“Overcoming Political and Media Manipulation Together” with Bill Shireman
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- Bill tells us about the importance of the 5% that will switch their political party to choose politicians that will solve problems
- Discover how polar opposites can come together to agree on how to address an issue.
- Learn how the media intensely manipulates how we see each other.
- Rediscover the environmental wisdom of indigenous cultures.
- Find out how pro-life and pro-choice people aren’t as divided as they think.
- Uncover how our political system has been gamed to keep us divide
- Duncan and Bill talk about the power of deliberative democracy.
- If you’re a problem solver, Bill has great advice for you.
Click here to download the transcript
Duncan Autrey: Bill. I’m so glad to be talking to you again, welcome to the Omni win project.
Bill Shireman: Thank you. it’s a pleasure and an honor to be with you, Duncan.
Duncan Autrey: Yeah, it’s great. And as I was mentioning to you our last conversation was wrapped up the fractal friends was really a profound conversation for me and it’s shifted my way of thinking. And, and I wanted to maybe just start with just a little bit of a summary of some of the stuff that came out of that for me, that I think about a lot.
And see if, it resonates with you and then what else might you add into the mix? So here’s some highlights from our last conversation. One, in our world, we have about 70% of the population are problem solvers, this kind of quiet silence, majority that’s in the middle and cares more about solving problems than whatever their side is on the political fence And 30% of the population, more or less equally divided between left and right are the warriors. And they’re ready to go and fight for their cause no matter what, and our attention in the media industry and the political industrial complex is to give attention to the ones on the extremes because it’s better ratings.
It’s better for lobbyists. It’s better for politicians. It’s better for campaigns. Everyone’s gonna make more money and totally happy to have anti-government pro-business over here and pro-business anti-government over here. And both business and government are happy to keep getting funding from that.
The thing we’re missing is the fact that the citizens are actually the ones in charge. We’re the ones who give the businesses money. We’re the one who give politicians votes So they’re us, but we don’t recognize that. And, then something about this problem solving center, there’s something that was really insightful for me from our last conversation was that the left and the right not only have Complimentary ideologies or perspectives in the sense that they’re noticing different aspects of the question of politics, but specifically the environment. But they also have complimentary skillsets in the sense that one side’s really good about the business end and the other one’s really good about the ecological preservation side and that they have complimentary skills and that these need to kind of somehow figure out how to come together. And and so we spoke right in between actually that right after the election in 2020, and before we knew who was gonna be the next president. And and your book, In This Together, had recently come out and you have since really been really working on trying to get this problem solving majority to move forward.
So I’m curious how’s that going? How is that, lifting up that silence majority and, and what’s unfolded for you in the last year and a half or so?
Bill Shireman: Yes. Well, we’ve been engaging the public in in communications. About just that, as you said very well about 70% of the population is in this pragmatic middle that is more concerned about actually getting problems solved than ideological purity. As you find on the far left and the far right, but that majority is not spoken to by our media.
If you’re in the red tent, the red echo chamber, as they say, you’re gonna hear a minority opinion. And the minority opinion you’re gonna hear is interestingly enough, the left extreme minority opinion because it scares the hell out of folks on the right, whether they’re extreme right or moderate, right.
When they hear that there’s a population of socialists that are bent on destroying capitalism and America, as it’s always been and imposing their authoritarian views about how we should live our lives, they unify. And if you’re in the blue tent on the left, you’re hearing the 15%, most extreme on the right Who are talking about Texas seceding from the union who are talking about that it’s completely legitimate for them to March on and take over the capital and stop a presidential election vote. And we’re hearing that, and we’re frightened to death of that other side. And yet 70% of us, if we just spoke with each other can find solutions to the issues that divide us and are nowhere near our extremists.
So we tested that in several different ways. We tested it with what we called America in one room. This was a process that was carried out by Stanford university and the university of Chicago with funding from some of our folks and from Helena foundation and others. What what Stanford and university of Chicago did was they brought together 962 Americans to talk about energy and. climate They surveyed all 962. This was a representative sampling of the country. Everybody was represented and they surveyed them on energy and climate issues. Then they engaged everybody in discussions, 10 or 12 hours of discussions. Most of it was small groups divided them into groups of about 10. So, and then they would come together for large group discussions and to hear from experts and to read research materials and so on.
So it was almost like. A trial where you had a hundred juries of 10 people each, and they all looked at the same evidence and they all heard a set of, broad facts. And what we saw happen in that process, a thousand almost representative Americans, is that the right? And the left, the red and blue Americans.
Both started out at partisan positions, talking points that they had been taught on their media around those issues. And they both moved to fact-based positions. So by the end of this discussion, you had these Americans really agreeing for the most part on the facts of energy and climate change and 70% plus agreeing on, solutions.
What do we agree? on Well, we agree on lots of clean energy. choices That doesn’t conform with the left’s notion that we need to be 100 solar and wind all renewable, all electric by 2030. And it also doesn’t go along with the extreme right’s prescription that we shouldn’t care about climate at all.
