“It always seems impossible, until it’s done…”
Creative politics. Today it seems like an oxymoron if ever there was one, but it was not always so. For most of our history, America was the leading force in the world for innovation in government policy and political strategy, much as we still are in business, science, and the arts. The world’s first country founded on an idea, our decentralized system created ‘laboratories for democracy’ at every level of government. A steady stream of immigrants from all over the world ensured constant creative ferment. Our culture was ahistorical, always looking forward, with optimism, rather than getting stuck in the past.
We often hear a longing that government run more like a business, typically as antidote to the grotesque waste of tax dollars to little or no purpose. What’s often overlooked is that this carnage begins at the formative stages of government, not just when bureaucrats try to decipher and execute the 2,000-page plans we hand to them; indeed, it’s at the initial stages of policy that the sheer magnitude of prospective effluent is largely determined. The lunch meat-making legislative process is also where it’s clearest how superficial government’s understanding of how businesses actually work is.
Picture a business that has a serious, life-threatening problem to solve. If this business ran like our government, every new idea proposed would be shot down because it wasn’t fully-formed, let alone perfect (modern businesses, by contrast, believe policies and plans need to be highly iterative and adaptive), or because it didn’t exactly fit the agenda of all the decision-makers, or because some of the people in the war room had a problem with the person who proposed the solution, or because leaving things as they are, while potentially fatal to the company, benefits outside interests who have threatened or paid off one or more of its executives. Sticking to the original plan, irrespective of facts on the ground, would be considered a sign of high moral character; reacting to market forces would be ‘flip-flopping.’ Instead of acting boldly to solve the problem, such a company would limit itself to timid half-steps that produce nothing but a clichéed, pathological form of consensus.
Winning enterprises don’t compromise, they synthesize.
To be fair to the government, we’ve all seen companies that are almost indistinguishable from inhabitants of the Beltway ecosystem–many of them, in fact. The differences between government and business have always been exaggerated, and big businesses, in particular, can routinely deliver the worst of both worlds–all the malicious in-fighting, ‘office politics,’ and inefficiency of a government, in service of goals antithetical to the life, liberty, and happiness of the society that’s provided them food and shelter. This is why just outsourcing government work to private contractors has routinely resulted in even more waste, fraud, and abuse. But one thing inevitably happens to so-called companies like this in real life, though it often takes longer than we we’d like (thanks, in large part, to their adept use of government to prop themselves up). They ossify, lose share, and, sooner than later, go out of business.
Or their board of directors, backed by the shareholders, brings in a ‘turnaround artist’ to try and save them.
We believe that our most recent presidential election was a vote by the shareholders of our nation to effect a turnaround. Doesn’t matter what we think of the ‘artist’ chosen to lead (many are terrible–see ‘Chainsaw Al,’ for example); doesn’t matter whether the establishment candidate got more votes, especially when a clear majority voted for someone more extreme, and when even many of her supporters would have preferred to (see Sanders, B, who was leading Trump by 19 points when the Democratic primaries ended). Doesn’t matter if the candidate chosen has proceeded to flame out. We believe the American voter, when we look closely, is not angry about what government is doing, but at what government has not been doing, for decades, confirmed by the election just completed, which included a record-breaking repudiation of the party in power.
This does not mean they (or we) want more or bigger government–getting bigger has never been the solution for any business in crisis. But in the face of overwhelming challenges that will require the efforts and engagement of every American in Whoville, we believe our fellow citizens want a government that finally thinks outside of the box again, that gets beyond the phony ‘art of the possible’ imposed on it by the establishment ‘think tanks’ of the right and left. We believe that the people are tired of 50%+1 win-at-all-costs, winner-take-all elections that just raise money for WWE/WWF political parties, sending us careening back and forth, back and forth like a rocking chair, going nowhere. When push comes to shove, we believe most of our fellow citizens today belong to the radical center. And that the current state of affairs is making clear to all citizens that push has come to shove, that the government is us now. We need to push parties and personalities to the side–they’re distractions–and talk about problems and solutions. We can talk to each other if we do that; we can find, with a little creativity, a little give-and-take, surprisingly vast swaths of common ground; we can become the United States again. Promise.
