U.S. Election BI in Context Posts for January 3, 2023

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Newsletter #190 — January 3, 2023


by Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess

In our last newsletter for 2023 (just before the Christmas and New Year's break), we indicated that we would, in the coming year, be devoting a great deal of attention to the 2024 US election and strategies for more effectively addressing the continuing spiral of hyper-polarization that is now really threatening to push US democracy into some sort of catastrophic abyss. In doing this, we recognize that 2024 will also be a big year for elections in a great many other countries — countries that are also struggling with many of the same dynamics that are undermining US democracy. Still, as a US-based project that is struggling to find effective ways of helping our own society, we do not want to fall into the trap of telling other societies how they should deal with their problems. But we do want to share assessments of democracy's many problems and potential solutions in the hopes that readers both in the U.S. and elsewhere can adapt those ideas to the problems they face.  As always, if you have ideas that you would like to share (or links that you would like to suggest), please send them in and we will share them as part of this discussion.


BI's Massively Parallel Approach

In the videos describing our evolving concept of massively parallel peace and democracy building that we shared in newsletter 179, we made a distinction between two broad groups of massively parallel peacebuilders:

  • Conflict Strategists focused on helping us better understand some aspect of the hyper-polarization problem and strategies for limiting those problems, and
  • Conflict Actors who focus their efforts on implementing the strategies that make sense in their particular context. 

We went on to identify four principal subgroups of conflict strategists:

  • Lookouts who warn us about the dangers associated with the continuation of current trends and alert us to opportunities for reversing those trends,
  • Torchbearers who help each new generation understand democracy's origins, the problems it was designed to address, its past successes, current challenges, and the things that citizens must do to make it work,
  • Complexifiers who dispel the notion that there are simple solutions to our problems in ways that illuminate the dauntingly complex array of challenges that we have to find some way to meet, and
  • Defenders who help us identify and respond to threats posed by those who seek to undermine democratic institutions.

In this newsletter, we highlight a relatively large collection of links (roughly organized by theme) that have accumulated over the holidays — links that focus on the work of these conflict strategists.  While some of these articles contain important and promising suggestions for limiting a particular aspect of hyper-polarization or other threats to democracy, they (like most writing about the election) tend to focus more on the nature of the problem or the evils of the other side. But, taken together, these articles clarify the daunting depth, scale, and complexity of the hyper-polarization problem and illustrate clearly that there will not be a quick or simple "fix" for U.S. democracy. Just succeeding in electing "our guy" (whomever that is) is not going to fix the problem, and could actually make it much worse.

So using the knowledge gained from reading these articles (and many more), we will be working in the coming months to propose many steps that can be taken to address these challenges, and highlight the efforts of the impressive and growing number of "conflict actors" who are already taking on many of the MPP "Action Roles" to defuse hyper-polarization and strengthen democracy.  The challenge for all of us is to take the next step and think about broad strategies for more effectively dealing with the many problems outlined in these articles and, and figuring out what active role each of us can play to help transform our current hyper-polarization and political stalemate into a reconciled society in which everyone would want to live. 

As we do this, we will also return to a theme raised in Newsletter 131 where we started to think about how strategists and actors could work together more effectively.


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Beyond Intractability in Context

From around the web, more insight into the nature of our conflict problems, limits of business-as-usual thinking, and things people are doing to try to make things better.



Graphic Credit: Democratic and Republican icons --  Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/6262122778; By:  DonkeyHotey; Permission:  CC BY 2.0 DEED  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/; Date Required: December 20, 2023



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About the MBI Newsletters

Once a week or so, we, the BI Directors, share some thoughts, along with new posts from the Hyper-polarization Blog and and useful links from other sources.  We used to put this all together in one newsletter which went out once or twice a week. We are now experimenting with breaking the Newsletter up into several shorter newsletters. Each Newsletter will be posted on BI, and sent out by email through Substack to subscribers. You can sign up to receive your copy here and find the latest newsletter here or on our BI Newsletter page, which also provides access to all the past newsletters, going back to 2017.

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