What motivated me to write the new paper: Overcoming Polarization by Evolving Both Right and Left

By Steve McIntosh

The brewing fight over the nomination of the next Supreme Court justice is bringing the problem of hyper-partisan polarization into sharp focus. But even though this situation clearly reveals how polarization is crippling our democracy, this problem’s ability to stimulate greater political engagement is limited because there is no viable solution yet in sight. So I suppose this is a good time to be publishing a paper offering an innovative solution to the problem. Yet although I am certainly concerned about the fate of the Supreme Court, this nomination battle is only a symptom of the larger ‘culture war’ that has plagued American politics for close to fifty years now. And it is the long-term problems posed by our culture war that motivates me to write about polarization.

In this vein, the thing about politics that interests me the most is the way it reveals people’s values. In a democracy, of course, voters are often forced to compromise their positive values in a effort to thwart the disvalues they oppose. But because political activism is usually focused in one way or another on improving things by overcoming social problems, it is an inherently evolutionary activity. And wherever evolution is moving, or attempting to move, the integral perspective can illuminate aspects of the situation that were previously occluded.

So this helps explain my motivation for writing the new ICE paper: Overcoming Polarization by Evolving Both Right and Left. In the paper, I try to drill down to the reach “bedrock of loyalty-identity underlying our national political landscape.” In this effort it feels as though I’ve now reached the “ship’s boiler room,” or the beating heart of partisan values that animate people to think and vote the way they do.

The foundational values identified in the paper as “Heritage,” “Liberty,” “Fairness,” and “Liberation” are all values I personally ascribe to. Each of these value sets provides a solution to a given set of problems. And because all of these problem sets continue to challenge us, we need all of these values to be on-line and functioning for our society and government to function effectively. My hope is thus that by vivifying these bedrock values, more people we see how all these values are worth holding to some degree. Indeed this is one way to summarize the overall integral project and the mission of ICE: to foster cultural evolution by increasing the scope of what people are able to value.

I thus encourage readers of this blog to check out this new substantial paper (and listen to my commentary tonight on the Daily Evolver radio show). And if you feel so moved, please leave a comment on the paper’s main page.


Steve McIntosh

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