To this end, Creative Politics will be a blog community of policy ideas, strategies, and action (projects, campaigns, and more), leveraging decades of award-winning new media and online community-building experience and expertise, drawn from all persuasions, highlighting the best in America, woven together by dialogue. It will be radical in the best, truest sense, exploring ideas that are conspicuously unsupported by ‘evidence’ as it’s conventionally defined–there will be virtually no links included to prove that any idea is right or that it works, because an idea that can really be supported in that way is, by definition, not particularly creative or outside the box (and frankly, the concept of ‘evidence’ is going to need some time in rehab after Decision 2016, not to mention what has followed). In fact, the more objections our savviest friends and supporters raise to an idea we float, the more sure we’ll be that it deserves to be explored and discussed; ideas both liberals and conservatives hate, until they think about them, ideas that transcend us up off that rocking chair. But no hot takes here. We do cool takes only–take 1, take 2, take 3, take n–until they pass the test of time. The magic of the medium is not speed–it’s iteration.
We’re also going to be placing an outsized emphasis on 21st century ideas, capitalizing on and socializing the vast new opportunities for engagement and participation that technology, and its terrible twin, globalization, afford us. Often we’ll take advantage of the medium to write broad brush strokes first, fill in and link to the details later; writers will regularly be adding to, borrowing, linking to and from each other’s pieces, like the building of a vast virtual, very human Gaudian cathedral, guided by a quintessentially American political north star and national forces of nature. And we won’t stint on entertainment, amusing ourselves to life, restoring the joy that ‘once was’ to politics. In short, think of us as George meets the Bipartisan Policy Center meets America Online when AOL was the creative hub of the new media universe, if George had a sustainable business model for the times, and if the BPC didn’t have such a narrow conception of what can be done.
To further ensure we’re engaged in more than just a vanity exercise, we’ll be particularly focused on ideas that, while national in intent, can be executed, tested, and refined at the state and local levels, which are still the potentially powerful ‘policy labs’ they’ve always been, as organizations like ALEC have proven. Every post will contain potential concrete strategies for getting the featured idea its fair due in the political mainstream, and we’ll be voting every quarter on the best new policy idea to pursue seriously as a group, fleshing it out, developing a plan to get it in front of decision-makers, creating supporting materials and resources, pulling together a veritable army of supporters, and more. You don’t have time, you say? Here’s how we look at it: your government–federal, state, and local–is taking 30-40% of everything you earn, every year: don’t you owe it to yourself to spend more than a few hours during campaign season making sure that much of your blood, sweat, and hopefully not tears is being rightly deployed? 🙂
Do you have a political idea you’d like to write about? Contact us here, create a pen name so you can speak as freely as the founders, and become a vcard-carrying member of the politics 2.0 community (in politics, we’re a long way from 3.0). Whether you’re liberal or conservative, a writing pro or a neophyte, we will work with you to make and present your proposed innovations as strong and compelling as possible, with great art, imagery, and even paraphernalia to go with them. Want to write, but don’t know yet about what? Check out our supply of political magic mushrooms for inspiration–we’re at least as much about creative as we are about politics.
Finally, please comment, early and often, on the posts–we want each to be a living document, collectively a 21st century Federalist Papers (aim high, dream big!), created and developed in true 21st century style, which means collectively and iteratively written, collaboratively curated, well-leavened with taut drama and funhouse humor; we will be looking to address and incorporate all the ideas and thoughts we receive from the CP fellowship. Thanks in advance!
There’s an old saying in politics that if something “looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.” But that’s not why the Harlequin Duck is the symbol for our blog, for creativity in politics. It’s because: