Revisiting The Transpartisan Matrix
Transpartisan Note #42
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
The Four-Quadrant Transpartisan Matrix distinguishes the values of freedom (self-expression) and order (tradition for the right, justice for the left) that are important for both conservatives and progressives. We believe the “four-quadrant” format more completely represents what most people value than the simple left-right spectrum now used to describe our politics.
Although the “political debate” tends to emphasize one or two of the quadrants—order-left, freedom-left, order-right, and freedom-right—more than others, all quadrants matter and contain part of “the truth.” Much of our political dysfunction (we believe)—the failed policies, paralyzing conflict, many voters opting out, and two-term presidencies rarely accomplishing succession—occurs because neither party represents an effective combination of values (especially freedom and order) of most voters.
TTR explores, both in theory and in practice, real experiences, showing how four-quadrant programs, featuring all quadrants, both bring people together and solve problems.
Our current political system focuses almost exclusively on governments as the dominant instruments of justice, with citizens having little or no role in school reform or reducing ethnic and racial conflict or foreign policy or any other public policy. Motivated by this weak concept of citizenship, two sides focus on electing “their people” to office to pursue or impose the “correct” (narrow, often single quadrant) policies.
Governments alone cannot effect four-quadrant engagement. Citizens too must be engaged. From our perspective we believe the intensely committed Trump supporters and resisters and the large number of individual citizens dissatisfied with the choices in the last election, including the ninety million non-voters, and the social activists from all sides, demonstrate the existence of a core group of citizens working to broaden our political framework. We offer the four quadrant approach as one way to understand and relate to current political activity.
A new, reformed — we would say expanded — politics will depend on a strong concept of citizenship, promoting citizen engagement that integrates the essence of left and right: for example serving the disadvantaged (order-left) in civic engagement with people “close-by” (order right) in institutions promoting free, voluntary commitment (recognizing that you can’t force people to be human — freedom-left and right).
This vision requires a strong role for civil society and civil society organizations structured to engage people across apparent differences and overlooked similarities in shaping change. Bussing people far from home to internally-segregated schools failed to accomplish school integration. At best such objective integration accomplishes little, if anything. Real integration depends on internal, subjective engagement. As an example, school reform fails when bureaucratic mandates command obedience from depressed teachers, who pass their depression on to their students. School reform happens when full stakeholder ownership of schools brings empowered parents, teachers, and kids together to make schools as good as they can be.
Shared ownership of public spaces is a key to the subjective change that is at the heart of the transpartisan vision. It is the key to four-quadrant, transpartisan programs such as Delancey Street drug rehabilitation center (San Francisco), the All-Stars leadership program (New York City), and the UNICEF Girls Community Schools (Upper Egypt, a thriving hope in the epicenter of Islamic terrorism in Egypt).
Empowered ownership of public spaces drives the transpartisan vision. We offer the Transpartisan Matrix as a way to understand empowered ownership within the pandemonium of our current political milieu.