BY A. LAWRENCE CHICKERING AND JAMES S. TURNER
The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) held its seventh biannual national conference on October 14-16 in Boston. Many major figures in the dialogue and transpartisan movements were there, led by Sandy Heierbacher, NCDD co- founder and long-time head.
We attended for The Transpartisan Review. Many people expressed interest, and we came away with many ideas to address and people to work with.
Among many extraordinary individuals we met, one was John Hardin, of the Charles Koch Foundation, who cheerfully expressed astonishment at how Charles Koch, whose passion is freedom, has become such a toxic brand. Underscoring the reach of the transpartisan imperative, Mr. Hardin pointed out that Mr. Koch, vilified by many progressives, supported gay rights, racial reconciliation, legalization of drugs, criminal justice reform and reducing sentences for victimless crimes. He also warns against interventionist foreign policies without serious caution. It seems that people need not agree on everything to make common cause on many things. (At TTR, we look forward to providing a forum for discovering how institutional structures, based in freedom, can attract transpartisan support in areas still to be discovered.)
We reflected on the difference between the ‘dialogue’ positions of most people and our Four-Quadrant Transpartisan positions. The Four-Quadrant position recognizes at least six different ‘dialogue’ positions on virtually every political issue. We came away believing that greater effort should be made to recruit conservatives, both freedom and order, to events like this by showing them the importance of personal and spiritual engagement as key to promoting understanding between people who are ‘different’. (See Note #16.)
Race provides a good example, which was on the minds of many people. Most focused on dialogues looking back rather than institutional reforms looking forward. Some people acknowledged that while dialogue looking back could reduce past pain, it would have limited value for the future without more.
Looking forward, institutional and leadership reform can play a crucial role in promoting personal engagement that allows people to engage each other as individuals rather than see them, at a distance, as a group without real engagement—therefore, as ‘other’. Civil society organizations, which are all but invisible in the current debate, need to play an important role in this.
The key to reducing fear around ‘differences’ is personal contact, demystifying others and experiencing them as human.