Sunday, April 22, 2018

”They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President.”

Those words, spoken by Hillary Clinton when she was informed that she had lost the election, as recently reported in The New York Times, speak volumes about what was wrong with Hillary as a presidential candidate.  

Who were this “they” that she referred to?  The deplorable people?  The NRA?  No one kept her from being president.  It was her own flawed campaign that caused her to lose the presidency that was hers to lose.  While she has finally admitted some mistakes, she has never owned up to this basic fact.  It was always someone else’s fault … especially James Comey.  And that makes her a weak person, despite all her strengths.

Democrats have a history of losing because of problems with their campaigns, as opposed to the strength of their opponents or shifting demographics.  When Gore lost it was because of problems with his campaign, not the agony over Florida’s “hanging chads.”  When Kerry lost, likewise.  When Hillary lost, ditto.  The recent Democrats who didn’t lose … Bill Clinton and Obama … won because their campaigns did not have major problems.  They were candidates who spoke to the people in a way that the people understood, and the people heard and voted.

Ever since the 2000 election, I have argued that Democrats run flawed campaigns.  To me, the biggest problem is that they do not have a vision and they do not know how to speak to the people in a way that the people get.  So they aren’t able to get someone out of his apathy or change someone’s mind.  And so the people on the margins of life, the people who need to be convinced to cast their vote, just don’t vote; and people leaning to the other side vote that way.  And that’s a lot of people.

In 2004 I wrote We STILL Hold These Truths to show the Party the way to win the hearts and minds of the American people and win the election.  Sadly, despite my repeated efforts to bring the book’s message to the attention of party leaders and candidates, my advice has fallen on deaf ears.  Lucky, Obama didn’t need my advice because he did have a vision.  And he instinctively knew how to speak to the people, just as Bill Clinton did.

Now we are preparing for the 2018 midterm elections and are in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential elections.  Democrats have to be more than the anti-Trump.  They have to be clear on what they are offering the American people, especially the middle class and the poor (they comprise 79% of US households), if they are to win, certainly to win decisively.

So far, all I see is a muddle.  There is no clear voice, anywhere.  

And the DNC is wasting energy and creating more negative political capital than positive with their new lawsuit against the Trump campaign for working with the Russians to defeat Hillary.  I see that as doing more to undermine the Special Counsel’s legitimacy than anything the Republicans have done, because it will appear to many people that Trump has been right in his claim that the issue of collusion is a Democratic-inspired with hunt.

The 2018 and 2020 elections are once again the Democrats to lose.  Whether they win or lose, it will be a result of the strength or weakness of their campaigns, not a problem in the American people.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Towards a Reformed Capitalism

Despite all the laws and regulations that apply to corporations, which for the most part are designed to make corporations more responsive to the greater good, corporations have wreaked great harm on our environment, their workers, their customers, the general public, and other corporations.  Despite all the rules, capitalism has been allowed to run pretty much rampant.

The problem is not that the laws and regulations are not enforced, although that is partly true.  The problem is more that the laws and regulations are weak because of the strong influence corporations have on both Congress (this is true of Democrats as well as Republicans) and those responsible for regulating.

But the more basic, functional, aspect of the problem is that the context has always been corporate interest v public interest.  Corporations are structured in such a way that their only interest is the bottom line, how to constantly increase their profit and so please their shareholders.  That is the source of the problem.  And that is what must be reformed.

People will say that it is the nature of the beast for corporations to be concerned solely with their bottom line.  That is certainly true for the beast as it has been formed.  But there is nothing inherent in the idea of a corporation or capitalism which makes it inimical to factoring in a concern for the public good.  The essence of capitalism is that control of the means of production and the distribution of products lies in private hands; that will remain unchanged.

My point is that we must rethink what a corporation is.  What is its function in our economy and society?

Corporations, all business models, are a creature of the law.  Corporations are allowed the benefits of incorporation because they provide something of value … they are critical to the economic health of the country and of their workers.  They also thus meet a societal need.

So from a governmental/societal perspective, corporations exist to enhance the greater good.  Unfortunately, as we have seen repeatedly ever since the industrial revolution, corporations have been mostly intent on making money and so have done much that harms, that is not in keeping with the greater good.  Often with full knowledge.

The answer to this conundrum is to reform the laws under which corporations are organized by restructuring their governance.  The goal of this effort should be to make consideration of the greater good … the public interest as well as worker interest … an integral part of the corporate decision making process.