That it’s not a real concern. It’s not a significant issue. It’s not human-caused or if it is, it’s not a big deal. They came together and they said, we like solar. We love solar. We love wind. We also want carbon capture and sequestration. We wanna capture the carbon that’s out there. We don’t think you can just ban fossil fuels of all kinds.
Immediately. We support nuclear power. We support investigation of hi of hydrogen. And we like digital power that is radical radical efficiency. In what we produce. So they support that they also support conservation. And this is a really interesting area, right. And left love life. You talk about the the pro-life community being on the right and pro-choice on the left, but it’s, those are not contradictory.
The environmental movement is a pro-life movement and on both the right and the. left People are extremely concerned that our oceans are dying. Our forests are dying. Our land is our diversity is dying. Species are going away and it doesn’t matter if you’re a hunter who has that primal impulse to hunt for the the game that we use to sustain us.
Or if you are a vegan who is fully opposed to use of animals in any kind of human nutrition both of those folks. Cherish nature and they wanna protect. And then the third thing that we wanna do is to actually be kind and and caring toward each other. And that is to use incentives, to help marginalized communities and impacted communities that is people who have been historically harmed by let’s say, coal mining or the fossil fuel economy, as well as those who are in.
Communities that are dominated by a technology that’s being equipped. So people wanna be generous and helpful to other people to make the transition easier. So we agree 70, 80% sometimes more agree in those areas. So that’s what deliberative democracy that is real democracy produces. What we see instead though, is mob democracy where.
Each side, hears only the worst of the other side and is so frightened that they’re not engaging with their frontal lobes here, their conscious brains, they’re triggered by their back brains, by their limbic system. They’re triggered to be in battle with one another. And and, that’s how you make a democracy fail.
And it’s how you take over if you’re a political industry that wants to capture the public’s money and. power And that’s what
Duncan Autrey: Yeah, thank you for the unpacking that like that contrast, you know, and it’s interesting that yesterday was a. Birthday of our democracy, the oldest one on the planet. And, at the time there’s our Republican
Republic where we’re having representatives made a lot of sense, but I, but as we’re getting more and more savvy as humans and people wanna be engaged and they wanna be involved.
And, so that opportunity to participate is so important. And I love the work that the center for deliberative democracy is doing and, so forth at, over at Stanford and the America in one room. And, yeah. And so I’m just gonna lift up just that some of the things that may make that kind of process work is that deliberation.
So it’s Everyone looking at the same information, everyone deciding what questions do we have? Let’s go get the more information. And so really taking the time to look at the materials and then there’s that participatory aspect where people are starting to talk to each other and ask questions.
And I love just that observation that eventually we don’t necessarily come to like total consensus, but at least there’s agreement on these like very important principles, which otherwise seem almost inaccessible.
I’m curious if you have thoughts about deliberative processes and deliberative democracy or participatory democracy is like a huge part of what I’m paying attention to in this Omni win project.
And I’m curious if you have any thoughts about. What might it take to get politicians, to actually pay attention to some of these outcomes of these deliberative processes? Yeah.
Bill Shireman: I think what it’s going to take is a uh, is a determination by individuals enough individuals, three and half to 5% of us. Let’s just say 5% of us one out of 20 of us. Make the personal decision that we are gonna step up in our democracy, even though we may not be extremists on one side or the other, even though we’re not exactly sure what the solutions are, because we have to think about them that.
Folks who are going to their yoga class and folks that are going to church and folks that are taking their kids to school and folks that are in the girl Scouts and the boy Scouts and, rotary clubs and just regular people whether they are, progressive left flavored or conservative middle America flavored regular people, deciding that, Hey, we are our democracy.
And if we can, I would say when we have 5% of us, about 5 million American voters, step forward to be the problem solvers and to engage in these processes, we will take political power. From the political industry that right now controls our 4.5 trillion in spending every year by dividing the left and the right against each other. that’s that’s all we need. And it comes down to individuals making that decision. And for people to make that decision, we have to begin to realize that we are not the only reasonable ones out there, even though it seems like it that there is actually most of us. Are pretty reasonable. We just need the opportunity to talk to each other.
Duncan Autrey: Oh, wow. So I’m just gonna quickly name the, like the reason why, because I remember from our last conversation that like the reason this 5% is interesting is because. Everything’s in such a razor thin margin in our democracy. These days, that whatever, if that group of 5% is willing to say, you know what, I’m going over here because this person actually wants to solve problems.
Or if we’re going over here, cause this person wants to solve problems, that’ll create the incentive to solve the for, the politicians to solve the problems. Because if you can get that kind of swing vote in a way then yeah.
Bill Shireman: And it has to happen. The here’s mathematically the, deal is the political system has been has been gamed to the advantage of the two dominant political parties. Now, when you have folks from the know, the Trump community saying the election was stolen the ballots were ripped off and so on.
