Thursday, December 21, 2006

Will Barack Run -- with us?

Much as I admire the spirit of Unity08, I can't help be wonder whether we'll be overtaken by events. In particular, all four of the most prominent front-runners:

  • John McCain (R)
  • Rudy Guiliani (R)
  • Hillary Clinton (D)
  • Barack Obama (D)

are (to a greater or lesser extent) centrists, or at least pragmatists. If any of those get nominated, it seems like it will be hard to muster enthusiasm from moderates to oppose them. For examplel, Barack Obama is widely seen as representing what he describes as:

"another tradition to politics, a tradition that stretched from the days of the country’s founding to the glory of the civil rights movement, a tradition based on the simple idea that we have a stake in one another, and that what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and that if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done.”

What centrist could possibly run against that?

Of course, it is entirely possible that partisan primaries may conspire against them, which means that Unity would have a ripe field to pick from. So perhaps the effort isn't in vain after all...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Law & Order & Good Government

I gotta admit, I'm usually dismissive of celebrity endorsements, but as a big fan of Jack McCoy I was tickled to see Sam Waterson shilling for Unity08. To be sure, I didn't find his pitch enormously persuasive (even though I mostly agree with him :-), but I'm still glad he was willing to put his image on the line for what he believes.

Unity '08 Takes the "Nice" Road

I was very pleased to see Unity '08 changing their holiday poll to just celebrate the nice rather than also berate the naughty. Given my previous concerns about them not practicing the high-minded rhetoric they preach, their giving up the easy fun of mocking their enemies in favor of accentuating the positive is a welcome Christmas present!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Will California elect a Unity ticket?

If I was a Unity candidate (sorry, not this time around :-), that's certainly where I'd focus my energy. Because we historically lean Democrat, both parties always ignore us during Presidential elections. But, consider:

  1. We have the largest number of electoral votes
  2. About one-fifth of our population is Independents
  3. We have a mostly-popular Centrist governor
  4. The rest of the country tends to follow our lead in cultural trends
To be sure, California is big, which makes it expensive to campaign here. But California is a near-perfect microcosm of the rest of the country -- at least those states willing to elect a Unity candidate -- so I think we'd make an awesome testing ground for candidates to hone their message.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Personality-Driven Cacauses: A Good First Step

I was extremely pleased to see Unity '08 announcing that it is "building out tools right now so our community members can discuss and rate candidates in a more structured way, formulate split-ticket scenarios, and even build caucuses around possible ticket combinations." This is something I've wanted for a very long time. Yeah!

At the same time, I hope they make it easy to similarly form issue-based Caucuses, to advocate different policies. Personalities are important, and perhaps essential, but since we know so few of the potential candidates we need to give them an easy way to find communities, not just vice versa.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Is the Middle just for Moderates?

While I appreciate the sentiment behind Unity08's list of Top 10 Reasons Why the Moderate Middle Matters, I had to cringe at their choice of tone:

  1. Moderates are the only ones with the desire to find common ground.

For one thing, those of us in the radical middle absolutely want to find common ground, we just approach it differently. More importantly, though, I believe there many people who consider themselves good liberals or conservates who also care about finding common ground. While I appreciate the need to stake out a rationale for existence, claiming to be sole possessors of a particular good seems, well, immoderate. :-)A better choice, IMHO, would've been something like:

  1. Moderates are totally committed to finding common ground.

That is, why not focus on what's good about your side instead of (implicitly) dissing others? I realize I may be making a mountain out of molehill, but this sort of talk feels inappropriate for an organization that is committed to promoting civility. I'd urge them to the extra mile to ensure they communicate in an inclusive and welcoming manner -- so that they retain the moral authority to lecture others!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ethical Realism: A Foreign Policy for Unity '08

One of the most conentious issues dividing America today is our role in the world. Many would have you believe the choices are either isolation (let's leave everyone alone so they won't hate us) or imperialism (they all hate us anyway, so let's take them over first). Of course, the real world is much more nuanced than that. But more importantly, there actually is a coherent way to think about morality and pragmatism in foreign policy, and it is called Ethical Realism. It is being promoted by the New America Foundation, and even some Democrats are jumping on board.

I believe that if Unity '08 is to achieve its goals, somebody needs to claim this sort of moral high ground. Perhaps the Unity '08 must remain too resolutely non-partisan to take such a stand, but I'd love to see some of the putative candidates do so. If not, perhaps we in the grass roots need to take the initiative...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

2006: Year of the Centrist Democrat?

As the party currently not in power, the Democrats appear to making a concerted effort to win over less-liberal voters. Is this a genuine change of heart, or cheap political oppoturnism? Does it even matter, or is the important question how quickly the Blue Pups learn to play politics?

