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The Reunited States of America

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Out of Many, One

In this era of poisonous partisanship, The Reunited States of America is a lifesaving antidote. At a time when loyalty to party seems to be overpowering love of country, it not only explains how we can bridge the partisan divide but also tells the untold story of how our fellow citizens already are doing it.

This book, a manifesto for a movement to reunite America, will help us put a stop to the seemingly endless Left-Right fistfight while honoring the vital role of healthy political debate. Mark Gerzon describes how citizens all over the country—Republicans, Democrats, and independents—are finding common ground on some of the most divisive and difficult issues we face today.

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6 Chapters

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1. Reinventing Citizenship

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REINVENTING CITIZENSHIP

From Confirming to Learning

Confirming what we already believe so unquestioningly that we become prisoners of our own points of view

Learning more about issues from those who differ with us so that we can expand and enrich our point of view.

Reuniting America is about learning. We can’t “know” the answer just by applying our ideology. Instead, we can learn how to harness the best ideas and practices from across the political spectrum to keep America on track. To reunite America, citizens are seeking opportunities to challenge their own assumptions, deepen their understanding, and expand their perspective on the issues that concern them.

Instead of confirming what they already believe, they are learning beyond partisanship.

Mabel McKinney-Browning, John Gable, Eric Liu, Michael Ostrolenk, Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, University Network for Collaborative Governance, and the participants of the “Climate Change and Energy Security” retreat.

 

2. Leading beyond Borders

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From Control to Relationship

Controlling, or attempting to control, those who differ from us in order to achieve our short-term political goals.

Relating as fellow citizens to those who differ from us in order to create effective long-term relationships that lead to sustainable decisions.

Reuniting America takes the idea of “loving our country” seriously—and love means relating to our fellow Americans, especially those who differ from ourselves. While of course we all prefer that candidates from our own party win, citizens today want something more. In a country more or less divided in thirds (Democrat, Independent, Republican), nothing significant will endure or flourish unless the relationships across the spectrum are strong and healthy.

Joan Blades, Laura Chasin, Richard Cizik, Sandy Heierbacher, Liz Joyner, Bryan Desloge, Allan Katz, Martha McCoy, and Doug Tanner.

“Polls Indicate Democrats Will Lose Control of Senate”

“Senate Elections 2014: Republicans Seize Control of the Senate”

 

3. Championing the Whole Truth

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CHAMPIONING THE WHOLE TRUTH

From Position Taking to Problem Solving

Taking positions so rigidly that we undermine trust and prevent innovation.

Solving problems by learning with, and relating to, our adversaries so that together we discover new opportunities.

Moving from control to relationship changes the very dynamics of politics. Solving a problem, then, is more highly valued than simply holding a position. Ensuring that all voices are heard before decisions are made—not just the predictable polarized extremes—becomes a higher priority. After too many years of dead-end, hard-line position taking, both citizens and candidates are clamoring for something different: not position taking, but problem solving.

Aakif Ahmad, Rob Fersh, Newt Gingrich, Van Jones, Nancy Jacobson, Steven Kull, Dini Merz, Mark McKinnon, Grover Norquist, Richard Parsons, Ron Shaich, Bill Shireman, Marvin Smith, and the participants in the “Defending America, Defending Taxpayers” retreat.

 

4. Serving the People

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From Endless Campaigning to Public Service

Campaigning that reduces every issue to a struggle for power between competing extremes who continue battling with each other long after the election is over.

Campaigning for a healthy, time-limited period to select leaders who will truly serve the best interests of the public.

Whether or not one wants a smaller government, we all want an effective government. The term public service, which now seems almost antiquated, stands for a noble yet humble attitude that puts the quest for power and victory second, and the genuine desire to serve the people first. The change agents in this chapter are working from the grassroots to state legislatures, from living rooms to Capitol Hill, to make public service a reality.

Jon Avlon, David Burstein, Ted Celeste, Representative John K. Delaney, Representative Tom Cole, Representative Mickey Edwards, Jason Grumet, Walter Isaacson, Linda Killian, Carolyn Lukensmeyer, David Nevins, Amanda Kathryn Roman, and Jackie Salit.

 

5. Born out of Crisis

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BORN OUT OF CRISIS

Exploring the Movement to Reunite America

Having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic [and] as wicked.

—PRESIDENT THOMAS JEFFERSON, INAUGURAL ADDRESS, 18011

IF WE DESTROY our civic environment, we become, as President Abraham Lincoln warned, “a house divided.” The Bible is clear about what happens next: “Every city or house divided against itself cannot stand.”2

In response to this internal threat, American citizens, as we have seen in part 1, are taking action. The men and women profiled in the preceding pages are a combination of conservative and liberal, traditional and progressive, libertarian and independent. They don’t fit in boxes. They look at each issue on its merits. They refuse to be categorized by a label or defined by a poll. They are free, independent American citizens—and there are millions of them. Yet, if you read the news these days, you wouldn’t even know that this independence movement existed.

 

6. Mapping the Future

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Transforming Conflict into Opportunity

The greatest threat in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.

—PETER DRUCKER1

TO REUNITE AMERICA, our challenge is to integrate and unify the best of both left and right. We must take the intelligence of conservatism and liberalism and apply it wisely and pragmatically to the challenges that our country faces. But to do so, we have to free ourselves from the obsolete political map that maintains that doing so is impossible. In this high-tech era, we need to update our civic software.

We already know the direction we want to go. In various ways, all of our leaders, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, have pointed to the same mountaintop. They all say that our goal is ultimately not to veer left or right but to go forward. Just listen to what they have said to us on their way to the White House:

For some time now we’ve all fallen into a pattern of describing our choice as Left or Right. But is that really an accurate description of the choice before us? Isn’t our choice really not one of Left or Right, but of up or down? (Ronald Reagan)2

 

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