The Transpartisan Effect
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
RETHINKING THE ELECTION: TWO MAPS
On Day 99 of his term in office, President Trump underscored his view of the election by sharing with reporters a map from Reuters illustrating his electoral win (recreated below).
Trump loves this map. It presents his personal subjective political reality, which happens also to be the formal, legal reality. It appears to give Trump all the political power. Nevertheless, it also presents a very narrow picture of the election.
The map above shows what the 2016 US Presidential Election results would have been if votes not cast for Clinton, Trump or one of the third party candidates had gone to a fictional candidate, ‘Did Not Vote’. Brilliant Maps, author of this map, points out that ‘as a percentage of eligible voters, Clinton received 28.43% (65,845,063) of all votes, compared to Trump’s 27.20% (62,980,160), and to Did Not Vote’s 44.37% (102,731,399).’
The first map shows formal, constitutional power. The second map presents a broader and more accurate picture of the real support that Trump received — compared to the overall constituency he must serve and lead. The second map highlights the daunting task he faces trying to govern. Obama faced a similar reality, and if Clinton had won the last election, she would have faced it too. In today’s world, our formal electoral system gives the elected President support of between 25 and 30% of ‘the people’.
Trump’s love of the first map blinds him to a larger view of his limited ‘base,’ which represents a narrow support group compared to the much larger constituency he must represent, be supported by, and lead as President.
The second map highlights forces that do not fall neatly onto the left-right spectrum but greatly influence the political opportunities of any political leader whether they understand them or not. We call these forces transpartisan. Underestimating or ignoring them leads to vast misunderstanding of political reality and to the kind of political turmoil we are experiencing.
Our political system, representing small minorities, is electing Presidents to the White House while large majorities of citizens withhold their allegiance from formal political processes and parties. They passively acquiesce and accept the outcomes without enthusiasm. At the same time, billions of people globally, including hundreds of millions of Americans, are enthusiastically embracing the new tools of information dissemination and economic efficiency — social media, internet, shopping, sharing, dating, traveling, virtually every aspect of daily life — created by technology entrepreneurs, engineers, and marketers.
We believe that confining political discourse to the narrow left-right spectrum and a small minority of voting age-eligible citizens is promoting widespread political lethargy and alienation. Information tools transcend left/right ideology, while the political tools enforce it. Individuals increasingly answer the question ‘Are you on the left or on the right?’ with a single word — ‘No’. To successfully fulfill its role of representing our whole people, the system needs to expand both our discourse and our institutions. It needs to start creating a system that genuinely responds to the needs of increasingly individuated people by empowering them to play active roles in meeting public challenges.
Public alienation especially from the two major parties is very real. It is time to start understanding why people are so turned off. A good place to start might be to understand that peoples’ identity is not tied to either the left or the right.
Forces shaping the world are sending strong signals demanding significant institutional and policy reforms. Elected officials need to engage with citizens in very public forums on multiple issues, especially including opportunities for involvement.
We have suggested tools to align politics with people. In this age of increasingly individuated people, we need new, empowering institutions and policies. It will be interesting to see which political leaders emerge to align their leadership agenda with the public’s emerging interests and demands. The American nation stands on the brink of realizing fantastic new possibilities. Aligning its politics with its people offers an exciting opportunity to realize the promise of these possibilities.
The nation moves forward while it waits to see who will lead the way.
The above excerpts are a small part of a 30-page article which provides a thoughtful examination of the state of our political system and the transpartisan nature of the elements that can provide solutions to the effects of partisan politics. Read the entire article here: www.transpartisanreview.org/TTRSR_Transpartisan_Effect.pdf