measured approach in his rebuttal, arguing that the violence pre-supposed by Kagan is a form of trauma from watching the events of Jan. 6, 2021m in a loop. He states that the Constitution allows for this and will be followed. Should election interference in 2024 invalidate the presidential election, the speaker of the House will become president, the courts will have a say and we’ll have a new election in 2028. The rule of law wins in his analysis.
I’m more certain our path will follow the historical pattern. We have 14 months until the midterm elections. And 62 months until the next presidential election. That’s a lot of time for Congress to pass legislation in the interests of the common good. It’s a herculean task, to be sure. We need more people to vote. The will of the people wins in my analysis.
Yes, predicting the future is fraught with risk. We’ll have to live it out.
Although a government shutdown has been temporarily avoided, there’s no shortage of pressing issues on Capitol Hill.
The federal government will narrowly avoid another shutdown as Congress plans to approve funding for agencies and operations through early December.
Congressional leaders came together on a band-aid solution just hours before the end of the fiscal year Thursday night, as spending was set to expire. Because Congress only agreed to a temporary solution, lawmakers will have to address it all over again in 65 days.
And there’s scant time to start on a long-term spending solution because there’s no shortage of other pressing issues on Capitol Hill: Lawmakers will need to raise or suspend the country’s debt ceiling by mid-October. Democrats are trying to cobble together enough votes to pass a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill and a separate economic package, two of Biden’s top priorities. And major voting rights and election reform legislation also lies in wait.
Partisan disputes in Congress kept lawmakers from reaching a solution earlier. Leaders of both parties said they wanted to avoid a government shutdown, but disagreed on how to do so. Democrats tried to pass a measure earlier this week that both funded the government and suspended the debt ceiling, but Senate Republicans blocked the effort.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said if Democrats want to raise the debt ceiling, they’ll have to do it on their own. By forcing the issue to a party-line vote, Republicans hope to use the higher debt ceiling as evidence of out-of-control Democratic spending during the midterm elections — even though a significant portion of the debt accrued came from spending and tax breaks approved by the GOP during the Trump administration.
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Thursday’s vote on a stopgap spending bill will provide interim funding for the government and keep critical services running during the Covid-19 pandemic. Before it spending expires Dec. 3, lawmakers will need to either approve another short-term solution, known as a continuing resolution, or approve appropriations to fund the government through the end of 2022.
Close calls like this and actual government shutdowns have become increasingly common over the years. In the last decade, there have been three government shutdowns, including a 34-day closure in 2019, the longest one in American history. Since the current budget process was introduced in the 1970s, there have been 20 funding gaps — four of which have resulted in shutdowns lasting more than one business day.
The last time Congress approved federal appropriations before the fiscal year ended, with no need for continuing resolutions, was 1997, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
Because Congress is so polarized, it’s tough for legislation to garner the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. This hurdle is especially difficult “when you’re talking about things in the budget process where Congress first has to agree on big, top-line numbers for how much they want to spend across the board and then they actually have to proceed to the hard work of dividing up the pie,” said Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
Appropriations measures also become popular targets for other, unrelated issues because of their “must pass” status, which can ramp up the drama. These combined challenges are why Congress finds itself flirting with shutdowns so often, Reynolds said.
To make the federal budget process more functional, Reynolds said, Congress should develop the appropriations bills individually in their respective subcommittees and bring them to the floor in “minibus,” or smaller, packages rather than omnibus packages that put all the appropriations bills together.
“In 2018, we had both the start of a record-long government shutdown and also, earlier in 2018, we had Congress’s most productive appropriations year in several decades. Part of what made that happen was this minibus strategy,” Reynolds said.
The minibus strategy allowed some of the appropriations bills to pass that year, keeping significant parts of the government funded, even though other parts shut down.
“We don’t live in the political world that we lived in when Congress wrote the Congressional Budget Act of 1974,” Reynolds said, adding that lawmakers should try to figure out “what are the things about the 1974 process that we think are valuable and that we can keep, and then how do we adapt other parts of the process to recognize the [current] political realities.”
While Congress has skirted another government shutdown for now, the debt ceiling deadline still looms. If the debt limit isn’t raised or suspended by Oct. 18, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the U.S. won’t be able to pay its bills and the country could default for the first time ever. Because so many countries rely on the U.S. economy, such an outcome would have dire and unpredictable repercussions around the globe.
Democrats could raise the debt ceiling on their own through a process called reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority to pass in the Senate, rather than the usual 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. However, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has refused to resort to reconciliation, calling it “risky” and “uncharted waters.”
The reconciliation process can only be used once per fiscal year and Democrats are already considering using it to pass their $3.5 trillion domestic policy package. However, the fate of that legislation and the $1 trillion infrastructure bill remains uncertain as the Democratic party is divided over how much money to spend on what programs.
And amid the drama over the federal budget and infrastructure package, two landmark election reform bills have taken a backseat, despite voting rights advocates’ urgent calls for passage. The Freedom to Vote Act was introduced earlier this month as a compromise version of the For the People Act. Both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act face long odds in the Senate if the filibuster remains intact.