Throw a party!
Forget the Republicans (founded in 1854) and Democrats (in power since 1828, the world’s oldest active political party)! They have devolved into mere syndicates, whose sole mission is to broker and peddle power. As such, they no longer point the way forward; instead, they block progress and hold us all back. This calcified two-party system impedes local involvement in the political process by those not backed by party hacks or millions of dollars. It deters political narratives that contradict narrow, reactionary partisan lines. The two dominating parties inhibit grassroots citizen action and control. They are the problem, not the solution—and must go, now.
Instead of following two monoliths that cultivate gridlock, it’s time ordinary citizens lead our country’s development with hundreds, thousands of mini-parties. It’s time to meet, to get to know each other, to sink social roots into our neighborhoods, to build community bonds—to cease being voiceless by speaking together.
That’s a grand vision—and easily sold—but how might a local “party” look and function? How would it dovetail with other local parties within the same area, in a region, state, nation or even across national borders? What follows is a template—one meant to be tweaked, improved upon… or fully abandoned. It is idealized and meant only as “yeast” for local circles of neighbors to throw parties of their own.
a party template:
6 – 7PM — time for sharing
- The “partiers” gather in a local church, synagogue, mosque or Quaker meetinghouse; in a town hall, school cafeteria, fraternal or sororal hall, etc.
- Each partier brings some food or drink to share; either tableware is provided by the host or each partier brings her or his own. note ...If consensus allows alcoholic beverages to be served to adults, they should be consumed in moderation; drunkenness is not helpful to reaching clear-minded, respectful and productive communication or genuine exchange.
- This open hour allows partiers to arrive as they’re able and, once there, get to know another in a relaxed, unstructured and purely social atmosphere.
7 – 7:30 — time for listening
- This marks the beginning of the “threshing” sessions of the gathering, during which a co-clerk records the names of each person present, for future documentation. Any person who joins the gathering after this point forfeits the right to present a matter for discussion or vote for this round, but may observe the proceedings and attend future meetings, with an option to vote.
- The co-clerks convene the group for a few moments of shared silence, followed by no more than 10 minutes during which each partier turns to four neighbors: the small groups identify what matters lay in each one’s hearts or on the front of their minds. One of the partiers makes a list of matters cited.
- After small-group consensus yields up to three matters for large-group sharing and a spokesperson to present them, the co-clerks record a list of possible large-group matters as each small-group spokesperson reports what matters most to its members.
- A co-clerk reads the aggregate list aloud once, slowly, then a second time, during which the other co-clerk records how many votes each matter proposed for discussion receives from each partier present—who may vote for only one matter during this poll.
- The co-clerks read the list a third time, starting with those matters which received the most votes to be considered, then convene a few moments of shared silence to reflect.
7:30 – 8 — time for presenting
- The partier who raised a given matter has a few minutes to speak about it—the number of minutes determined by the time available, how many matters are to be considered, and the percentage of minutes awarded to a matter, based on how many votes it got. note ...If two or more partiers raised the same matter, they can meet briefly to agree on who presents it. The time allowed each presenter to outline her or his matter depends on the number of matters chosen for group action—for example: If three matters are chosen, each presenter could be allotted 10 minutes; or, the most pressing matter could be allotted 15 minutes, with the other two, less-pressing matters receiving five minutes each; etc.
- During her or his presentation, a presenter attempts to secure group support for collective action. At the end of a presentation, co-clerks may grant vote-carrying attendees a chance to pose questions solely for clarification, but no arguments for or against a matter, as those may be made in the next session.
- At the end of the time for presenting, a clerk convenes a moment of silence.
- The partier who raised a given matter has a few minutes to speak about it—the number of minutes determined by the time available, how many matters are to be considered, and the percentage of minutes awarded to a matter, based on how many votes it got. note ...
8 – 9:30 — time for discerning group action
- A co-clerk reads the list of those matters just presented, slowly, then a second time, during which the other co-clerk records how many votes each matter receives as “top priorities” to be acted upon as a group. Thus begins the process of collective discernment.
- The co-clerks read the list a third time, starting with those handful of matters which received the most votes to be considered for large-group action, then convene a few minutes silence.
- From that point, a given presenter no longer represents a matter; instead, the clerks facilitate group discussion about those matters deemed “top priorities.” note ...Only those partiers present at 7PM during the logging of attendance may speak on a matter and no one (other than clerks) may speak a second time until each recorded attender has had a chance either to speak also or to decline by indicating “pass.” This structure assures that no one person or clique can dominate a discussion until everyone present at the point of convention has had a chance to participate. After each has spoken or declined to speak, the clerks grant permission to speak, mindful of fairly allotting available time among a diversity of voices and perspectives.