I propose that this reform have four primary elements:

  • By law, the primary mission of each corporation should be to enhance the greater good.  To do that, it must be successful and prosper, and so the goal of the corporation to prosper and make money for its shareholders would not be altered by any of the proposed changes.  It would, however, be tempered by this new context, by these changes.  No longer would the only factor be impact on the bottom line.  Now there will be other important factors to be considered.
  • By law, Boards of Directors should include a stated percentage of directors (perhaps 25%) who represent the interests of the greater good and the interests of workers.  
  • By law, all management decisions, whether regarding products, or methods of manufacturing, or personnel, must include a consideration of the impact of the decision on their workers and the greater good.  Any decisions directly impacting workers should be arrived at with worker participation.  This will engage corporations in a more healthy, long-term perspective, rather than the short-term one resulting from the current emphasis on stock price.  
  • By law, there should be a public ombudsman in the hierarchy of each corporation that sees that the law is followed not just in spirit but to the letter.

Most people currently involved in the management of corporations and most shareholders, as well as the broader market, will most likely not react kindly to these proposed changes.  They would involve both a major change in corporate culture as well as a reduction in the financial benefits that accrue to those running and investing in corporations.

But with the passage of time, with the emergence of a new generation of business leaders, these changes will become such a part of the corporate method that it will be hard to imagine that it was ever otherwise.  This is the rational way to manage a business if it is to be not just productive but a good citizen of a reformed society.   

If we are to reduce not just the inequality that is present in America but insure that corporations are working towards a goal that includes the greater good, then this reformation has to take place.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

One Race, Many Cultures

There is much societal strife in this world, and the reason comes down to one of two things:  either a country or group has something we want or wants something we have, or we feel threatened by the otherness of the other, that we cannot be safe while the other has potential power over us.

I laid out my thoughts on this issue in a previous post, “The Destructive Impact of Our Us v Them Perspective.”  But the current edition of the National Geographic, which explores the issue of race, affirms the need for another post on this topic.

The us v them perspective, contrary to the thoughts of many, is not human nature.  As with so many things, it is the result of human development; of our life experiences.  We were not born with this perspective.  It is an emotional response by our ego-mind.  We live in a very antagonistic, very competitive world, so that response is not surprising.  It is a vicious circle; a perpetual motion machine.

It is true that we see this same behavior in animals … fighting for territory, food, mates.  There is a fight for survival that is hard-wired into both animals and humans.  That is nature not nurture.  But as with other biological imperatives, man’s ego-mind has morphed these reactions into obsessions, cravings.  

When an animal needs to fight, it fights; otherwise it goes about its life unperturbed.  Humans, however, obsess about their fears, their insecurities, real and imagined.  And those obsessions filter all experiences, making it impossible to see things as they really are.  So we find it almost impossible to break out of the vicious circle.

The fact is, however, that we are all, each and every one of us, descended from a small band of human ancestors that first walked the earth in Africa 300,000 years ago.  Over time, they multiplied and spread throughout Africa.  Perhaps 120,000 years ago, they started crossing into the Middle East.  From 45,000 - 70,000 years ago they moved into Europe and Asia, at which point they interbred with Neanderthals and other species.  Later still, 15,000 - 20,000 years ago, they crossed from Asia over to North America and made their way down into South America.

How can we make such a definitive statement about those events?  The timing comes from anthropological discoveries, and so it will be subject to change from discoveries yet to be made.  That we all have a common ancestor comes from the evidence in our DNA.   

DNA analysis of people from around the world shows irrefutably, that “all non-Africans today are descended from a few thousand humans who left Africa maybe 60,000 years ago.”  DNA also tells us that the different colors of our skin occurred later in response to environmental conditions in different parts of the world where man settled. 

Race is defined as, “a group of persons related by common descent or heredity.”  Or alternatively, “People belonging to the same stock.”  And so, in the broadest sense, there is only one race, and that is the human race.  There are instead many different cultures, each with their own distinguishing characteristics, physical and otherwise, strengths, and weaknesses.  The term “race” has unfortunately been used frequently to imply something that is not based on science; it has been politically/socially motivated.

Many cultures are partly defined by skin color and other physical features.  Often they are connected to a particular geographic region, and even a particular country.  But we are all one race.  

Biologically, there is no evidence whatsoever that a man born into one culture is inherently smarter or more able than a man born into another one.  That is a function of nurture, not nature, which is why within each culture there is such a huge diversity in the abilities of individuals.