There is some insanity there, and then there’s some great sanity there as well. There’s a the elections really are rigged and most elections are stolen in the sense. That for two primary reasons, districts are gerrymandered that is the district lines are drawn to the advantage of the ruling party.
And so because those districts are drawn to keep the most powerful party in charge voters don’t really have a legitimate choice in the general election. In most elections, they are going to elect. One party or the other. And we know which one in each district and closed primaries mean that the candidates are chosen by those of us who, have not become so disgusted that we’ve quit our party.
It’s chosen by those of us who are extreme enough to say. Yeah. And, I’m a member of a political party. So I, choose to join because I think we need reasonable people in both parties but, the Republican party is dominated by the extreme voices in the party. The democratic party is not quite as dominated, but close to it.
By the most extreme in the party. And so the candidates that win nomination have to appeal to those extremists, which means you have a Republican party and a democratic party at the national level that take positions that are only shared by 12 to 20% of the public, but it happens to be their base
Duncan Autrey: Right.
Bill Shireman: and that and, that’s completely undemocratic.
Duncan Autrey: Oh man. Yeah, this is, I feel like a coming to mind, just like all the different kind of reforms. I know Andrew Yang has come up with some really great kind of reforms around this kind of how we change our primaries. Yeah, exactly. Somehow, if we could get the politicians to shift from playing to their base, to playing to the, that, that little swing group in the middle the, problem solvers would be really amazing.
And so okay, I’m gonna follow the thread, but there’s like another piece that kind of came up with me. So, but that. So there’s a way that folks need to get organized, to know that they’re doing that in a way. And so I know that like you have all sorts of like pledges we have the declaration of interdependence and I, climate unity pledge and various things. There’s different ways to. I guess, what would it look like to sort of get that block to be named or known
Bill Shireman: Yeah,
Duncan Autrey: the, yeah.
Bill Shireman: it’s that’s to some degree, that’s the great question. That’s the $4.5 trillion question. And what we know is that in a few states and districts a few districts within a few states elections really are competi. And so that’s why you have folks going around the country to the 15 states that are purple states that that have some
close elections and to the districts that have not been successfully gerrymandered.
If we focus our attentions on gathering voters in those districts where races are decided by that half percent, 1% sometimes 2%. And if our voters, if the problem solving common sense, pragmatic voters in that broad 70% center are the ones that are making the decision. Then as you say, the politicians have to speak to us and not to the extremes in their party.
So that’s fundamentally what we need to do. I believe that once people understand that the majority will has truly been taken away and that the majority is not as crazy as they look in the media, that the majority. When we talk actually makes common sense, makes good decisions on almost all these issues.
Then the people will be aghast at that and they’ll say, well, yes, of course we want our democracy. We’re looking at our country where it seems like democracy is failing, but what in fact has happened is that the democracy’s been taken away and that’s why we’re failing. We’re living a system that’s controlled by a system.
A marketplace that no one is in charge of everybody in the system ultimately then panders the dollars that are driven by fear, anger and hate.
Duncan Autrey: Right. And all as the incentives are pointing to keeping everyone divided and and so forth. So there’s another part that you said in this last, they, I. The there’s a for these individuals to say, okay, I actually wanna be part of this problem solving. I’m gonna actually gonna put my vote on the line.
I’m gonna vote for a different party because that person actually looks like they’re gonna try to solve the problem. And and you said part of that is the acceptance that you might not have all the answers. And there’s something about when actually in this, in the Omni win project, I sort of am thinking about four different fields.
There’s like the actual. Processes and skill sets that we can have to communicate across our differences, like the deliberative, polling and deliberative processes. We have great communication tools. Then there’s also like systemic changes. Right? So some of these you’re talking about with the primaries and, I feel like represent us is doing like a lot of good stuff around there.
And, but just how do we change. System, if we could change the primaries and things could change, or we could build participatory democracy into the process. And then there’s the philosophical kind of corner people who have like the frameworks for understanding what cross partisan worldwide look like.
But then there’s the personal work. And for me, I think this is a part where we get stuck a lot because it’s individually to accept one. I don’t have all the answers and two. And this kind of gets us into some of the systems topic a bit is
This is a complex system. The actual solutions to these things are gonna be a lot more blurry and nuanced and detailed.
And there aren’t, they’re just totally. Don’t lend themselves to certainty and we actually don’t live in certainty, but
selling certainty is an easy sell, right?
Do this. We’re gonna stop. If you
do this, it’s gonna happen, but saying, Hey, you know what, we’re gonna have to actually just keep on having nuanced deliberative conversations about this for forever. Is it’s a touch, tough sell, right? And also to trust. Yeah, these people are actually worth talking to, even though
Bill Shireman: Yeah.
Duncan Autrey: you don’t like ’em so there’s a lot about that personal work that I think is really interesting.