We may not have all the answers, but we invite you to explore the questions with us over on Centroids.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Getting the Word Out

I've decided to follow my friend Seth Godin's advice and try some free things to increase my visibility, starting with a Technorati Profile and Squidoo Lens. Let me know if it helps. :-)

Monday, October 30, 2006

A [Proposed] Political Platform for Unity '08

Billy Rojas just proposed a 21-page Political Platform for Unity '08, which is being discussed on the Centroids mailing list. While I'm sure everyone will find things to disagree with (I know I did :-), it is am impressively comprehensive approach to what he sees are the key challenges facing America. Can you do better?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Unity stalks the Radical Center

Elrod makes a good case that 2006 marks the Revenge of the Independents, as well as perhaps the larger point that purely partisan politics is both sterile and self-defeating. Intriguingly, he also picks up on E. J. Dionne's observations about the "mad-as-hell" radical center -- an alternate interpretation of our favorite phrase, which we've already dissected on Centroids.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

An Alternate, Libertarian-leaning Cabinet for Unity '08

Not to be outdone, Centroid David R. Block responds with his own pragmatic yet Libertarian-leaning Unity '08 Cabinet, with a ticket headed by:

* President: Mike Huckabee
* Vice-President: Joe Lieberman

I can only hope that the "real" Unity '08 candidates are as forth-coming and fore-sightful with regards to their actual cabinet choices!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Proposed Ticket & Cabinet for Unity '08

While Unity '08 focuses virtually all of its attention on the Presidential ticket, Billy Rojas goes one step further by proposing a comprehensive Unity '08 Cabinet and Staff. While some names are well-known (e.g, Guliani and Stephanopoulos), others are more obscure (at least to me), and some are for entirely new posts (e.g., Mark Satin for Internet Communication). Still, knowing Billy I'm sure there's a solid rationale for each position, and I would hope at least a few of the Unity '08 candidates give it a long, hard look.

Update: Billy has kindly posted a brief justification for each candidate.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Shaping an "American Agenda" by asking the right questions

It their recent update, it is nice to hear that Unity '08 has actually been hard at work tackling the tough issues, especially the challenge of articulating a coherent agenda:

Taking into account the very helpful suggestions and debate that you have conducted here on the web site, we have designed an innovative and powerful way to approach the issues. We call it the American Agenda. By polling, the delegates and public will determine the crucial issues confronting the country. We will present on the website a panoply of expert opinions on each crucial issue, spanning the full spectrum of responsible solutions. Through discussion, debate and polling, the delegates will settle on the questions that the candidates should answer relating to each issue. Unity08’s American Agenda will be the questions; the candidate’s answers will represent his/her American Agenda and platform. We think it takes the silly party platform process of the two parties and stands it on its head. We would be surprised if the media doesn’t take the Unity08 American Agenda of questions and present them forcefully to all candidates, regardless of party.

I commend them for taking responsibility to ask the right questions, rather than trying to force an artificial consensus about the answers. Polling isn't a perfect solution, but (if they frame it well) is probably the optimal one, so I wish them luck.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why not a Third Party?

Over on Centroids, we're have a spirited discussion about the necessity -- and impossibility! -- of starting a third party. While Unity '08 explicitly avoids this goal, I suspect it will face many of the same issues. In particular, I agree with Billy Rojas's claim that you need both a Personality and Platform in order to generate a viable movement. Unity '08 -- as a neutral middle ground -- starts with none of these, though there is still hope that such might emerge...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Importance and Danger of "True Believers"

Prolific Centroid Billy Rojas just posted an article about
True Believers, which ought to be required reading for anyone trying to start a third party. It raises the question, "How do you build a solid core of True Believers while still being open-minded enough to embrace all truth?" Billy doesn't claim to have all the answers, but he sure provides a few good questions...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

In Praise of Factions

One of the biggest challenges of a movement (even if it isn't a "party") is to articulate its core values.  Right now, there just seems to be a vague (if sincere) commitment to "civil discourse about substantial issues."  But, that only goes so far.  A quick scan of the forums indicates lots of voices, but little progress towards any meaningful consensus.  In such a world, the gatekeepers can frankly draw pretty much any conclusion they want!

What's the solution? As strange as it may sound, I think Unity '08 needs factions.  That is, it needs well-defined groupings that can attract adherents, articulate consensus policies within their realm of shared values, and compete for "hearts-and-minds" within the larger, civil space that Unity '08 has carved out.

To be sure, factions are usually a dirty word -- much like partisan!  But really, they're the only way I see to form any sort of coherent group identity, lest Unity '08 degenerate into a mere amorphous blob.

The trick is to figure out how to allow factions to self-organize around their preferred (and shared) principles, while still maintaining allegiance to the higher goal of civility...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mark Satin on Unity '08

Thoughtful independents seeking ways to dramatically improve government have long turned to draft-dodger-turned-New-Ager-turned-pragmatic idealist Mark Satin for well-researched, insightful critiques of emerging political trends.  Find out why he considers Unity08 The Most Promising Political Initiative of Our Time!

Welcome to the Unity '08 Watcher Blog

Welcome to UnityWatch, sponsored by the Centroids community of  The goal of this blog is to provide an outside perspective on the Unity '08 political movement. As centrists and independents, we are excited about the vision of Unity's founders, and impressed by their organizational goals.  However, as principled centrists we worry that their lack of a coherent philosophy may hinder development of a sufficiently strong community to make a lasting change in American Politics.

Still, our goal is not so much to criticize Unity as it is to celebrate the positive aspects of what they do, and provide constructive input on how they might become more effective.  Stay tuned!

Ernie Prabhakar, for Centroids