Yes, some cultures are intellectually more developed than others, but that is also a function of nurture, not nature.  There is nothing inherent in the intellectual stature of a culture, as seen by the way that aspect has ebbed and flowed over the centuries.  For example, while Europe was in the Dark Ages after the flowering and then demise of the Greek and Roman empires, Asia flourished with intellectual and scientific achievement.  During the Middle Ages, the Muslim world flourished while Europe was still struggling to emerge from its darkness.  Both South America and Africa had highly advanced civilizations before the advent of white men into their territories.

If one claims that one culture is more civilized than another or more God-fearing than another, that depends on how one defines civilization and God.  All cultures are civilizations and all cultures have their God.  And if the Western Judeo-Christian white man is so civilized, why does he consistently act in such uncivilized, inhumane ways both towards his fellow man, even his family members, let alone those of other cultures?

So once and for all we must disabuse ourselves of the idea of race and racial difference.  As to cultural differences, we all suffer from the same human failings.  We each have our aspects of civilization, and yet we each act in decidedly uncivilized, inhumane ways.  We each have had periods of intellectual growth and we each have had periods of intellectual decline or stagnation.  None is inherently superior to the others. .

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Real Challenge for Democrats in the 2018 Election: Getting Non-voters to Vote

If the Democrats are going to have a good change at winning the 2018 mid-term elections  in a decisive way … which is what is really needed … then we have to do more than convince disaffected Trump voters to vote Democratic.  That could be enough to change the balance of power in Congress, but it would result in a very close election with no clear mandate, other than an anti-Trump message. We can do better than that.

What Democrats need to do is get those people who routinely don’t vote to vote.  In mid-term elections, the voting rate is usually around 35 - 40%  The vast majority of the non-voters are people who just don’t vote, as opposed to those who vote in Presidential elections but not in off-year elections.  (In Presidential elections, the voting rate is typically between 51% and 56%.)  This will not be an easy task.

The reason why this is potentially so important is that those who don’t vote are demographically different from those who do.  Non-voters are younger; people of color form a larger percentage; and they are less affluent and less educated.  In short, non-voters are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican if they voted.

Why does such a large proportion of eligible voters routinely not vote?  No other advanced, industrialized country makes such a dismal showing of citizen participation in the basic act of democracy - voting.  What follows are the primary reasons.  Two could be easily fixed; one is more difficult and almost endemic to politics.

1.  Voter registration is often difficult.  And Republican-controlled legislatures are making registration and voting even more difficult.  Of those who are registered, a high percentage (84%) typically vote.  While many just have no interest in voting, a lot of people don’t really get caught up in political races until the last stages, but by then it’s too late to register in most of the U.S. (exceptions: in Minnesota you can register on election day, and in North Dakota you don’t have to register at all).

There should be no barriers to voter registration.  It should be automatic.  If you are a citizen, you are registered.  Why not?  Voting is a right of citizenship.  Period.  However, how to do that would be more difficult than in some European countries where everyone must register their residence at the local police station.  In those countries, they know at all times where people are.  But I’m sure that there are ways to do that.  Automatic registration when you get a drivers license is good, but that leaves many poor people out.    Additional means must be found.

Also note, this would be different from the current practice in states that connect drivers license with voter registration.  These states either allow people to opt out of registration or they must do something, however minimal, to register.  Given the prevalence of the “who cares” attitude, registration must be automatic.  It is a duty of citizenship and so should be automatic; also that way if someone decides at the last minute to vote, they can because they are registered.

2.  Voting day is a work day.  In most other countries, voting day is either a national holiday or it is on a weekend when fewer people work.  Although legally, employers have to allow people to take time off from work to vote, for many people, especially lower level employees, their job is a lifeline and they won’t do anything that might jeopardize their job.  Few employers actively encourage people to take time off to vote.

There should be no barriers to voting.  There is no reason why election day should not be a national holiday.  We have them for all sorts of reasons, most not particularly important.  This one is important.  Barring that, election day should be changed to a weekend, preferably a Sunday.

3.  Many people think that voting is a worthless exercise.  They are disgusted with politics.  A pox on both your houses.  They don’t think that either party is truly interested in helping better their lives, which is what matters most to most people.  

This reason will be harder to resolve.  Even the passage of Obamacare, which did make a difference to millions, did not shake this alienation.  To them all the party platforms are just chatter.  And of course this is partly true.  The reason why Trump won is that he was able to convince people, running as an outsider, that he really heard them, felt for them, and was going to do something that would benefit them.  And now they are learning that this was also chatter.

