The “Integral Obama” Story, So Far…

Welcome! Though the 2012 election is over, the work we set out to do with Integral Obama has just begun. Please read this overview to learn more about the project and consider how you might become involved. 

The Idea

In late 2011, Terry Patten created a grassroots fundraising page on the Obama-Biden website, under the title, “Integral Evolutionaries for Obama.” The stated purpose of this initiative was to invite transpartisans, integralists, evolutionaries, and spiritual practitioners to pool their donations to help re-elect President Obama, and then to join together to speak with a more influential voice to bring smart integral policy proposals to the next administration. The intention was that the Administration be in dialog not only with partial, special-interest perspectives but also with perspectives that are explicitly holistic, trans-partisan, integral, and spiritually informed.

Phase One

In July 2012, Terry (and subsequently many others) started publicizing the initiative and the website was launched. Controversy and some healthy debate ensued, but many engaged integral evolutionaries loved it (the positive responses far outweighed the negative ones) and donations began to flow in.

In late September 2012 the website posted a call for “smart integral policy proposals.” These were to be integrally informed proposals exemplifying a higher order synthesis of the best conservative and progressive (and some radical) thinking. The best of these proposals could then be submitted to the new administration, if Obama were to win re-election.

As of November 6th, Integral Evolutionaries for Obama made 485 contributions to the campaign totaling $39,255. Based on the records on the Obama-Biden website, it seems we created by far the largest Obama-Biden 2012 grassroots fundraising page in the nation.

Phase Two

After the election, in late November, the proposals were posted and donors (and the broader integral community) voted. The winner was “Natural Healing and the Affordable Health Care Act” co-authored by Jim Turner and Terry Patten. This proposal asks the administration to write the rules for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) so that natural, alternative, complementary, and integrative health care modalities are included, and so that their role in healthcare can grow over time. The other popular proposals focused on climate change, electoral reform, tax reform, simultaneous global policy implementation (Simpol) and sustainable employment.

Phase Three

As of December 8, 2012, we have begun the process of establishing communication channels to the domestic policy team at the White House. The intention is to (1) establish an ongoing dialog, leading off with (2) an attempt to influence the implementation of the new healthcare law so that it does not systematically institutionalize and perpetuate the inefficient “disease-care” of the current system, and instead puts a true health-care system in place.

Our “Elevator Speech”

The Administration grants various players “a seat at the table,” dialoging with constituencies organized around special interests, industries, professions, labor unions, ethnic groups, political blocs, single issues, etc. Such dialogs may be necessary and even valuable but they continually create and reinforce a perceptual distortion—the tendency to see policy challenges and opportunities as a series of discrete and separate “issues” rather than as interconnected facets of a single whole.

The administration should also seek out dialog with groups who will counter-balance this distorting influence by communicating a holistic, transpartisan, integral view and advocating for the expression of this view in terms of specific policies. This grassroots group offers a beginning for that kind of advocacy.

Our Meta-Project: The Integral Practice of Politics

The initiative was also conceived as a way to enact the integral practice of civic engagement; to navigate the paradox of engaging partisan politics in a transpartisan spirit. Integral scholar-practitioners have done a magnificent job of mapping the multiplicity of human perspectives and of influencing the praxis of many fields of good work, but we haven’t yet learned how to become directly influential in political terms. Integral politics has tended so far to be more abstract than consequential. The Integral Obama initiative is an attempt to bring the extraordinary understandings of integral evolutionary perspectives to bear in influencing actual public policy.

Why Integral Obama in 2012? (rather than another approach or different timing)

We see organized support for partisan political candidates as one legitimate approach (among many) to seeding an enduring integral political movement. There were reasons why it made sense to catalyze this process in 2012. As I posted on the Integral Obama website:

  1. This year’s presidential race is a single big issue, one that already has all our attention for a focused period of time, and one on which I believe most of us can agree. Many of us will be making donations to the Obama campaign anyway, even though we sorely wish we could authentically raise the level of discourse, not just throw more money into the machine.
  2. This particular presidential election is very close and its outcome is likely to be consequential. People around the world live and die because of the decisions that a President makes. If we get more active in supporting the Obama campaign it’s not inconceivable that we actually might make a critical difference. This gives our activism moral urgency; presidential election results definitely DO matter—a LOT—as we learned the hard way in 2000.
  3. An important dimension of integral and evolutionary practice is to engage civic life and bring more nuanced perspectives to them. Despite this, integral evolutionaries don’t yet have a history and tradition of coming together to exert influence. Where best to start? Even if it turns out that this is an early experiment—even if it turns out that we fall short of the “critical mass” necessary to exert political influence this time around—we will be helping activate a new social pattern—that of integral evolutionary political action in [the national political process of] the United States. We will all learn from this experiment, and better approaches will evolve.

 Looking Back, and Looking Forward

An integral understanding offers an orienting perspective and invaluable guiding insight with implications for many governing decisions. The President needs integral input to counter the distorted kinds of discourse that currently pervade the American political system. It is our intention here to offer him another kind of dialog partner, different from the usual political dialog of fragmented special interests with narrowly focused priorities.

To our knowledge the administration is not speaking with anyone who is advocating for the holistic health of the whole body politic. This is the space we can occupy. The integral view needs to have a place at the table as a new breed of “special” interest group, one that strives to go beyond special interests to general, human interests.

We are already in the process of pursuing multiple channels to identify dialog partners within the Obama administration. We are also in the process of drafting a more detailed policy paper based on the “Natural Healing and the Affordable Health Care Act” proposal. We see this as one early experiment in a larger process through which integralists in the United States and around the world will learn effective ways to exert political influence. In time, we will learn how to organize together to gain a seat at the table and exert a wise, holistic influence that starts to heal the fragmentation of politics as usual.

To the degree that we are able to establish a vital ongoing dialog with the administration, we will continue to evolve and expand this initiative over time. To the degree that we are unable to establish ongoing meaningful dialog or exert significant influence on policy, Integral Obama still is and has been a successful and necessary early stage in evolving the practice of integral political engagement.

How You Can Help

If this sounds like the kind of project you’d like to be involved in, please begin by reading some of the other pages on this site, including Terry Patten’s original essay, The Integral Case for President Obama. Also see our initial batch of Integral policy proposals. At present, we are seeking dialogue channels with the Administration, so if you have leads, please get in touch. If you have an interest in Integral Public Policy and would like to submit a smart white paper on any actionable issue, then please see our Call for Integral Policy Proposals.

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