Democracy Witness has no partisan or electoral purpose. This is, rather, an effort to bring together key groups across the political spectrum to forge a better future, by cooperating constructively or by putting the principle of service ahead of the perceived value of one’s own factional interests.
It is inconceivable to radicals, conspirators and hardliners, that such constructive cooperation could come to exist, but we believe it is possible.
We need to revitalize our civic engagement, by countering unjust manipulations of the process and by restoring the hope and enthusiasm, to as many people as possible, about the possibilities of constructive, inclusive civics. Part of that is to recognize that parties have the role and their virtues, but that their role must also be limited. We cannot afford — and the whole world is watching us come too late to this awareness — to allow party-first politics to create more opportunities for despair than for good faith engagement.
We are advocates for the optimism of explorers and world-builders. We are all involved in building the future; we must be smart, committed, collaborative optimists, or we will fail to build a future that works for people, for democracy, and for the natural and human treasures we most value.
An optimist is not a wishful thinker; an optimist is someone who aims for the best possible outcome and steadfastly puts all effort into achieving that best possible outcome. It is necessary to use imagination to see clearly through to possibilities that are better than the status quo or the unjust past. The optimist does not indulge in lamentations about what might not be; the optimist gets busy solving problems to make sure we don’t lose the possibility of the best-case future.
When Democracy Witness began, it was called ‘Independents of Principle’, established to provide a forum for discourse that could speak to the broad, and often hidden, political center, where most people don’t have time for partisan rhetorical combat and where most citizens identify as independents.
In 2011, when the people of Egypt flooded into Tahrir Square, we saw Christians standing guard to protect Muslims at prayer, as the protesters came under ferocious attack, showing Christian and Muslim leaders embracing and calling for an end to tyranny, showing well-to-do business executives joining young students and working-class strikers, women young and old, children and grandparents, secularists and religious parties, joining together to call for justice and democracy. The clarity and courage of that common purpose, in defense of human dignity and the right to self-determination, was the impetus for launching this publication.
“Independent voters want something other than the ideological equivalent of trench warfare. They want to see imaginative, heroic civics of the kind we’ve seen blooming across the landscape of Egyptian politics in 2011.” (see ‘Rise of the Revolutionary Moderate‘)
Engagement does not guarantee the outcomes we aspire to. Tahrir Square has also come to show us that. But, without engagement, without that civic commitment, to stand together first as citizens, and then to work out policy together, we lose contact with the basic reality of what a free society is and must be.
The true political center is not a no-man’s land between right and left or between liberal and conservative; it’s something we are all a part of, and which has roots in all of our interactions. Human judgment, basic decency, the desire for independence, and the instinct to build the best home and the best future possible for those we care about: these are not ideologically driven behaviors; they are essential qualities of what we commonly call values.
What we value is not an ideology; it is quality, liberty, relevance, legitimacy. Honoring this was the original mission of Independents of Principle project, and holding to that open, non-partisan perspective will be central to the Democracy Witness project—as we move forward with periodic analyses of issues of consequence for human dignity, liberty and resilience.
Our thoughts, feelings, needs, and votes, are not pre-determined by ideological leaning. We have the freedom to choose, and we should retain that freedom, and demand it be recognized, so that we can enjoy the fruits of an engaged democracy.
If we believe it is possible, even necessary, to secure ourselves against the perils of a world in which arbitrary abuses threaten personal liberty; if we believe it is right to find common cause and to look for unity, even with those who think differently; if we believe democracy is better than dictatorship and dysfunction, then we need to learn that each human mind is independent in the political sense, free to think and to shape the world and to carve out a landscape in which what is dreamt in the best of ourselves may become possible.
Cooperation should be celebrated as service.
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