How do you get people to suspend their deep feeling of disbelief in politicians?  I don’t have the answer.  But it’s not telling people all the wonderful thing that Democrats have done in the past for the working class and poor; those things are true, but people take those things for granted.  People still don’t feel good about their lives.  They need something more meaningful than food stamps and various forms of aid. They need better schools, better pay, better jobs.  They need to feel good about what they are doing.

Some politicians appear more trustworthy and charismatic than others, but while that may impact an election, it won’t pull the nonvoters out of their habit-energy.  Not even Obama broke the 60% barrier in the 2008 election.  If I were in charge of the DNC, I would conduct focus groups of nonvoters to find out what it would take to get them to vote.

But for starters, the Democratic Party and its politicians must speak to these people, directly and honestly.  They must show the forgotten that they are not forgotten.  And they must have a new all-inclusive Mission at their disposal that will hopefully convince people to give them a chance.  The prospective voter after all has nothing to lose.

As for the Mission, here is what I’ve proposed:

To bring to life the promises set forth in our Declaration of Independence.
To build a country of greater opportunity where:

* each and every American has the best chance to experience the promise 
‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with 
certain unalienable Rights … Life,  Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’;

* government meets its responsibility as set forth in the Declaration …  
‘to secure those rights’,  within the constraints of fiscal responsibility; and

* all citizens have a shared responsibility to support the government’s efforts 
 to secure those rights and promote the public good, each according to his ability.”

These words from the Declaration of Independence are the moral philosophy, the heart, the soul of American democracy. This is America’s common faith.  Together with the concept of shared responsibility, this is America’s social contract.  To further that promise of equality and opportunity with fiscal responsibility is the Mission of the Democratic Party.  

Stop playing identify politics; speak to the American people.  While providing continuity with the past, this Mission provides a new start for the Party and for the country,

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Dysfunction of the Gun Control Debate

A few days ago, a father of one of the children killed in the Parkland school shooting voiced his emotion and rage at President Trump, but then said that he didn’t favor gun restrictions; instead he wanted the school to be made a safe place.  He said the battle over gun restrictions was for another time.

Many on the Right are talking about how to make the schools safe by having a police presence in the schools, arming teachers, security checks upon entering, and other measures.  The idea is to turn schools into a safe place by turning them into secure zones.

This is a bad idea for at least two reasons.  First, the idea is dysfunctional.  It would have a devastating impact on the character of schools.  Second, it would not change the overall problem created by the prevalence of guns.  School shootings may be the ones with the greatest public interest and visibility, but individual shootings far outnumber those.  Turning schools into a secure zone would protect children from this threat while in school, but it will not protect them or anyone outside that zone.

It is dysfunctional because it’s another step in turning America into an armed camp.  Do you really want to see police parading around in every town in the country looking for potential terrorists?  I’ve seen that in some other countries in the past, and it is not a comforting feeling.  Do you want your children to grow up, learn, and play in an atmosphere more similar to a prison than to a school?

No, the only answer to reducing gun violence, both in the schools and in the general public, is to strengthen restrictions on who can own guns, strengthen background checks, and prohibit the sale of automatic rifles like the AK-15 or bump stocks to the general public.

It is important to state that both I and most if not all gun control advocates believe that hunting is a legitimate sport and that people must be allowed to own appropriate firearms to participate in that sport.  Contrary to the conspiracy fears fostered by the NRA, nothing proposed in the gun control debate goes against the interests of hunters or sportsmen.  The rifles they use would not be impacted by such laws and their ownership would not be impacted.  And gun control advocates have no interest in taking those firearms away from them in the future.

For the NRA to invoke the 2nd Amendment in the fight against any and all gun control is absurd.  Forgetting about whether the 2nd Amendment really means that each person has the constitutional right to bear arms as opposed to saying that local governments can maintain militias, at the time the amendment was written, the firearms in question were muskets and flint-lock pistols.

If the founders had envisioned an AK-15 or bump stocks, do you in your wildest imagination think that they would give each person a right to own such an instrument of destruction?  No.

Also, regarding the recent interpretation of the 2nd amendment granting a constitutional right for individuals to bear arms, this is a base misreading of the amendment.  The question has always been, what is the sense of the clause “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.”  In the past, it was held to be subordinate to the natural reading of the wording which was to protect the existence of a “well-regulated militia.”

