You're hearing it everywhere these days. Political commentators across the board are saying that
Thanks in large part to that polarization, our political system is sick, dysfunctional, and driving people away. Fully half the electorate doesn't even bother to vote. Candidates for public office are even trained in techniques to suppress turnout among undecided voters -- some obvious, like running negative attack ads; others beyond the pale, like dressing up volunteers as police officers and parking them outside polling places in poor neighborhoods to intimidate minority voters. Problems facing the country are mounting, from decaying schools to global terror, yet the warring camps in charge keep bickering over whose silent majority is bigger. It's as if the parents are standing on the shore fighting over which way to row the boat while the kids are drowning in the middle of the lake.
Yet there are real signs of hope. More and more people fed up with partisan gridlock are not responding with cynicism and inaction; rather, they're rolling up their sleeves and coming together across ideological lines, building unlikely coalitions and moving toward solutions to seemingly intractable problems that don't easily fit the tired old left-right paradigm -- like the global AIDS crisis, energy independence, education, poverty, middle-class decline, campaign finance, globalization, the burgeoning prison population, and climate change. This "radical middle" is not about cynical, poll-driven attempts to find the mushy political center. It's about people who have stepped outside old ideological boxes to fight boldly for the common good.
Here is a look at a few of the remarkable thinkers and doers who are shaping this new radical-middle politics. Some of them focus on policy, proposing new solutions that a majority of Americans could get behind and advocating these measures in the marketplace of ideas via newsletters, reports, books and magazine articles, talk shows, and lobbying. Others focus on process, designing new ways of doing democracy that heal the wounds of political division in the body politic and tap into our collective wisdom by bringing many voices into dialogue. Still others are going outside the political process altogether, creating innovative projects that involve citizens directly in creating solutions. The common thread uniting all of these people is a belief that our political system is seriously flawed and that the answers lie beyond blind adherence to old orthodoxies.
"What if I could prove to you somehow that school vouchers were the best approach to giving every kid in
In late 2002 Kramer founded a group called Growth and Justice (www.growthandjustice.org) -- part of a wave of new local and regional progressive think tanks across the
Growth and Justice has received praise from nearly every quarter. But, ironically, as in many states, partisan bickering over gay marriage and other issues brought this year's
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