Bill Shireman: I think we’ve learned in the industrial age for the last 300 years or so that life is life can be, and society can be very predictable if we make big decisions that. We’re going to build an interstate highway system and we’re gonna have, we’re gonna all have cars. We’re all gonna drive at this speed.
And we’re gonna put commercial centers here and industrial centers here and residential centers here. And. And we’re gonna extract energy and resources and manufacture products and distribute them to everybody. And that linear way of thinking was very powerful. Once we, underwent the scientific revolution and the industrial revolution, oh my gosh.
We were able to produce a physical abundance. Like we had never seen as a species before. So naturally we became pretty entrance with rational, linear thinking. But it only goes so far. And when you’re thinking in a line you’re not thinking about the cycles that necessarily compel you to go back to the beginning.
We can’t consume all the world’s natural resources and then throw them away at the end and we can’t adapt. If we are so locked into this industrial system that we can’t make necessary changes. So we need to go back to, we need to rediscover the wisdom of more traditional indigenous small town local cultures. That are very close to their environment and v adaptive to their environment. That kind of subtlety is really where sustainability comes from. And you find an understanding of that, both on the left and the right, but you don’t find it in the establishment left or right on the establishment.
Right. The linear, right. And the establishment left the the kind of progressive or liberal institutional left. It’s all about guaranteeing we’re, we are the pro-life move. We’re gonna define life, starting with conception, and we’re gonna outlaw every every abortion uh from that point of conception, because that’s our total solution or we’re on the other side, we are pro-choice and we’re going to allow women to make the choice up until the birth, because it is her baby and it is her body and that’s her, right.
Absolutely. That’s linear thinking that eliminates your view of the details at the local level. Many people identify themselves as pro-life or pro-choice not because they actually adopt those extreme positions. Most pro-life folks don’t think that abortion should. be Illegal in all cases. And most pro-choice people don’t believe that abortion should be legal in all cases.
But each one has a passion and they want to hear their passion validated by others. If you’re pro, if you’re in the pro-life community, you worry that life is being cheated in our materialistic system. And that people are disregarding the, miracle of conception. And you want that to be recognized.
Before you start talking about yes. Okay. This woman is in a very difficult position and maybe, abortion should be an option for her. And same on it’s the same on the left. People want to know that you understand that women. Are fully qualified to be the equals to be treated equally under the law and to be human beings and they have control of their bodies.
And once you hear that once the right expresses that in a way that you can feel that they really resonate, then you’re willing to say, okay, I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with abortions in the final trimester as a normal casual thing. And it turns out that people agree whether they call themselves pro-choice or pro-life right in the middle there, you’ve got a, 70% that can agree on solutions to that issue.
Same is true for guns. Same is true for immigration. Same is true for climate and environment.
Duncan Autrey: One of the thing ways I have come to think about this is that if we in our mind we can have a topic or I this, or am I that and, that is easy to organize into that digital binary code, right. This or that. And When it’s at a conceptual level, but then eventually people actually have to do something.
And that is where interesting things happen. Right. So very much like a pro-choice person can very easily be like, I am definitely keeping this baby, even though it’s really inconvenient for me. Right. And someone who’s pro-life can be like, oh, I think this is not a good idea, but I am getting rid of this child.
And that’s interesting, cuz at one point you’re like, this is it, this or this, but actually. Real life is 350 million people making a bunch of decisions day to day, and it’s really blurry. And, it’s very much clearly like a complex dynamic system that we’re in. And when I’m hearing you talk about the linear thing, I’m noticing that there’s a way that it’s not just the linear thinking of is it gonna be an absolutely this or an absolutely that.
That’s part of it, but there’s also about trying to make these decisions at a national level, right. Without, as there’s like that, taking it to the national level and trying to make one decision for everyone, it’s problematic and, especially problematic in. Because when we try to get that, let’s say pro climate bill through the, through Congress or something like that we end up getting this 700 page document that does.
A hundred other things. And I still, I’m still remembering that the COVID relief bill had the thing about releasing the confidential UFO documents. I feel like that’s such a good example, right? Someone was like, if you want me to vote on this, you better make re declassify the UFO. And it’s come on people.
This is. wow. You’re really that bad at making
Bill Shireman: Yeah.
Duncan Autrey: get all bundled together. And in your book, you break it down that it’s once you have you run it through the lobbyist and the different interests, and you gotta get these people who are gonna make the decision, make this people decision, you end up getting outcomes that are like really not that great. And part of it’s cuz we’re trying to make this huge big level decision for
Bill Shireman: Yeah, everybody. Right. And that’s where know, you have a, conflict between the the values that people hold. And the sensible way to advance those values so that if you’re thinking in a very linear way, if you’re a, a progressive, and you’re thinking in a very linear way, you might say the Supreme court has made these horrible decisions recently on abortion, on guns and. The environment, these decisions that are fundamentally counter to my values as a progressive and, then you might say, well, okay, then we need Congress to step up and impose all of those restrictions on a federal level to everyone. And that makes sense from a linear perspective, except that it was Congress’s failure to make decisions on those three issues.