When the constitution was written, localities and states did not have standing armed forces. When the need existed, they sent a call out to the populace for soldiers and they brought their own firearms.  Thus they had to have the right to own firearms in order for the militia call-up to be effective.

We don’t live in that world anymore.  And so there is no need for a constitutional right to bear arms.  Instead, it should just be a right subject to the control of the law.  

But even if one argues that there is a constitutional right, constitutional rights are not absolute, they are always subject to reasonable restrictions to protect the greater good.  And restrictions on gun ownership, background checks, and the type of guns available to the general public are certainly “reasonable restrictions to protect the greater good.”  The vast majority of Americans think so, even Republicans.  The only real force on the other side is the NRA, and those who have fallen under the sway of its fake fears.

Friday, February 16, 2018

How Our Actions Hurt Ourselves - The Fading of American Humanity

In my previous post, I wrote about the evolution of our society from one which  preached the importance of society and individuals having concern for the welfare of their fellow man and acting accordingly to one in which it’s all about “me.”  Where self-centeredness is the prevalent norm and socially acceptable.  This is damaging our democracy and our sense of social cohesion.

But this self-centeredness does not just impact larger social relationships.  It directly impacts our personal relationships, from friends and colleagues to the most intimate.  And this is destroying the essence of what makes us human … our relationships with others.

To the extent that we still have relationships, they are not deep because there is no real concern for the other.  It is all about “me.”  Everything about the relationship is viewed through that myopic lens.  And because the relationships are not deep, there is no real trust there.

This damages us in two ways.  When we are self-centered we don’t really give of ourselves, even when it seems to us that we are, and so we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to experience true joy when helping others, when offering others joy.  Instead, everything we do is ultimately self-serving or done begrudgingly and there is no joy in that.

The other way it damages us is that with no deep trust in our friends, or even within the confines of our family, we don’t feel the ability to share our deepest concerns and questions with anyone else.  And so those fears and anxieties fester and grow deeper.

The other impact on our personal relationships is that we have fewer of them.  Even though it’s easier now then ever before to respond to a communication from a friend or acquaintance, by just hitting the reply button on an email or a text, it is common now for people to just not bother … unless the receiver feels that they need the sender for something.

I have heard anecdotes from many people that confirm my own personal experience.  This has become a common occurrence.  Even when someone has done something lovely for someone … like sending something they baked or helping them deal with a problem … people just don’t respond.  And if it’s “just” a communication, forget it.  

If you bring this up, people will apologize and say they were too busy or something was going on in their lives.  But that is not true; no one is ever too busy to click “reply” and briefly acknowledge a communication.  No, the reason is an attitude that the person is not needed and so they are not worth even the most minimal effort.  Any sense of common courtesy as well as concern for others has for the most part disappeared from our social interactions.  

In former times, a letter from someone was precious and was always responded to.  One may not have had time during the day because of the necessity of tending to chores or work, but in the evening one could sit quietly and absorb the communication and draft a response.  

Today, our evenings are not a quiet time for reflection or reading.  For most adults, it’s time to “relax” by watching TV or going out drinking with friends or going to see a movie.  Evenings are times to escape reality.  

And today we are so bombarded with communications that we have learned to ignore all except those we must respond to because they impact us in our careers or other important concerns. Much personal email thus gets conflated with junk mail. 

And again, by acting in this way, one not only damages the other person … who feels ignored and bereft of friendship …  but one damages oneself because you become more removed from your humanity, from caring for others, and so you remove a source of joy from your life.  You also estrange yourself from others which you may well come to regret when you are in need of their help.

A friend of mine once said that life is all about human interaction.  Well, if that is what life is truly about, then the quality of most of our lives is worse now than it has ever been, despite all the material and technological advances we have benefited from.

And we wonder why there is such an increased use of addictive drugs and other behavior!  It falls back on societal problems that are acted out through each individual.  Most people are not even aware why they are suffering; they just know they feel bad and so they resort to addictions that push the pain away.  

An individual here and there will by happenstance be exposed to spirituality (as opposed to religion) in one form or another and find the strength and courage to believe in themselves, to love themselves unconditionally, and thus be there for others.  A Buddhist saying is that you can’t be there for others if you are there for yourself first.

The reader may be taken aback by this statement, as I have been writing about the harm of self-centeredness.  But loving yourself unconditionally, being there for yourself, has nothing to do with self-centeredness.  It’s about being in touch with your true self and doing what you need to do spiritually to give yourself peace and happiness.  On the temporal level, selfless also does not mean not acting for one’s own benefit, but rather to not act solely for one’s own benefit, to be aware of the impact one’s actions have on others.

