Origin Politics: The Why Behind Our Why
More than disagreement, drilling down to why people hold the opinions they hold is the only way to work in good faith towards solutions.
If the recent elections in Spotsylvania County proved nothing else, it may be that people are not as rock-ribbed as they appear to be when government becomes dysfunctional.
We can accept wide ranging dissent among political leaders on issues and political philosophies, so long as the institutions they lead function effectively.
When they don’t, voters turn from party labels and look for leaders who can return the institutions they lead to what they should be - government organizations that are responsive to the needs of all its citizens.
How else to explain moderate, non-party-affiliated politician Megan Jackson defeating the Tea Party architect of Spotsylvania School Board’s chaos — Kirk Twigg — by 23 points in deeply red Livingston District?
The driving question, however, becomes: Why do we seem to wait until things become chaotic before we show up at the polls?
We know the answer - people are tired of nonstop electioneering in Virginia, and they’re weary of the politics of grievance and extremist rhetoric that has come to define campaigns.
How to change that? Origin politics.
Getting to the Why Behind the Why
Though writers are loathe to admit it, very few ideas are original to us as individuals. The truth is, we borrow a lot of what we write from the fecund minds of others.
Such is the case with origin politics.
The term as I’m using it is — so far as I can tell — original to Cori Blanch, who is both co-owner of Curitiba and producer for the New Dominion Podcast.
Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the FXBG Advance yesterday morning at the University of Mary Washington Small Business Development Center, Blanch, Megan Samples, Shaun Kenney, myself, several politicos, and a few other writers for the Advance were discussing the acerbic nature of our political discourse.
Blanch, referencing his work with the NDP, suggested a possible solution — origin politics.
Simply put, origin politics is the art of learning to hear why people have come to believe and hold the positions they hold, before launching into a full-throttled defense of your own opinions.
The idea is simple.
We can disagree on policies, but when we understand why people hold the views they do — how those viewpoints and ideas developed in their lives — it allows us to appreciate that opposing view. It also makes it possible for us to find the places we can agree upon and begin our collective work to discover solutions.
On hot-topic issues especially, understanding the origin stories of those we disagree with becomes most important. To begin, knowing why people have come to the conclusions they have allows us to treat them as humans, instead of branding them by their political stripes and starting down a path of dehumanizing them.
Once understood, then the work of searching for common ground can begin. We may disagree on abortion, but we learn that we can agree on the importance on supporting families. On controversial books, we can disagree on the appropriate age to introduce such material, but we can agree on the importance of creating a system that allows people to have control over the values they cherish.
The idea behind origin politics has been with the Fredericksburg Advance from the beginning. We’ve discussed it in several veins - understanding the “why behind the why” and multipartisanship being the most recent examples.
But the term origin politics says plainly what must happen if we are to derail the toxicity in today’s political and civil discussions.
By definition, origin politics operates at the local level, and begins with citizens engaging with one another.
No one is pretending this is easy. Or that change is going to happen instantly. But we do believe it is the surest path to stabilizing the tired noxiousness in today’s politics.
We know because we’ve seen it work.
Megan Jackson proved that in Livingston. The multipartisan team at FXBG Advance is gaining a better understanding of one another every day that goes by, as we learn to listen to one another.
There’s much work to do, however, and we at the Advance are here to help facilitate that work wherever we can.
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-Martin Davis, Editor