That led the EPA to stretch the clean air act a little further than the courts could clearly stand behind and that motivated the courts to finish Congress’s sentence. On abortion and on guns because Congress wasn’t acting. So the courts have stepped in and originally liberals made the decision on abortion and conservatives have just recently made the decision on guns and they’re both just legislating through the courts. So. If you’re progressive and you truly stand for the values of caring for people at the local, at the local level caring for the oppressed liberating those who have been marginalized, it’s still okay to challenge the idea that you should do that at the federal level, the highest level possible.
and it’s okay to say maybe it’s smarter for us to do that at the community level. Maybe we need to decentralize power more to the community level so that we can make smarter decisions for ourselves in our communities around this.
Duncan Autrey: Yeah. It’s you, and your in this together, you talk about this as like the soft path and the hard path. It’s kinda hard path being like let’s just linear, let’s get it done. And then soft path is, a lot more about flexible, it’s adaptive and it’s much more local and there’s distributed decision making and all sorts of pieces.
And and I, and there’s a way that. Making sure that we have the right incentives and motivations is much more effective ways to large movements of action than trying to just regulate it or make these decisions for everyone. Cause it, and what was interesting is so in the in the co West Virginia versus the EPA court decision What they started, and I’m not sure if it actually started with this decision or if it was existed already, but they call it the major questions doctrine.
And they’re basically saying, this is a major question about whether or not we should control the amount of CO2 emissions and, major questions that’s for the legislature. And then of course, as we were just talking about legislatures and sucks at major questions and also That’s not necessarily the way to be making this decision.
And, but what I find to be interesting is I actually found this article. It seems as though, even though the regulations on some of the coal industry have been reduced or are not happening anymore after this court decision, the coal industry’s closing down, there’s a way that coal is on its way out because culturally we’re just not into that anymore.
And, That force, whatever that is, that trajectory of culture
Bill Shireman: Yeah.
Duncan Autrey: more powerful than any regulation or not. Yeah.
Bill Shireman: It’s absurd. It’s absurd in a way that the court took on that particular case to begin with, as you say, coal is disappearing from the marketplace for lots of different reasons. And the EPA regulations that were intended. To drive coal out of the market to a great extent couldn’t be adopted because, and they couldn’t be adopted for long because the Obama administration’s clean power plan ran up against conflict probably. involved the EPA, taking more power than Congress had originally intended with the clean air act.
But at the same time, what’s the EPA supposed to do. They’re supposed to keep us, keep the air clean and keep us healthy. And Congress was not giving them the authority needed to do that. And so they took the authority. Through the executive branch and now the judicial branch steps in.
But the reality is that the marketplace has now virtually eliminated coal from the market here in the United States. Not in China, not in India, not in much of the rest of the world, but here in the United States, we’ve already accomplished what the clean power plan was setting out to accomplish.
We don’t even really need to go through this rigamarole, but somehow the Supreme court now has decided to, take these cases that speak to the base of the Republican party and to make examples of them. And I’m not sure that shows judicial restraint at all.
Duncan Autrey: There’s a whole nother conversation about just the kind of broken legislature executive branch isn’t as powerful as we thought it was, or people imagine that it is, and the court kind of filling in the gap and making some heavy decisions and that. That our, structure is get shout out to the designers of the constitution, amazingly resilient
Bill Shireman: Days
Duncan Autrey: with
and, that they came up with.
And and it’s time for some upgrades and or
Bill Shireman: Yeah, it.
Duncan Autrey: And I
Bill Shireman: And I
bet the people could come up with those. I bet. If we had we the people gathering a thousand of us representative sample of the country and we sat down in 2014 and said, What’s wrong with our country and how do we, need to change our constitution to deal with that, that the people would make some very balanced wise decisions, but the powers that be will not because we’ve got three powers acting here, we have an extreme left.
That thinks it’s fighting big corporations and an extreme, right, that thinks it’s fighting big government when both of them are battling each other and allowing a, essentially a kind of mushy corporate state political industry to operate and make decisions that are best for their.
Monthly retainers with vested interests That’s the system that we have. It’s nobody’s fault almost nobody’s fault. If we killed all the people who were doing this intentionally, we’d still have a problem. It just is the market that has evolved that we need to change.
Duncan Autrey: So I’m thinking about that, video that represent us has where there’s the like, How many people want a piece of legislation to pass and, from zero to a hundred percent, and how likely is it to pass at its flat line across 30% every time? Because those, because that mushy, corporate state is actually figuring out what the decision’s gonna be and all those.
Negotiations and the room all those conversations that we hear that they’re working on the bill and they’re talking to each other and we don’t really know what’s going on and they come out and they’re like, here, we got it all figured out. And so I’m gonna try like a, a big question here.
