Opinion | Where American Politics Can Still Work: From the Bottom Up – by Thomas Friedman – NYT

LANCASTER, Pa. — Last week I wrote about why political parties across the industrial world are fracturing from the top down. Today I’m writing about the political units that are working. On this Fourth of July, if you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head. The country looks so much better from the bottom up.

I know — the current cliché is that we’re a country divided by two coasts, two coasts that are supposedly diversifying, pluralizing, modernizing and globalizing, while in flyover America everyone is high on opioids, cheering for President Trump and waiting for 1950 to return. That’s totally wrong.

Our country is actually a checkerboard of cities and communities — some that are forming what I call “complex adaptive coalitions” and are thriving from the bottom up, and others that can’t build such adaptive coalitions and are rapidly deteriorating. You can find both on the coasts and both in the interior — and you can find both in just one little corner of south-central Pennsylvania.

I was invited in April to give a paid book talk here in Lancaster, and I was so blown away by the societal innovation the town’s leaders had employed to rebuild their once-struggling city and county that I decided to return with my reporter’s notebook and interview them.

 

My original host was the Hourglass, a foundation founded by community leaders in Lancaster County in 1997, when the city of Lancaster was a crime-ridden ghost town at night where people were afraid to venture and when the county’s dominant industrial employer, Armstrong World Industries, was withering.

Some of the leading citizens decided that “time was running out” — hence “Hourglass” — and that no cavalry was coming to save them — not from the state’s capital or the nation’s capital. They realized that the only way they could replace Armstrong and re-energize the downtown was not with another dominant company, but by throwing partisan politics out the window and forming a complex adaptive coalition in which business leaders, educators, philanthropists, social innovators and the local government would work together to unleash entrepreneurship and forge whatever compromises were necessary to fix the city.”

David Lindsay Jr:

Bravo Thomas Friedman. DLTB GUD

Don’t let the bastards get you down.

This piece reminds me of how excited I was in Business School at the University of Washington, to hear a Professor Cecil Bell talk about Organizational Development and its tool kit. That is the same subject, or set of tools and practices described in the town of Lancaster.  Bell collaborated on a small text book with Wendell French called Organization Devolopmment, which is the most valuable set of tools I learned of in my MBA program, if you are interested in the renaissance of communities or organizations.

Get the right people together, get them to trust each other enough to brainstorm, sort and prioritize the data, and then the natural proclivity of humans to problem solve will kick in, and miracles can and do happen.

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The Meaning of Bannon vs. Trump – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“Two quick thoughts on the Steve Bannon-President Trump feud:One, it’s a sign of the apparent seriousness of the Russia investigation for Trump’s family and inner circle. The insults got the attention, but the more significant part of Bannon’s remarks may be the “logical, cold-eyed recognition” that prosecutors are building a powerful case, notes Errol Louis at CNN.

Two, the feud is a reminder that Bannon has failed to accomplish his biggest ambition: Expanding the Republican coalition to include many more middle-class and working-class voters. “Steve Bannon had a chance to be a genuinely significant figure in American politics and he blew it,” my colleague Ross Douthat wrote on Twitter.

Democracy. Later this month, an alarmingly titled book, “How Democracies Die,” written by two political scientists, will be published. It is, as the book’s promotional material states, “a bracing, revelatory look at the demise of liberal democracies around the world — and a road map for rescuing our own.”

That last part seems the most important. I remain optimistic that the Trump presidency will turn out to be a phase rather than a turning point in American history. But it would be foolish to dismiss the threats to our system of government. They’re greater than I ever expected to see.

The Party of Lincoln Is Now the Party of Trump – by Thomas Edsall – NYT

“. . . Theodoridis summed up the conclusions he and his colleagues reached in a blog post in Scientific American in November 2016: Partisanship for many Americans today takes the form of a visceral, even subconscious, attachment to a party group. Our party becomes a part of our self-concept in deep and meaningful ways.In other words, the assumption that many Republican voters would be repelled by Donald Trump turned out to be wrong; instead party loyalty — “a visceral, even subconscious, attachment” — takes precedence.

In fact, as the political scientists Leonie Huddy, Lilliana Mason and Lene Aarøe argue in an article in American Political Science Review, the most powerful form of partisanship is not principled, ideological commitment to conservative or liberal policies, but “expressive partisanship,” which is more of a gut commitment: A subjective sense of belonging to a group that is internalized to varying degrees, resulting in individual differences in identity strength, a desire to positively distinguish the group from others, and the development of ingroup bias. Moreover, once identified with a group or, in this instance, a political party, members are motivated to protect and advance the party’s status and electoral dominance as a way to maintain their party’s positive distinctiveness.”

