Former Obama administration solicitor general Don Verrilli gave a commencement address this week. His topic was President Trump. He has it exactly right, and all those conservatives who’ve (as I characterized it at length several months ago) “sold their souls” should take heed. An excerpt of the address is below and this link is to the full text. As we look to Memorial Day and remember those who have died to defend America’s exceptional system of government, let us resolve to do better.
Let’s not mince words. Our civic faith is undergoing an extreme test. I am not talking about disagreements over policy. In our democratic system we will always debate and disagree about policy, and we should. That is how we learn and grow and prosper as a nation. Something much more important is at stake. We have a President who tries every day to undermine the public’s confidence in the rule of law – who sows doubt about the integrity of the women and men of the Department of Justice and the FBI (women and men whose integrity and commitment to public service I saw up close every day for the better part of eight years when I was in the government), a President who demands that his political adversaries be thrown in prison, who attacks the integrity of judges when they rule against him. We have racists and Nazis marching with torches in Charlottesville Virginia chanting “blood and soil” like they did in Germany in the 1930s, and a President who refuses to call them what they are. We have unprecedented attacks on the free press, criticism dismissed as “fake news” and critics threatened with financial ruin. And some version of this occurs virtually every day, to the point that it is now defines what is normal in our political discourse. And it’s not just the President. Our political leaders routinely forsake compromise, demonize opponents, and sell out the long term health of our constitutional system in order to gain maximum short-term partisan advantage. This is taking an enormous toll. More and more people believe that the system is rigged, that our institutions are corrupt, that our Constitution and laws are just words on a page – just tools to be manipulated in the service of selfish interests. This is a test of faith.
At the root of the problem is a predilection for short-termism that has become embedded in the political and business culture of modern democracies. By design, Western politicians have relatively short political horizons; they are often in office for terms of less than five years. So they find their duties regularly interrupted by elections that distract from the job of addressing long-term policy challenges. As a result, politicians are naturally and rationally drawn to focus their efforts on seducing their electorates with short-term sweeteners — including economic policies designed to quickly produce favorable monthly inflation, unemployment, and GDP numbers.
Voters generally favor policies that enhance their own well-being with little consideration for that of future generations or for long-term outcomes. Politicians are rewarded for pandering to voters’ immediate demands and desires, to the detriment of growth over the long term. Because democratic systems encourage such short-termism, it will be difficult to solve many of the seemingly intractable structural problems slowing global growth without an overhaul of democracy.
Regardless where you fall on the political spectrum and/or are a foreign observer of the U.S. democratic circus, this is a thought provoking read.
Who is playing the “long game” anymore? And if they are, can they? I’m no fan of term limits – I think they are “managing to the edge”, meaning dealing with elements outside of the norm, and hurt the “long game” view. But I see value in certain limits.
Curtailing the election cycle, and the periods in which politicians and PACs and such can collect finds and spend them, should also be part of the mix. I REALLY like the idea of PACs & SuperPACs & committees & the candidates only being allowed to solicit campaign funds for 45 days before the campaign of 90 days (or some well defined term) before the election. For the House of Representatives, and any other body that is similarly short termed, I would make it 30 days for fund raising and 30 days for campaigning.
I also think the U.S. Election Day should be a national holiday with mandatory voting.
Your mileage may vary.Also on:
In case you haven’t paid attention, I live in Tokyo. Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics.
Yesterday I briefly railed against the Olympics. I still think they are a waste of money, resources, and time. I specifically referenced the US.
And then there’s Tokyo.
Train stations across the city are being remodeled and improved. The stations not under construction have likely been already renovated. Hotels are shooing up. Transit plans started testing a year ago. Refinements to messaging to include English and other languages are in their late stages. More and more restaurants, shops, and other venues are taking credit cards.
If someone tries to tie specific economic benefits to hosting the Games, they will still be hard pressed.
But this city can and might just be, by 2020, the most globally accessible by language, culture, and disability. The country might be, too.
That will be a huge economic benefit.
According to what I’ve read, disaster planning includes Olympic scenarios.
You better believe that Olympic folk in Tokyo are taking notes about everything that happens in South Korea these next two weeks. They will break down, analyze, and game plan for everything seen.
I wonder how much raw data Japan gets from South Korea to prepare for their games?
I think the Tokyo and Japan governments are exemplifying something we talk about in Security circles – never let an emergency go to waste.
I could catalog the legion problems with the Olympics, an every 2 years International “Sporting” Event (2ISE), but I don’t want to ruin my February into March doing so. Bitterness remains from moving to the offset model (Summer and Winter Olympics used to be held in the same year) and when they let professional athletes officially participate (the “Dream Team” in basketball was awesomely absurd).
As an American, I would love it if no further 2ISE are hosted on our soil. They are expensive, corrupt, problem fraught, and no longer yield an economic benefit.
That municipalities across the United States constantly vote down even bidding on an 2ISE pitch crosses ideological boundaries in our divisive political landscape says something.
I’m still incensed that Los Angeles will host an 2ISE in 2028. That is a rant for another day.
Tune in tomorrow for my counter opinion.
Seriously, if your vote teetered on the edge and only random Social Media accounts could push you one way or another … you need to retake high school civics &| be brave enough to ask a trusted friend for help.