Ken , Santa Monica CA 07/13/09
Thanks to both of you for the insightful comments. Our history has absolutely been one -- not only of personal attack -- but fraud, bribery, and corruption to boot. For a great analysis of the last two to three hundred years of election manipulations, see Thayer, Who Shakes the Money Tree. Still, I think it is important for us to see that conflict resolution systems design principles can be applied to political processes in ways that suggest less adversarial and conflicted ways of making democratic decisions. Part of the reason electoral reform isn't practical right now is that we haven't put forward concrete proposals for how to improve it. But recall that Obama seemed strongly committed during the electoral process to running it differently and people, I think, are increasingly voting against old-style attack politics. We have a long way to go before significant changes will be made, but should not be deterred from thinking creatively together about how we might adapt mediation principles to the amelioration of chronic social, economic and political conflicts. For more, see Conflict Revolution: Mediating Evil, War, Injustice and Terrorism at Amazon.com. Thanks for your comments, they encourage me to continue believing it can happen. Ken
Ron , New York NY 07/12/09
Good thoughts But Not Workable in Current System
While Ken's advice seems reasonable and well intentioned, the reality is that democrcy is a competive system with winners and losers. As Alfie Kohn describes in detail in his book "No Contest the Case Against Competition" whenever you set up a competition inevitably there will be cheating, name calling and a lack of collaboration. This is true in sports (eg the use of steroids) and politics.
Mudslinging and personal attacks have been the fundamental feature of US elections since the time the country was formed. Some of the nastiest campaigns involved Jackson and Adams in the early 1800's - and that type of politics continues today.
When mudslinging and personal attacks are part of a system for over 200 years one has to ultimately question whether it is the competitive democractic system that is inevitably producing these results. Ultimately only a change to a collaborative election system like Sociocrcy will produce collaborative elections.
John Shaffer, Bellevue WA firstname.lastname@example.org 01/10/08
Ken Cloke's Article on Elections
Ken's comments are timely and coincident with the more personalized article by Robert Benjamin that followed it. Both authors, I think, are expressing discomfort with a bipolar electoral system. In this system (perhaps as in all systems) what we are ultimately forced to do is make a "yes or no", “up or down”, “Obama or Clinton” (or some other candidate) kind of decision. In life as in politics that is always the reality. Ultimately, no matter how long we go about talking about the problem, we must at some point reach a moment of decision and action. The question both authors raise is how do we best get to that moment. Bob asks if he should trust the system (believe in, and presumably, vote – a “yes or no” decision - for Obama). Ken proposes multiple changes, thus raising the issues but not picking any one or two or four or more, and inciting action. The trouble for me is if we are going to make change occur, or help it take place, we are going to have to face the resistance to change, and that takes confrontation, peaking the resistance to change in those benefiting from the systems in place, amassing support by taking actions ourselves, and entering the political fray. Are we, as mediators and conflict resolvers, ready for that?