What’s the move now? Cause I can see, so we have the citizens sort of saying, I want problem solvers. We have deliberative processes that we know that work, but that aren’t built into our institution and aren’t super popular for the, political industrial complex.
It seems like I, I always keep imagining, I wanna see some politicians coming out and being like, actually, you know what,
my opinion doesn’t matter about this. Y’all’s opinion matters about this. I’m gonna make deliberate. I’m gonna use Del yeah, like thoughtful, participatory, deliberative processes to make my decisions and, someone doing that would be a real game changer.
Right? Like it could be like, I wait,
what? Hold on. We’re having a debate here. And it’s well, actually
now that’s not how I’m gonna play this game. And in fact Now we don’t need debates, we need dialogues. And so I don’t know, there’s different strategic ways on how to think about how to make that happen.
And then I think that there needs to be more awareness of course, that
Bill Shireman: mm-hmm
Duncan Autrey: exist. Right? Cause I don’t think, I mean, the America in one room is great because they really did a good job of documenting it and making it seem really clear. And folks are interested about that. They’ll be links in the show notes. But I guess there’s I don’t know. What’s the move? Where are you
Bill Shireman: Yeah. well, of course nobody has the complete solution and we have to be, we have to be satisfied with, with understanding the principles and moving in the right direction. And then the other wonderful thing is that we don’t need perfection in the end. We need system something that’s good enough that it actually gets us to successful a successful democracy and successful governance, but we should aim for high quality.
And so here’s some, of the ingredients that I think need to come together. First of all, we do need to repower the middle of 70. Of the public. And that means from a very logical rational perspective, we need to organize people, particularly in the 15 swing states that have some competitive races.
We need to organize a 5% or so portion of the public who are who step into the lead and decide that they’re the ones that should be deciding who gets elected. In these contested races and that commit that they will only vote for problem solvers regardless of what party they’re a part of.
They may be Republicans. And if there’s a problem-solver Republican they’re gonna vote for the problem-solving Republican. But if there is no problem-solving Republicans, they’re gonna vote for the problem-solver independent or Democrat. And the same is true for the Democrats. They need to be willing to do that, to.
say Yes, I’m a Democrat, but first I’m a problem solver. I’m an American, I’m a problem solver. I stand for results. I don’t stand for an institution and we can all, say that. So we need 5% of folks to do that. And that’s very, getable, it’s a very doable objective. That’s got a price tag to it and a, linear path to get there. We also need a system or multiple systems of just engaging with each other. And there I do really like the American one room model or the deliberative democracy model, and a, there are a lot of more informal or smaller, more local variations on that. So my personal thing. I think we should have a third convention every every four years or we got the democratic convention or we got the Republican convention, both of those are stage managed and politicized to the extreme.
We need to have a a people’s constitutional convention or just a people’s convention. That looks at the health of our democracy and a representative sampling chosen by experts at, for their random, representativeness to engage and to look at one or more sets of problems.
And then to come out with solution sets that the media can actually cover and that are not pre. We won’t know at the beginning of the convention, what the convention will produce, but it will produce whether it’s looking at one issue or a dozen issues or the state of our democracy and what what we should change in the constitution.
The media won’t know in advance what the results are, and this would be like a new experience. Real news. And they could cover the real news. And then that becomes the Guidepoint for the nominees, for the two parties. Are we going to completely ignore what the informed majority of Americans have said?
Or are we going to represent. Those Americans, if we decide we’re gonna represent them, then we have a democratic Republic. The way that, our framers told us we, we could, if we could keep it if they don’t, then we have a really inefficient totalitarian, authoritarian, mush, and China will look really good by comparison.
Duncan Autrey: Inefficient totalitarian much. One of the advantages of a dictatorship is that they’re, you’re really efficient, but but the one where people aren’t really being listened to, or the decisions aren’t really being made and, but they’re also not making good decisions or they’re not even making effective bad decisions.
Bill Shireman: Not
Duncan Autrey: Yeah, I mean, I think I would like to see that or by being able to see was one of my mentors, Kenneth cloak, is it like, talks about. Public policy issues. If you can get a group of people with a diverse perspective to talk to each other and come to some sort of agreement about something and bring it to a politician and be like, Hey, I got these people to come up with this solution to this.
That’s you’d be fooled not to go with the whatever the people I’ve come up with. And this people’s convention. I, like it. And I.
There’s a way that, as you said, some of these like big issues where you’re dealing with in the country, we’ve been dealing with for decades and we have not solved them. We have not even come close yet.
Taking the time to have a thoughtful conversation that might take weeks, or a good a year like totally would be worth it.
Bill Shireman: yeah,
Duncan Autrey: the something that’s. Not only can we come up with more sustainable decisions, but then also have a pro process for doing that.
Bill Shireman: Yeah. We’re, spending 10 billion a year or so on the political industry to. To elect our uh, our public officials and keep the population divided and by keeping the population divided and making 10 billion in the process we’re giving the influence peddling industry, the ability to manage $4.5 trillion a year and divided up among vested interests to do something reasonably approximating, what the public kind of wants.
