I am not a policy radical. On questions such as “Should government be bigger or smaller”, I believe the answer is “it depends.”
What I am is a process radical. I believe the process of government should be radically improved to be more transparent and dialogue-driven.
I don’t feel represented by the Democratic or Republican platform, because I don’t feel that either party is committed to radically improving the process of government. I also don’t feel represented by third parties such as the Libertarian or Green or Tea party. They tend to be committed ideologically to extreme policy decisions, whereas I think the real world is complex and messy and doesn’t lend itself to one-size-fits-all answers.
I want a party that represents the process radicals, the people who are open-minded about what the right policy decision is, but want to make sure the process of making the decision is both effective and democratic.
During the recent campaign, President Obama did something amazing. He went onto reddit, an internet news and discussion site, and answered direct questions from the American people for thirty minutes. (People voted on the best questions, which rose to the top).
I think this kind of thing should happen every single day, not for thirty minutes of a multi-month campaign. I want a President who sees his job as communicating with the American people. That doesn’t mean always agreeing with them: sometimes it means persuading and educating, and sometimes it means listening.
Instead, what I see is a shield wall of press secretaries, journalists vying for access, and political propaganda that only occasionally comes down to allow a moment of genuine connection.
Communication means treating people with respect, and hoping to learn something from them even when you disagree. I find that the dialogue promoted by the major parties is the exact opposite of that. It’s acceptable in America to refer to people you disagree with as “crazy”, “evil”, or “stupid”, as long as no one who holds the opposing view is actually in the room with you.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that at the center of every major constituency, including the Tea Party and The Occupy Wall Street movement (to pick two groups on opposing extremes), there is a core of good, intelligent, passionate human beings whose beliefs make total logical sense to them given their life experiences. I think failing to acknowledge that truth makes political progress impossible, and the contempt that many “reasonable” people have for members of these groups is infinitely more poisonous to political discourse than any specific policy agenda any of those groups advocate.
Therefore I am not interested in traditional categories of political affiliation. I have beliefs I feel strongly about, of course, but I would vote for someone who disagreed with me on some of those beliefs if she disagreed respectfully, intelligently, and with the willingness to find a solution that I could live with even if it isn’t the one I would pick myself.
So here’s the platform of the Transparency Party:
- Regular, unfiltered interaction between political leaders and their constituencies. This should be in mediums that are accessible to as many people as possible, and with the opportunity for people to ask the hard questions and hold their leaders accountable. Obama going on reddit should be the norm, not the exception.
- Absolute honesty with the American people. It is unacceptable for politicians to lie to the people who hold them accountable, just as it’s unacceptable for an employee to lie to her boss or a CEO to lie to the board. Politicians should have the right to say “I’m not going to answer that question, because…”, but the excuses need to be compelling and legitimate, and have a clearly defined expiration date.
- Commitment to treating the political opposition as human beings. This goes beyond “bi-partisanship”, which implies that there are two opposing sides that are reluctantly negotiating with each other. It means fighting to develop a real working relationship where people brainstorm ideas rather than negotiate compromises.
- No compromises on basic human rights. If people can’t participate because they don’t have the political or economic freedom to do so, then it doesn’t matter how democratic the political process is.
- Simplicity and clarity in legislation. This doesn’t mean dumbing things down; it means fighting to get rid of unnecessary complexity. This makes it possible to focus on where the complexity really is necessary, and get it right.
- Pragmatic, empirically oriented decision-making. Small, experimental programs that can then be scaled if they’re successful are preferable to big, sweeping, all-or-nothing initiatives. How a policy is implemented and executed is just as important as what the policy is.
- Use of technology to achieve the above goals. We’re a far bigger, far more fragmented society than we were a hundred years ago, but we also have far more powerful communication tools. Government should be using the full power of the internet to connect with, educate, and learn from its citizens.