DL: In short, beating the Republicans in the elections will be harder than many people think. Until there is a financial crisis.

Here is a comment I liked:
ChristineMcM is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 7 hours ago

“Not only are Republicans willing to support Trump, but both Democrats and Republicans are inclined to demonize the leadership of the opposing party.”

Based on this assessment, it’s not a great time to be alive in America unless you’re a Republican. Naturally, GOP Congress people who throw their lot in with Trump will share in his victories or defeats.

Up to now, his only victory has been grabbing and consolidating power. He has yet to achieve some notable legislative achievement, which is why tax reform becomes so damned important.

But I hope these legislators remember one important thing: If and when tax reform brings the country to its economic knees (No exaggeration, read some economic history), Trump will manage to throw all of Congress under the bus.

One would expect the public’s backlash to potential tax reform (when people see who’s paying for the wealthy to get most of the spoils) to be reflected at at the polls, which is why I find article is so sobering.

The data backing up the extent of today’s tribalism and resentment has upended the traditional prototype of voters “who vote with their pocketbooks.”

Worst of all, voters increasingly are not punishing the officials responsible for bad tax and wage policies. It’s really pretty astounding that so many are willing to be lead off s a looming fiscal cliff.

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Trump Made the Swamp Worse. Here’s How to Drain It. – By BRINK LINDSEY and STEVEN M. TELES – NYT

“. . .  Really draining the swamp means changing the policymaking process to shield it against insider takeover and manipulation. For starters, congressional staffs need to be expanded, upgraded and professionalized. Legislators would then be better able to make their own assessments of complex regulatory issues without having to depend on the biased expertise of industry lobbyists.

Philanthropists need to put their dollars behind a network of organizations to counter the organizational presence of the forces of upward redistribution. The Ford Foundation did this in the 1970s by investing in a network of environmental law firms like the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund. More recently, the Eli and Edythe Broad, Walton Family, Robertson and other charitable foundations have made similar investments in educational reforms.”

DL: Bravo. I’ve been thinking about some of these ideas, but these gents have expressed the problem and solution well.

‘Like Going Back in Time’: Puerto Ricans Put Survival Skills to Use – The New York Times

“SAN JUAN, P.R. — A grandmother turned a school bathroom sink into a bath. Neighbors are piling into a garage for communal meals prepared on an old gas stove. A 79-year-old man made a bonfire out of fallen tree branches to cook.More than a month after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico on a path of destruction that spared no region, race or class, residents of the island have found their creativity stretched to the limit as they try to function without many amenities of the modern world.

It is not just water and electricity that are in scarce supply. Cellphone service ranges from spotty to nonexistent. Cars are damaged and roads blocked. For many, work and school still have not resumed, so they wander the streets, play board games and sit around telling stories by candlelight.

“It’s like going back in time,” said Kevin Jose Sanchez Gonzalez, 25, who has been living in darkness since Sept. 5, the day before a previous storm, Hurricane Irma, began to chip away at Puerto Rico’s electrical grid.Crammed into homes three or four families at a time, living on canned and freeze-dried food without any means of turning it into a hot meal, and sleeping in shelters, Puerto Ricans have been learning to make do, sometimes in extreme ways.”

Yes. Here are two of many comments I recommended and support.

Wade Nelson Durango, Colorado 1 hour ago

This could be America’s greatest hour. Construct and ship 100,000 tiny homes built from shipping containers. Offer American utilities massive tax breaks to send linemen, trucks, and equipment to P.R. Create a WPA or CCC to employ tens of thousands of under-employed Americans to rebuild homes. Fill the harbors with older cruise boats to house them while they do. Put every asset of the National Guard into restoring safety, and order in the island. Put a billion of OUR tax dollars in Elon Musk’s hands to fill the island with solar and PowerWall batteries instead of giving a tax cut to the rich. In other words, SEND THE CAVALRY. Americans need to take heed; whatever is NOT DONE in Puerto Rico will eventually NOT BE DONE in your town, your state, whether NorCAL, the Eastern Seaboard, Texas, or even Denver Colorado when disaster strikes YOUR area. As you have done to the “least of these, so you have done unto me” a wise man once said!