So if the public wants a healthcare system, we divide up the money and we hand it out to vested interests that will give us a healthcare system. If we want national security, we we’ll divide up the money and give it to military contractors to give us national security. And, but it’s all so framed by that money trading system that has very little to do with, intelligent thought or the people’s will.
That people feel that they have nothing to do with the lives that they’re leading and that their job is basically to demand things so that Congress will pay vested interests to supply them to them. And that’s a tragedy for democracy. We can do better than that. We’re smarter than that. We’re a lot smarter than the political industry.
Duncan Autrey: Totally. I there’s a line in the book. I forget who the quote is from, but you know, if we’re not doing it, then it’s gonna be energetically inseminated by special
Bill Shireman: Yes that was James Hanson. The. The nuclear physicist who opposed the cap trade legislation that Democrats and Republicans had agreed on. Democrats had agreed on and a couple of Republicans were brave enough to support it. But James Hanson was saying, this is the sellout and the environmental community was supporting it because yes, it was a sellout.
But it was our sell out. It was a sell out to finance sector and coal sector and some energy folks here and there. And it was interestingly it was a pretty good, impressive it was impressive that they could pull it together, but it wasn’t a solution to climate.
It was a way to pass something that would pay off a lot of vest, interests to work at it, but not really solve the problem.
Duncan Autrey: Yeah, and those are the kinds of things we’ll keep on experiencing, unless we change it up.
Bill Shireman: Yes.
Duncan Autrey: last question to ramp up here for the folks that are out there and I’m like, I wanna be a problem solver and I wanna help us move this forward. What actions might you ask them to take?
Bill Shireman: Well, I would say there’s our approach to this and by our, I mean, inthistogetheramerica.org come to our site inthistogetheramerica.org, there are a group of NGOs. 10 really 20 or 30, but about 10 NGOs that we are most enthusiastic about who are all a big part of the solution. They each are high performance NGOs doing great work in defending democracy and, defending real solutions to issues like climate and, other challenges.
And we are supporting them. So by coming to in this together, America, you can. Use your name, give your name dis designate yourself as a problem solver and and make the pledge that you’re going to be, supporting problem, solving leaders and companies. And we’ll give you ways to do that every week. And we hope you will invest your coin, your dollars in supporting. The groups that are doing this amazing work and what’s most important is that they do that work together. That’s how a system works. trying to create a system here of groups that are good that are masters at their niches masters at grassroots organizing or masters at working inside the beltway masters at, organizing mega voters masters at organizing progressive voters and to put these groups together who are dedicated to solutions and That’s how you help.
That’s one way to help.
Duncan Autrey: Wonderful. Bill, I just wanna say thank you again for all that you’re doing and for putting your hat in the ring here and, leaning so hard on this and for so long. So thank you.
Bill Shireman: Thank you. And, I really appreciate your work as well. Duncan. I know that this is a passion area for you too, and it is for so many. People, and it’s so easy to get Ugh, exhausted by it and to just decide I’m just gonna live my life and watch Netflix. And
know, Netflix is a great is a great pastime, but let’s engage our in our democracy and make our kids proud.
Duncan Autrey: I love that. Yeah, I think one of the things that comes to my mind is you like, make those pledges, tell people that you’ve done that. I think it’s really, I think it would be, I picture someone like getting their ballot and being like, Hey everyone I’m gonna vote for people that are really trying to solve problems this year.
And I just wanted to say that, and I don’t know, there’s something about letting people know that this is like a different way of thinking. It’s,
Bill Shireman: Yeah,
Duncan Autrey: different from what we’re used to, that
Will get people’s attention.
Bill Shireman: Yeah, it will. I’ll tell you what I’d love is if there’s a meme waiting to express out there. I know there’s a name for what we’re doing for who we are and and this movement. And once we define that better, we let the system define that’s when the threshold will be passed and will be successful.
you creative people out there. Go out and spread the meme and and define and grow this movement. We know the people are out there. We just need to trigger and motivate people to step up.
About this episode’s guest
Bill Shireman is the founder of Future 500 and co-founder of In This Together. As a Republican and environmental activist, Bill may be considered a walking contradiction by some. However, he believes the left and right can learn from each other to break down our us-versus-them political culture.
He brings together people from all sides of the political spectrum including capitalists, activists, conservatives, and progressives, among others
With Trammell Crow (EarthX), Bill is the co-author of In This Together: How Republicans, Democrats, Capitalists and Activists are Uniting to Tackle Climate Change and More
In This Together
The PROBLEM IS…
We have been divided into two separate worlds, left and right, red and blue, and taught to distrust and hate each other.
The truth is, when we look, we find that we do agree and can solve any problem we face, together.
Use your power. Pledge to use your consumer dollars and votes to support problem solving companies and leaders.
