Common Ground

The first Post of Nurture Democracy was an initial attempt to define common ground where those of varied political viewpoints and parties might meet.  The following makes the case in a different but related way.  Starting with the basic idea of a democratic political system (of course comprised of Republicans, Democrats, and others), I am seeking here to trace back through constitutive layers to demonstrate core common terrain that we all share.

Political Democracy derives from Democratic Citizenship

True Political democracy requires “Real consent (as) a positive force arising out of inner conviction. It is not synonymous with passive acquiescence. It is found as the basis of government… where there is a community of values and interests, where there is a positive affirmation of certain fundamental values common to the large majority of individuals and groups within the nation.” (The Moral Foundation of Democracy, Hallowell p. 35-36) 

Democratic Citizenship derives from Citizenship

Democratic citizenship is based on a larger notion of citizenship. Citizenship defined broadly means the relationship between an individual and a group (community, nation). Citizenship is both a right and a responsibility - a right that must be articulated and defended and a responsibility that requires purpose, work, and engagement.  Citizenship is based on the idea that we are better off as individuals if we believe in and act with the interests of others in mind as well as ourselves. Democratic citizenship is a form of unification: “only purpose can unite men, purpose that transcends interest. It is only when we are willing to modify or sacrifice our particular interests in terms of a larger purpose that we are able to unite with other men in a common endeavor.” (Hallowell, p. 55)

Citizenship derives from Freedom

Citizenship develops when the central human desire for self-determination, personal freedom, and individual liberty meshes with and is enriched by a range of collective correlates. It is based on the realization that giving up some personal freedom in a narrow sense, will result in a richer kind of personal freedom based upon the idea of the greater good. Citizenship as the pursuit of freedom means a positive interdependency between an individual and a group. This interdependency began long ago when our species made a choice (or perhaps had no other option) to live together in groups and as a result, came back for the brink of extinction and spread widely across the planet.

Freedom derives from the search for survival and authenticity

The drive for survival requires the freedom to seek shelter, food, and clothing.  As survival becomes at least somewhat more secure, the need for authenticity grows. Authenticity is essentially about the search for meaning through the expression of intrinsic human agency.  This kind of agency means that we are simply hard-wired to not only survive but to need and create meaning. We all have a basic desire and drive to “matter in the world”, for our existence to be more then passivity or reactivity to external forces - we all want to be our “own force.”


So, we see that the foundation and motive for cooperation across the political spectrum runs deep and long and true - back to the very core of what it means to be human and back to the first time our species worked together for the benefit of individuals by way of the common good.