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David Solá-Del Valle, MD

Boston 3 hours ago

Facts about Puerto Rico a full month after the Hurricane (based on my visit to PR from Oct 9-Oct 14 and having my whole family in PR):
1) 77-88% (varies daily) of the island is without electricity, and Puerto Rico only has ~400 workers to restore the grid at this point as opposed to the 18,000 that were mobilized to Florida.
2) Most of my family is without water, and they live in Caguas, a mere 16 miles south of San Juan, essentially a suburb of San Juan, and easily accessible.
3) Getting a text or a phone call outside of San Juan is still miraculous. Imagine how difficult communications are. Sometimes you have to drive to see the person you need to talk to and pray they’re home and that you haven’t wasted your gas in vain. Of note, ~50% of cell towers are still down as of today.
4) The main hospitals in Caguas are working with generators.
5) Traffic is a mess – I lived it – no traffic lights are functional, and there aren’t enough policemen to man them all. Puerto Ricans have learned to multiply their usual commutes by 3-5 times depending on the day and weather.
6) I stood in line at several supermarkets in Caguas and Carolina to find food for my family to finally be allowed to enter and find half-empty shelves. This has been particularly hard for may cousin with Crohn’s disease.
7) 50 dead officially, 113 people missing, and people dying every day from lack of electricity, water, medications, etc. A video from a fellow physician in Centro Médico (in SJ) showed how grim it

As Harvey Rains Down Devastation- Houston Stands Together – The New York Times

“There are lessons to be learned, as there always are after disasters like this. Some of those lessons — like how unchecked urban sprawl and paving over of wetlands and prairies have increased the risk posed by floods in Houston and other cities — were evident long before Harvey and ought to become more urgent in the storm’s wake. Experts will also point out, as they have before, that cities ought to abandon traditional flood-control approaches that were never very good and are wholly inadequate for dealing with the kinds of intense storms that have become more frequent in recent years. Instead, they need to adopt smarter strategies that provide more space for floodwaters to seep into the ground and drain away slowly without leaving behind a trail of destruction.”

Donald Trump Is the Godfather of a Democratic Renaissance – by Thomas Edsall – NYT

“After decades of getting out-organized and outspent in battles to control state legislatures, Democratic strategists have woken up to the importance of defending against Republican gains at the grass roots.

The anger and fear provoked by the advent of President Trump have led to explosive growth for progressive advocacy groups determined to oppose the president’s agenda and, crucially, to elect Democrats to local office — groups like Indivisible, Run for Something, Emerge America and Color of Change.

The number of Democratic candidates filing for office at all levels of government has surged; the trickle of money into liberal grass-roots programs has become a flood; and turnout in post-2016 Democratic primaries has reached record levels.”

Chuck Schumer: A Better Deal for American Workers – The New York Times

“. . . First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.

Over the next several months, Democrats will lay out a series of policies that, if enacted, will make these three things a reality. We’ve already proposed creating jobs with a $1 trillion infrastructure plan; increasing workers’ incomes by lifting the minimum wage to $15; and lowering household costs by providing paid family and sick leave.”

Nice op-ed by Chuck Schumer. The comments tear it to shreds, perhaps unfairly. He might be right to not champion a single payer health system, since the country is so divided on the subject. Is it smart not to mention climate change?

I agree with commentators frustrated at the lack of mention for even a plan to overturn Citizen’s United, but in Schumer’s defense, you have to capture both houses to control future Supreme court appointments.

If only I had a crystal ball. Is it better to run by following the crowd, like Trump, telling people what they want to hear, right or wrong, or to lead, and reach for a mandate worth fighting for. The answer is probably neither. You must pick your battles, and cave when necessary. You have to want to win as badly as your opponents,even if you won’t stoop to their level of dirty tricks.

I wonder, if the Democrats announced they would support what ever horrible health plan the Republicans put forth, just to let them show the country the value of their ideas and leadership, what would happen? They would have to insist that the reforms take place a year before the next election. Wouldn’t the Republican health plan help sweep the Republicans out of office in the next election?

A Road Trip Through Rusting and Rising America – by Tom Friedman – NYT

“Trump is half right in his diagnosis, but his prescription is 100 percent wrong. We do have an epidemic of failing communities. But we also have a bounty of thriving ones — not because of a strongman in Washington but because of strong leaders at the local level.”

Why Don’t All Jobs Matter? – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Consider what has happened to department stores. Even as Mr. Trump was boasting about saving a few hundred jobs in manufacturing here and there, Macy’s announced plans to close 68 stores and lay off 10,000 workers. Sears, another iconic institution, has expressed “substantial doubt” about its ability to stay in business.

Overall, department stores employ a third fewer people now than they did in 2001. That’s half a million traditional jobs gone — about eighteen times as many jobs as were lost in coal mining over the same period.

And retailing isn’t the only service industry that has been hit hard by changing technology. Another prime example is newspaper publishing, where employment has declined by 270,000, almost two-thirds of the work force, since 2000.”