- What counts in this process is not just who speaks, how often or how much, but how they speak at all. more ...A balance must be found between freedom of expression and the abuse of “freedom of speech.” While all have a right to influence the content and course of a meeting for business, its ultimate facilitation remains the responsibility of the co-clerks. They may remind an attender to moderate her or his tone: Loud, insulting or threatening speech will not be tolerated; with a first violation of this norm a clerk will remind a violator of that; with a second, a clerk will advise that a third violation will result in a poll being taken of those present—and if a pure majority agrees, a loud, insulting or threatening attender will be asked to leave. S/he may return to attend a future meeting, but a second ejection will automatically result in a permanent ban. Clerks may inform other parties’ clerks of a ban, as a warning to watch for similar behavior by a banned individual, elsewhere. Banning an individual or even threatening a ban should not be undertaken lightly, however, as it is a sign of a neighborhood’s weakness, not its strength. The frequent use of a few moments of silence serves to balance the rise of passions, to sow moderation in thought and deed, and, if needed, de-esculate tensions or even interpersonal conflicts between specific individuals. Also, silence can remind all those present of the importance of our shared mission—the restoration of civil culture.
- Towards the end of an allotted period to consider a given matter (determined by the clerks), one of the clerks reads a “sense of the meeting” minute that embodies what seems to be the “pure consensus” on a matter at that point. Recorded attenders may suggest corrections or improvements to the minute, which may be revised and re-read several times—at the last reading of which a vote on proposed action is taken: Only those votes yielding the support of two-thirds of those attending may be adopted for group action—the form of which is determined by the content of the approved minute.
9:30 until done — time for celebrating
- After the reading of the final version of all revised minutes regarding matters agreed upon for action by a pure majority of those recorded attenders present, the co-clerks formally conclude the “meeting for business” part of the gathering. Those who stay can celebrate the group’s successes and continue the process of getting to better know and to bond with their neighbors.
Beyond Local Parties
A given local Heartland Party can meet weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, but in order to qualify to send representatives to a regional or other larger gathering, it must hold a “meeting for business” at least once a month: Other meetings in a given month can be purely social (a potluck, concert, exhibit, demo, film night, hike, quilting bee, etc.), but a group calling itself a Heartland Party must convene “business” at least monthly.
We strive for a renewed, for a better world—but we don’t have it yet. Until then, deliberate structures can help keep local Heartland Parties from becoming co-opted by special-interest or outside elements. The requirement to be present by the logging of attenders at 7PM, for one, keeps those not interested in breaking bread or otherwise getting to know their neighbors from using the post-potluck proceedings for purely self-serving reasons. Also, the requirement that a new attender of a given local party attend two events as an observer before being able to vote at a third meeting discourages “vote grazing” or “issue carpet-bagging.” And, the requirement that a standing member attend at least two of every three meetings helps assure that those who vote genuinely are part of on-going processes of discussion and discernment over time—not just as opportunists “dropping in” only to influence a vote, then leave.
Regarding the initiation of a new local Heartland Party and the naming of same, consider: more ...
As for a name, remember that an ultimate goal is for each community to have one, better several “monthly meetings” in order to form consensus and then send representatives to “quarterly” or other larger-catchment-area gatherings. Thus, a name should be as specific as possible, perhaps named after the main street running through the surrounding neighborhood (West Hague Heartland Party/Newton) or the neighborhood’s name itself (Merriam Park Heartland Party/St. Paul): The addition of the town’s name at the end of the monthly-meeting party’s name avoids a confusing repetition of place names.
A local Heartland Party can weld great influence—particularly locally. To move more, more widely, send representatives to “quarterly meetings” held every three months, consisting of numerous “monthly meetings” in a given area—a metropolitan area (such as Greater Des Moines) or region (“Little Switzerland” in Northeast Iowa); to “half-yearly meetings” held every six months at a state or interstate level (for ex., representatives from quarterly meetings in Iowa north of Interstate 80 and in Minnesota south of the Minnesota River Valley); and to “yearly meetings” representing half-yearly meetings in a larger region (such as those in the Upper Midwest, consisting of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin, or the Upper-Mississippi-River Watershed, etc.). At some point, the evolution of the Heartland Parties network will extend beyond political or biospheric regions and include yearly meetings serving half-yearly meetings in, say, the Upper Midwest and Lower Ontario/Manitoba. Of singular value will be regional meetings based on biospheres: watersheds, forests, etc.
Who may serve as representatives beyond the monthly-meeting level? Neighborhood-based monthly meetings need to be accessible to as many local residents as possible, but quarter, semi-yearly and yearly meetings need to assure that special interests don’t co-opt them, that professional politicos don’t block ordinary citizens from exercising direct control over their affairs or Heartland-Party-supported initiatives. For that reason, while individuals participating in monthly meetings should attend at least two of every three parties to be able to vote on a specific matter, representatives chosen by the pure majority of their monthly meeting to represent that party at a higher level should have attended at least three of the previous five local business meetings, immediately prior to an up-coming higher-level meeting. A representative delegation should include women and men, young adults and senior citizens, people of European descent as well as those of other origins.