Transpartisanship represents an emerging field in political thought distinct from bipartisanship, which aims to negotiate between “right” and “left,” resulting in a dualistic perspective, and nonpartisanship, which tends to avoid political affiliation altogether. Rather, transpartisanship acknowledges the validity of truths across a range of political perspectives and seeks to synthesize them into an inclusive, pragmatic container beyond typical political dualities.In practice, transpartisan solutions emerge out of a new kind of public conversation that moves beyond polarization by applying proven methods of facilitated dialogue, deliberation and conflict resolution. In this way it is possible to achieve the ideal of a democratic republic by integrating the values of a democracy — freedom, equality, and a regard for the common good, with the values of a republic — order, responsibility and security.
The Transpartisan Field
Transpartisanship is increasingly being used to describe the collaborative efforts of citizens and leaders who seek to discover and implement the best possible policies regardless of political ideology. Transpartisanship practices and methods are currently being employed by all levels of government (national, state, and local), various citizen groups, nonprofit organizations, corporations, consulting and conflict-resolution firms, university programs and more. Together these efforts have generated a considerable body of work that is forming the Transpartisan field.
History of the Emerging Transpartisan Field
Like most modern schools of political or social thought it is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of Transpartisanship. The term was used as early as the late 1980’s when it appeared in an essay titled “Self-Reliant Defense: Without Bankruptcy or War,” by American scholars Gene Sharp and Bruce Jenkins of the Albert Einstein Institute. Sharp and Jenkins state: “whether the proposal is to add a civilian-based resistance component or to transform to a full civilian-based defense policy, the presentation, consideration, and decision should not be made on an ideological or partisan basis. Instead, civilian-based options in defense need to be presented and evaluated in a “Transpartisan” manner-not tied to any doctrinal outlook or narrow group.” This early use of the term Transpartisanship emphasized the selection of best practices regardless of specific political ideologies. The ideas behind Transpartisanship have quickly spread into other disciplines including politics, society, culture, economics etc.
Emerging Elements of the Transpartisanship Field
- Transpartisanship is a vibrant and evolving field; however there are a few key concepts that are especially characteristic:
- All systems are interdependent – All things are fundamentally interconnected influence one another, which in turn validates each individual component (or belief). Transpartisanship therefore honors each belief and strives to fully integrate it into the system, thus achieving equilibrium.
- All points of view are equally valuable – Every belief or view can be important in reaching collaborative decisions.
- Optimal solutions are reached through honest and authentic dialogue – In order to arrive at practical and sustainable solutions all viewpoints can be shared openly and honestly.
- Disagreement can be an asset – Disagreements over an issue need not undermine consensus if all parties are willing to harness existing tension to find common ground. New alliances will naturally form and collaboration will often reveal previously unanticipated solutions that can satisfy all those involved.
- The public must take responsibility for being heard – Transpartisanship holds that good decisions are made by considering a wide range of opinions. Reintegrating the public at large into the conversation can enhance the range of opinions and lead to better decisions.
- Need to protect the sovereignty of the individual – While the role of the community is undoubtedly vital for reaching effective solutions, so too is the need to protect individuals from the dictates of the collective. Views and opinions may only be expressed honestly when the individual is free from coercion.
Note: Transpartisanship in currently an evolving field and therefore lacks a unitary definition or set of core values. The definition and values listed above should be seen as a guideline to begin the discourse over Transpartisanship, not a terminus.