“Dear Reader. I think you know, after 23 years of my writing this column, that I’m not lazy. I always try to come up with fresh ideas. Today, though, I am fresh out of fresh ideas. More than any time in my career, I think our country is in danger. It has a disturbed man as president, whose job description — to be a healer of the country in times of great national hurt and to pull us together to do big hard things that can be done only together — conflicts with his political strategy, which is to divide us and mobilize his base with anger and fear. And time and again he has chosen the latter.
When a person is promoted to a top job in life, usually one of two things happens: He either grows or he swells — he either evolves and grows into that job or all of his worst instincts and habits become swollen and just expand over a wider field. I don’t have to tell you what happened with President Trump. He is a shameless liar and an abusive bully — only now he is doing it from the bully pulpit of the presidency.
When you have a president without shame, backed by a party without a spine, amplified by a TV network without integrity, reason is not an option and hope is not a strategy. The only restraint on Trump is a lever of national power in the hands of the opposition party that can force some accountability.”
“I began my journalism career covering a civil war in Lebanon. I never thought I’d end my career covering a civil war in America.We may not be there yet, but if we don’t turn around now, we will surely get where we’re going — which was best described by Senator Jeff Flake on Monday: “Tribalism is ruining us. It is tearing our country apart. It is no way for sane adults to act.”
Sure, we’ve experienced bouts of intense social strife since the American Civil War of 1861. I grew up with the assassination of Martin Luther King and raging street battles over civil rights and Vietnam. And yet this moment feels worse — much less violent, blessedly, but much more broadly divisive. There is a deep breakdown happening between us, between us and our institutions and between us and our president.”
“. . . . . It would be easy to blame both sides equally for this shift, noted Ornstein, but it is just not true. After the end of the Cold War, he said, “tribal politics were introduced by Newt Gingrich when he came to Congress 40 years ago,” and then perfected by Mitch McConnell during the Barack Obama presidency, when McConnell declared his intention to use his G.O.P. Senate caucus to make Obama fail as a strategy for getting Republicans back in power.
They did this even though that meant scuttling Obama’s health care plan, which was based on Republican ideas, and even though that meant scuttling long-held G.O.P. principles — like fiscal discipline, a strong Atlantic alliance, distrust of Russian intentions and a balanced approach to immigration — to attract Trump’s base.
Flake, the departing Arizona Republican, called this out this week: “We Republicans have given in to the terrible tribal impulse that first mistakes our opponents for our enemies. And then we become seized with the conviction that we must destroy that enemy.”
The shift in the G.O.P. to tribalism culminated with McConnell denying Obama his constitutional right to appoint a Supreme Court justice with almost a year left in Obama’s term. As NPR reported: “Supreme Court picks have often been controversial. There have been contentious hearings and floor debates and contested votes. But to ignore the nominee entirely, as if no vacancy existed? There was no precedent for such an action since the period around the Civil War.”
In a speech in August 2016, McConnell boasted: “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, ‘Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.’”
That was a turning point. That was cheating. What McConnell did broke something very big. Now Democrats will surely be tempted to do the same when they get the power to do so, and that is how a great system of government, built on constitutional checks and balances, strong institutions and basic norms of decency, unravels.”
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.
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.
His right-wing opponents just kept delegitimizing him as a “traitor” and “a Nazi” for wanting to make peace with the Palestinians and give back part of the Land of Israel. Of course, all is fair in politics, right? And they had God on their side, right? They weren’t actually telling anyone to assassinate Rabin. That would be horrible.But there are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.And that’s what the Jewish extremist Yigal Amir did to Rabin. Why not? He thought he had permission from a whole segment of Israel’s political class.”