Unfortunately, few individuals in our culture will be exposed to spirituality in any meaningful way.  Therefore the only way out of this downward spiral in which we find ourselves is through leadership. whether political, religious, or popular culture.  People must be given role models for positive human interaction, rather than the role models they have now which are all about self-centeredness.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Our Society in Danger

Recently, two new books that explain the danger the Trump presidency poses to the survival of our democracy have attracted much attention:  Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy, and Clear and Present Danger: Narcissism in the Era of Donald Trump.  Briefly stated, the first argues that the large polar-opposite groups that have developed in response to Trump have weakened the balanced middle upon which our democracy depends.  The second argues that when a narcissist is in charge, his demands will be mirrored by the people and in part draws on the narcissism already present in the people.  Since narcissism is about demanding acclaim and obedience and refusing to be challenged, while disregarding others, democracy suffers.

Neither book, however, discusses a fundamental change that is occurring in our society that abets both the polarization of increasing numbers of our citizens and the increase in narcissism in the general population.  That change is the evolution from a society that at least preached the ideal of selflessness to one in which self-centeredness is, if not the ideal, certainly the prevalent norm and socially acceptable. 

I would not be so foolish as to claim that at some point in the past the United States, or any country, was one where the concept of selflessness ruled and was the norm in practice.  It is the nature of human development, based is it is on learned insecurity, to provide fertile soil for the self-centeredness of the ego to thrive.  

That said, however, the leadership of this country, both political and religious, has for most of our history sent out a clear message that the ideal was to have concern for our fellow man, to view ourselves as part of a community with citizenship bringing responsibilities as well as rights, to be selfless.  Selfless does not mean to not act for one’s own benefit, but rather to not act solely for one’s own benefit, to be aware of the impact one’s actions have on others.

The Declaration of Independence, our founding document, states that each person has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Which means that if you exercise your right in a way which infringes on my right, there’s a problem, and so one must be selfless in the sense I have described.  

The Constitution together with its Amendments in many ways furthers this concept of the rights of all within the context of a community.  Perhaps the most direct expression of responsibility for our fellow citizens is the Income Tax which was authorized by the 16th Amendment.  This Amendment codified the aspect of the American social contract that holds that all citizens are responsible for contributing to the greater good, each according to his/her ability.

Beginning in the early 20th century, during the era of Republican Progressive leadership, government began enacting laws and regulations which basically said that the rich and powerful, namely large corporations, had to include consideration for their workers, their customers, and the general public in the way business was conducted.  It was no longer acceptable to have the sole perspective of making as much money as possible.  Business had a social responsibility; it was part of the American social contract.

One of the most well-known examples of this message of selflessness was JFK’s statement in his Inaugural Address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  This was not, as is sometimes thought, a turning point but a reaffirmation of the highest ideals of our American democracy.

The turning point, however, in the road from selflessness to self-centeredness came with the presidency of Ronald Reagan.  In his campaign, he asked the simple question, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago.”  Now people have always, as the saying goes, voted their pocketbook.  But asking this question crystalized all the issues down to one simple thing … how am I doing.

Then came his inaugural pronouncement that “government is not the solution; it is the problem.”  He felt that everyone was quite capable of running their own lives and doing well on their own.

Well, as we know from our past and the past of all civilizations, if you leave it up to the individual, the result will be self-centeredness and a significant proportion of the populace will not do well.  Only the moral authority of religion and government has been able to somewhat curb that tendency and bring people, whether whole-heartedly or begrudgingly, to accept their broader responsibility.

He stated that “we the people” are the solution, not the “elite” who run government.  That, however, was in truth more a criticism of the political parties than the concept of government.  If government is not currently an expression of  “we the people,” or in Lincoln’s terms “government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” and I totally agree that it is not, the answer is not to tear down government but to reinvigorate it.

In the years since Reagan, the self-centeredness of individuals in our society has only increased.  To a large extent, that increase has been caused by the compulsive use of technology (computers, smartphones, social media) by people and their resulting tendency to not connect with the broader society or even a more immediate one, such as family.

The advent of Donald Trump has brought all these tendencies to a crisis point.  So that the relevant question truly is:  how can our democracy not just survive but thrive again?  The answer is through leadership, political and otherwise, that has moral authority.  The American people are good people, but like all humans their better tendencies need to be fostered rather than their baser instincts.