November 3, 2017. By Tamela Baker
Despite her lengthy political résumé, former Del. Heather R. Mizeur, D-Montgomery, was disillusioned with what had become “politics as usual.”
Last month, she launched a new political initiative called “MizMaryland/Soul Force Politics.” It’s a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, and its aim, she said during a stop Friday in Hagerstown, is to empower people to participate in the process while encouraging more civility in political discourse.
After losing her bid for governor in the 2014 Democratic primary, she “semi-retired” to her farm on the Eastern Shore.
“I’d spent 18 months on the campaign trail in this incredibly external exercise of just being out there in the world, and I really needed to retreat to find some balance,” she said.
Her time off gave her a chance to reconnect with herself, she said, “as a way to best harness what I want to put out in the world in terms of civic engagement.”
Those thoughts were “already percolating” as she observed the 2016 presidential campaign, she said. “Campaigns have been negative for a long time, and I tried to change that when I ran. I had zero negative campaigning … and then in 2015, 2016 when the presidential campaign rolled around, it just was so awful.” And while negative campaigns are nothing new, she posits that the wake of this one has been a little different.
“What happened in the past is negative campaigns will then often transition to more positive governing strategies,” she said, “and that didn’t happen this time. Everything continued to be confrontational and divisive and deep ‘us vs. them’ divisions in our communities. And I really started to feel really compelled to come off the sidelines and offer a different way of doing this.
“And that’s what Soul Force Politics is about — it’s this notion that if we really cultivate a deeper mindfulness about our inner-spirit wisdom and our connection to our heart’s promptings … in a way that ignites our enthusiasm for what we’re doing, we can stand for what we believe in without tearing down someone else for what they believe in.”
In addition to a podcast, blog and workshops, Mizeur has been traveling the state to encourage what she calls a grassroots approach toward individual change.
“The response has really been wonderful,” she said, even when she made appearances on conservative radio programs.
Her own podcasts have featured a diverse array of guests. In addition to former U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and singer Melissa Etheridge, a personal friend, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan was one of the first.
One of the lessons she learned as a political candidate, she said, is that for paradigms to shift, the change has to happen inside individuals. She hopes to see more people, particularly candidates, taking a more civil approach to politics. But it requires a transformation, she said.
“Candidates are a reflection of the community,” she said. “When we do the work, we end up cultivating candidates who are more in line with what we want.”
And while she said the organization will do no lobbying, she will discuss policy — such as her proposal for a statewide version of the AmeriCorps community service program.
Mizeur’s blog and podcast are available at mizmaryland.org, as well as more information on the organization and its vision.
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