I chose to tackle divisive partisanship for three reasons:
- It has always been my life’s objective to ultimately focus my contribution on social issues. (First, though, I needed to ensure financial independence. That took till 2015.)
- Having lived all over the United States — NY, TX, MA, NC, DC, LA, NM, AZ, CA, back to NY and now FL — very happily within blue, red and “purple” communities, I learned early on that (1) none of these communities have any more stupid, selfish or evil people than any of the others, yet (b) all of them are convinced that is precisely “what is the problem” with the others.
This has been a lifelong personal curiosity, because from my experience in all these communities, such a shallow assessment seems illogical, lazy-thinking and counterproductive for all parties, who otherwise might be finding opportunities to mutually prosper.
- In 2016, it surpassed being a curiosity. As I evaluated which social issue to dive into, the US embroiled itself in that November’s election. It was clear to me that my lifelong fascination — what I viewed at the time as intolerance of opposing views — had deteriorated into a legitimate threat to the nation’s welfare and possibly its survival as a union. “Shit had become real.” I considered that with my broad and deep exposure across these diverse communities, I had unique experience and understanding to bring to bear, so it seemed the perfect match.
And that is how I came to work on divisive partisanship.
My background was in Silicon Valley tech start-ups. My unique area of expertise was in figuring out how to sell innovative, typically million+ dollar new products into large enterprises that didn’t know they needed them. I was the “first sales guy in” to extremely early start-ups, responsible for figuring out how to make some never-before-existed concept sellable and then building an initial sales team to prove to investors that indeed it could be scalably sold. The unique skills I brought to that challenge were (a) a deep curiosity to fully understand the product, which established credibility with prospects, (b) tactical skill at finding prospects whose needs & profile matched up with both what the product could deliver and the degree of risk inherent in nascent products, (c) the ability to explain novel technical topics to non-technical audiences and (d) a reputation in the industry — earned over decades — for integrity and not leading partners astray. People trust me.
Short story: I was really good at this. You can read my last CEO’s perspective on it here.
This is relevant to the task before us. If we’re going to overcome divisive partisanship, what we’ve been doing in America hasn’t worked. We need to launch new programs the community may initially be skeptical of, persuade reticent stakeholders to support them and these programs are going to need to be scalable. This is what I do.
So, first I immersed myself in “understanding the product:” several years of research on the issue, studying a voluminous mass of perspectives on whether a problem really exists, if so, what is causing it, what are its implications and what might be done about it. Some of the more interesting research is referenced in our Resource Library and one can read the conclusions I drew in “Our Source of Frustration: Partisan Dysfunction.” From that I formulated a point of view on causes and potential solutions, explained in “Causes of American Partisan Dysfunction” and “What needs to be done.” I then conceived of candidate programs that might implement those solutions, documented in “e.pluribus.US Programs.” With that, e.pluribus.US was born.
Why not just work for an organization already addressing the issue? I dove into that possibility in 2017 and, short story, no one was. That has changed in the last few years fortunately and I am reaching out to that community (see our current database of them), but in 2017 it was clear to me that someone had to get going on this, so I got going. I also wanted to establish credibility by showing actual traction before I went looking for supporters.
So in 2021 I launched the first program, Project LISTEN, aimed at developing a scalable method of quickly understanding why opposing parties think the way they do on controversial issues (eg. why, truly, do people oppose COVID vaccines?). In 2022 we launched a second and more ambitious program, Project INFLUENCE, which ultimately seeks to influence public attitudes toward collaborating across opposing viewpoints.
There are several other programs in the pipeline beyond these. The plan is to utilize the traction demonstrated on Projects LISTEN and INFLUENCE to raise the resources necessary to scale up those and the subsequent programs.
That is what I’m doing with e.pluribus.US
If you’re interested more fundamentally in why one would decide to quit a great career to work on social issues, check Why do I care about advancing humanity?