It’s easier than you may think to motivate an executive or politician to change their way.
Click here to join In This Together with a pledge “to support companies and leaders active in finding cross-partisan solutions to fixing the environment and democracy.”
In This Together: How Republicans, Democrats, Capitalists and Activists Are Uniting to Tackle Climate Change and More
In This Together is part introduction, part agenda, and part strategy to save the planet from combatants on both the left and the right. Crow and Shireman show how to break the gridlock, unite the parties, and drive radical collaboration to find solutions. Their plan brings together the best ideas of conservatives and progressives, and restores conservation as a bipartisan priority that can preserve our prosperity and help reclaim our divided democracy.
Download the Free E-Book
“Declare an end to the war to save the planet. Then collaborate to save it. We’re not talking surrender. The job we started hasn’t been finished. Conflicts will continue. Much legitimately divides us. But the time for outright war is over. There’s work to do.”
The Declaration of Interdependence
E Pluribus Unum…
We’re not all the same, but we are a family.
We don’t always agree, but we are not at war.
From many, we are one, not in a melting pot, but a complex social fabric.
In the spirit of caring, connection, and creation we embrace four principles:
- No Enemies – We work through our conflicts to find solutions.
- No Denial – We face facts, discuss our differences, and resolve them.
- No Excuses – We each do our part – every citizen, leader, and business.
- No Delay – We each take action together, now.
We are all in this together.
Our differences are part of us.
Together, we are whole.
Videos & Essays
Here are some essays and videos from the Omni-Win Project about topics we discussed in the video.
Topics Discussed in Episode
America In One Room (A1R): Climate and Energy, a Helena Project, was a historic event utilizing a Stanford-developed methodology called Deliberative Polling that has been proven to drastically reduce polarization and increase civic education and civic engagement across 120+ applications over 30 years in 30+ countries and jurisdictions.
This poll was conducted by the Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University, to ascertain what Americans really think about the impact of Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when presented with unbiased, factually verifiable information on the issue areas and an opportunity for respectful discussion with diverse others.
The impression often given and reinforced by much of the media, including social media, is that Americans are firmly entrenched in disagreement. This polling process, however, highlights something very different: It illustrates substantial common ground among Americans.
Whereas much of today’s political discourse drives people apart and then exacerbates those divisions, Deliberative Polls show the opposite is entirely possible: that supported discourse can in fact bring opposing sides together and that the American people welcome this kind of engagement and collaborative problem solving.
When given the opportunity, Americans will come together to engage in positive discourse, and listen and learn from each other productively.
The results show the U.S. converging across states, political parties, age, and income in support of action to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that Americans would be able to achieve greater consensus on climate and energy policies if they had access to accurate information and an opportunity to discuss and weigh competing positions.
After having an opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of the issues with others in a constructive atmosphere, super-majorities of Americans…
- Are concerned about the current path we are taking with regard to GHG emissions and their impact on the planet.
- Believe that humans need to undertake action to stop adding GHG’s to the atmosphere.
- Believe failure to take immediate action on GHG emissions poses an irresponsible risk to our children’s future.
- Support doing much more to combat the causes climate change.
Supreme Court (EPA v. West Virginia)
In West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court fenced the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon emissions in the power sector.
In the 6-3 decision [PDF], the court ruled that the Clean Power Plan established under the Barack Obama administration went beyond the EPA’s regulatory mandate. Specifically, the EPA had exceeded congressional authority by pushing utilities to make system-wide moves away from coal power generation and toward cleaner forms of electricity production, such as wind and solar energy.
”The U.S. is ditching coal. The Supreme Court ruling won’t change that.” (Steven Mufson, The Washington Post)
“Over time it’s clear for reasons largely unrelated to regulations that the U.S. power sector is moving away from coal,” Holmstead said. “In my world it is astonishing.”
About The Omni-Win Project
The Omni-Win Project is a multimedia effort to raise awareness of the myriad existing and emergent opportunities to improve our democracy and heal our political culture.
Our mission: facilitating the healing and evolution of our democratic systems and political culture, so that we can co-create a future that works for everyone.
Meet The Host
I am omnipartial: I am biased in favor of the success of everyone and the whole. I believe it is possible to improve systems of communication and interaction in ways that will allow humanity to thrive and evolve through our complexity and diversity.
My purpose in life is to support an omnipartial revolution. How? By helping the world understand the fractal nature of conflict and how we can transform conflict into a positive and inspiring experience. We are all in this together. I firmly believe we can do this complex dance through life with much more grace and beauty.
I am specifically committed to transforming how we work together in teams and organizations and how we experience conflict and collaboration in our democracy.
Duncan is also the host of the Fractal Friends podcast. An exploration of our self-similary across our diversity.
Fans of the Omni-Win project podcast will enjoy this collection of episodes: https://www.fractalfriends.us/transforming-politics about Transforming Politics and Healing Democracy