I had an opportunity to have a short conversation recently with Fred Strahorn who represents Ohio House District 39 — most all of Dayton. I first met Fred a number of years ago when he spoke at the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial and gave special mention to my childhood friend, Guy LaPointe, who lost his life in Viet Nam and won the Congressional Medal of Honor. I was impressed by Fred’s words and spirit at that time, and Fred evidently has had a positive impact on a lot of Ohio Democrats. Fred is the leader of the 33 Democrats in the Ohio House. (There are 66 Republicans.) This is the email that I sent to Fred.
Fred — Enjoyed our conversation and the purpose of this email is to expand on the theme I started to develop.
I agree with you that we need to think in terms of systems. (My interview with W. Edwards Deming is here and here.) Our republic is a system as outlined in our constitution. The mission of this system is to produce a government of, by and for the people. As it is, our republican system is in dysfunction and is far from realizing its mission.
Extreme partisanship and sharp divisions encumber the system. The system is being controlled by what separates us, not what unites us. Increased partisanship will not help. Quite the opposite. A long-term answer to fixing our system will require a big increase in nonpartisanship, cooperation and unity within the system — more peace, love, and understanding.
Groups that have found a way to excel often are good models of nonpartisanship and cooperation. Such groups owe their success to the fact that they are organized as communities where members know and have affection for each other, where everyone has a voice and where everyone is seeking to advance a common purpose. Families, churches, clubs, schools and businesses where members are empowered in such a community demonstrate cooperation, unity, harmony — and success.
My observation is that there is a big lack of civic communities — groups of citizens who are focused on giving service to their local towns and cities — and that establishing such groups would be one strategy for increasing cooperation and unity in the system. The idea is that these communities would have a civic purpose that would unite its members regardless of views or politics that would divide them. Politics is all about building relationships and within a relationship political views that are seemingly unreconcilable have less power.
My thought is that the current energy of charged politics should be channeled into building civic communities. My POV comes from education and my thought is that the mission that could unite individuals of diverse views and backgrounds is the mission to increase theirs and the public’s understanding of civics. “Understanding” is a very big concept and a huge goal. The idea is to create groups of citizens who are committed to working together as a community advancing a common purpose. Part of that purpose would be to understand each other’s points of view. The idea is that such groups — seeking to act as civic communities — would have such a positive purpose and impact that they would be encouraged and supported by churches.
Anyway, this is a little more explanation of topics in our conversation. My conclusion is that To Fix Our Republic, We Need To Build An Infrastructure Of NonPartisan Civic Communities. I’m thinking through a specific proposal that I will share with you soon and then we’ll have more to talk about.