Prescriptions for a Better American Politics

David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, recently set forth his four prescriptions for a better American politics.[1]

Brooks’ Prescriptions

His prescriptions are based upon this underlying belief: “Human beings . . . . thrived as a species because we are better at cooperation. . . . We evolved complex social networks in our brains to make us better at bonding, teaching and collaborating. We don’t cooperate only to get things we want individually. Often, we collaborate to build shared environments we can enjoy together. Often, we pick a challenge just so we can have the joy of collaborating. Relationships are ends to themselves.”

“Thus, the best future for American politics is not based on individual competition or group war. It’s based on this narrative: We are an incredibly diverse society that got good at collaboration because we had to. The best future politics puts collaborative pluralism, weaving, at the center.”

These beliefs lead to the following four prescriptions:

First, “electing leaders who are masters at cooperation.”

Second, “infusing cooperative weaver values into all of our organizations. 

Third, “reforming institutions so they encourage collaboration.” 

Fourth, “transformative policies that directly address our most serious divides. For example, reparations are a way to acknowledge the wrongs inflicted on African-Americans and to begin to heal that breach. Congressman Ro Khanna has a proposal that would show rural America that everyone has a place in the new economy. He would fund research and technology hubs throughout the country — a land grant college system for the 21st century.”

These prescriptions grow “out of the acknowledgment that there is no dominant majority in America. There is no moderate center. Your group will never pulverize and eliminate your opposing group. There’s no choice but to set up better collaborative systems across difference. This is not a problem, it’s an adventure.”

An Inspiring Set of Cooperative Values [2]

Brooks also provided the following  set of cooperative values for all of our organizations that guides the work of thread, a Baltimore non-profit organization:

  • Show all the way up. Be fully present, honest and vulnerable in all interactions. Recognize your own value. Push through discomfort to connect deeply with others.
  • Learn from all voices. Most of our challenges are complex. It takes every perspective to see an issue whole. Assume people have the best of intentions, and actively focus on the value they bring. Be intentional about being with those different from you.”Treat relationships as wealth. Human bonds are the chief resource of your organization. Recognize the inherent value of each person and meet each person where she or he is.”
  • Treat relationships as wealth. Human bonds are the chief resource of your organization. Recognize the inherent value of each person and meet each person where she or he is.”
  • Fail forward. Life is iterative. Your vision is not always the answer, but rather a step in a creative learning process. Set up feedback mechanisms that support change and personal growth. Dogma won’t get you to the solution. Openness and adjustment will.”

These values or principles implement thread’s underlying philosophy. “Empathetic and enduring relationships are our society’s most essential form of wealth. This conviction stems from the understanding that at some point in each of our lives we have all felt alone. For some, this sense of isolation is momentary; for others, it lasts a lifetime. However long it lasts, it leaves unfulfilled our very human need to connect with and matter to others. We experience the ‘poverty of isolation.’”

By “cultivating relationships that transcend racial and socioeconomic barriers – and by creatively building unconventional families and communities not defined by DNA and addresses – we can overcome the poverty of isolation and, in its place, establish a wealth of human connection permanently linked by unconditional love and support. Thread understands that children growing up in concentrated poverty need more than just improved financial resources or better classrooms; they need the same unassailable support and deep interpersonal bonds that we all need. Thread builds these bonds for students, volunteers and collaborators.”

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[1] Brooks, The Future of American Politics, N.Y. Times (Jan. 30, 2020). 

[2] Thread, Our Core CompetenciesThread, Our Philosophy

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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