In a recent manic blog, I wrote about this moment being bigger than Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and I would like to expand on it with a focus on Unity. It is the word being thrown around right now, and will likely be a theme for the coming months.
We have in front of us two very powerful pools of energy. One is the Democratic establishment, currently rallied around Secretary Clinton with its established structure, ideology, assets and challenges. The other is the progressive "Political Revolution," currently rallied around Senator Sanders, Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street/99% and other grassroot efforts to address inequalities and sustainability with all of its youthful vigor, historical roots in civil rights movements and its assets and challenges.
Whether we agree on all of the various virtues or challenges of one or the other of these pools, they are responsible for the majority of advances in progressive or liberal ideas and actions for the last several decades, at both national and grassroot levels. More importantly are the advances to come as our society decides whether it will continue to move towards a higher human consciousness and expression of unity and harmony with our fellow humankind and the Earth we are connected to.
Currently, the tone from the Democratic establishment is Sanders should quit and get in line or "Unite" as soon as possible. The tone from the Sanders camp is that true Unity is a two way street. I believe both are correct and the coming months will unfold around how big we can all think. What does Unity look like for progressives and liberals?
That said, I do believe that it is an important time for these two pools in our liberal ecosystem to come to terms with the fact that Unity might very well be about exploring the virtues of both pools as separate ecosystems. At the same time, it would be necessary to understand how they are connected, and how they serve the larger landscape of efforts to address the challenges we have before us. Letting the natural flow between the two define what Unity in purpose and function look like, rather than digging furiously in a few months to make the two pools one greater one, might be a better approach. Here is why.
There is a growing momentum to shift the overall political and economic system towards one that accounts for the health and happiness of all living systems. This can be seen everywhere. I see it on a daily basis working with large corporations which are coming to terms with decades of valuing quarterly earnings over life and living systems. For example, the world’s largest consulting and accounting firms like Deloitte or PWC have begun to shift how they calculate risk and reward over the last few decades. Here is an interesting interview with Harvard Business School's Robert G. Eccles talking about the role accounting has to play in this shift. They have moved from single bottom lines of currency-based accounting to ones that account for natural resources and social impact more and more each year. Another example is that current trends (see here Bersin by Deloitte Predictions for 2016) amongst the largest corporations on our planet suggest that values and culture and having a bigger and more responsible "Why?" behind their organizations are critical to growing a vibrant, long-lasting expressions of themselves.
We see it also in our political scene in the US - a move from the generic "Hope" that rallied youthful and progressive voters behind President Obama has moved in behind the more specific movements that address inequalities in systems that are stuck in models no longer working for enough of us. As this movement has gotten more specific over the last few years, it has grown in strength. Whatever the Democratic nomination ends up being on the convention floor, an agenda has gotten very specific on a number of important levels, and likely will continue to get more specific in the way it inserts this agenda within the larger party - shaping the Democratic Convention, its platform, its VP pick, etc.
The Democratic establishment, which Secretary Clinton now stands atop, is an essential part of advancing progressive ideas, as well. Now there are many of us who would bemoan and abhor the ties that establishment politics have to Wall Street and special interest groups, but the flip side is that they do have influence, as well as being influenced by this established system. This influence and the relationships and interdependencies that exist not only serve to protect advances liberals have made, but can also be powerful connections to use in pushing for more and better advances.
Imagine you are President Hillary Clinton trying to tell Wall Street that it is time for both of them to change. It would, in many ways, be the same old discussion and would default to defending the status quo with some modest advances that fit the economic and political circumstances of the day. Now imagine President Clinton, with the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the room. This discussion would include at the table the many representatives from the various parts of the progressive movements and - more importantly - those of us standing outside the window, in mass, being a constant beating drum of a will to change.
But the voices in the room and out of the room must be strong, and they must play to their strong suits while holding one another accountable for an aggressive, yet accomplishable vision of change. They can not be awash in one another and dulled or compromised to the point that their power is diminished. These two pools of energy and people and connections have to keep their identities in order to remain resilient, while at the same time push the larger solutions forward.
This moment is about calling out that we are becoming a part of a larger ecosystem, not one microcosm. Unity is about drawing the circle around more of us, not forcing some of us out of one circle and into another.
The coming months will provide countless ways for these two pools to draw the circle as large as possible and explore the offerings of both. I would caution against supporting this to happen faster just because we are afraid of what a Trump presidency will look like. Trump is a symptom of Republican party that is losing their identity and fracturing - they have their own game to play. Ours is ours, and the best way we can play it is to play it with goodness, truth and beauty.
Unity is a two way street and it must happen as soon as it can. This can happen when both groups define the needs of the other, and explore how they can be connected to serve the common needs of both. Expanding human rights, addressing the challenges of the natural world we are a part of... dealing with hunger, disease and poverty at home and abroad, while at the same time protecting ourselves from the most outraged citizens of the planet, and backlash from the planet itself for past ignorances. All of these will require a more united human effort. This party has a chance to be a growing part of forward thinking nations who are doing a better job of being inspired by the challenges at hand.
Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe
At the bottom of my emails I have a quote from John Muir, "Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe." We are at a point where it is necessary to operationalize this poetic truism, and to do so we need people in the room and outside of it to work towards that end. I, for one, not only believe it is critical, but that it can be done.
Last night there were two Democratic speeches. Hillary said, "If we stand together, we will rise together because we are stronger together." Bernie said, "We are all in this together". Both of them were clearly drawing the circle around as many of us as possible, and neither of them indicated that we are all the same.
Let our Unity exist in togetherness. Not in sameness, and not in fear, but in strength, compassion, commitment and - dare I suggest - love, which has been called the greatest of all virtues and gifts.