I have spent my entire professional life trying to help people bring peace to arguably the world’s most dangerous place: the Middle East. The central challenge is getting people to look ahead and see future possibilities — to the futures of their children and grandchildren — and escape the tragedies of the past. The key to success is creating trust among people in conflict, people unconnected in normal life. The lesson from the Middle East is clear: there can be no peace without trust and no trust without peace and both trust and peace require personal subjective contact among individual people of strong competing loyalties.
The key to trust is doing things together. It is engaging people in common purposes. When people come together in real engagement, their conflicts and differences start to melt away — sometimes very quickly.
The Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life applies these lessons to America’s troubled political system. The authors address the acute conflict in American politics and the widespread alienation that Americans feel from their political system. They advocate expanding the vision of “public” beyond government to people. They argue for a new kind of politics, one that brings people together and encourages citizens to play a greatly increased role in public spaces. It would be a politics based on human engagement and trust, both at high policy levels and in communities across the country.
The authors propose solutions based on real examples of “transpartisan” success, in which citizens have organized and partnered with governments to solve problems ranging from public school reform, to racial tension, to major issues of national security and foreign policy.
They advocate a strong, empowered concept of citizenship, which encourages us to think in new ways about many public issues. Powerful examples exisit of their vision in action, and empowering citizens to form strong citizen organizations to play this new transpartisan role should greatly reduce alienation and increase support for the U.S. political system and its leaders.
The authors cite examples of successful transpartisan action from all parts of the world — educational reform in India, prison reform in California, healthcare initiatives in Denmark, and social entrepreneurship in South Africa, among many other examples. These successes need to be exposed to the world, talked about, and adapted to fit the needs of all the world’s peoples facing similar challenges. We can often agree on the results we want; but we need to learn from one another how to achieve them. We can truly build upon each other’s progress.
This is the promise of the transpartisan way. It is time the Voice of the People be heard.
STEPHEN P. COHEN
Teaneck, New Jersey
Please read Transpartisan Note #38 dedicated to Stephen P. Cohen. Then check out Remembering a Transpartisan Pioneer to learn more about how Stephen’s wisdom and presence impacted the book’s authors life and work. Learn more about The Voice of the People: The Transpartisan Imperative in American Life on our Transpartisan Voice page.