With the daily dose of atrocities, it’s hard to get beyond us versus them. “My people are not like that.” Get rid of the bad guys and everything will be just fine. Except that it’s not so easy.
It’s a lot easier to produce factions than policies, and this is a moment that cries out for serious answers. We’re so numbed by roadblock issues—inequality, declining opportunity, rise of authoritarianism, unstoppable climate change—that we get depressed about the future too. But the issues are there to be solved.
This isn’t an appeal to bipartisanship, because there is no reason to think that’s the point. The crisis is not of compromise but of ideas. So instead this is an appeal to resist chest-beating and work on the issues. The problems will still be there, impeachment or no impeachment.
If we want to fight climate change, we should stop talking about morality and come up with specific plans. That’s not trivial, and bad plans can make matters worse—certainly in missed opportunity. Green New Deal isn’t a plan yet, and spending money on that scale means we better be clear enough about what we’re doing to avoid corruption even among the good guys. Similarly if we want to improve education we need a plan with funding and a way to get more people involved. Fundamental problems such as inequality or lack of opportunity are even harder—we need both individual prosperity and national growth. Detail matters. The country needs specific proposals and a serious dialog to move forward. In this Elizabeth Warren’s many proposals are important whether you agree with her answers or not—they are specific enough so that we can start having confidence that this is a job we can get done.
One thing that is certainly true is that we can’t continue denying reality or the interconnectedness of the world we live in.
Any new President will have plenty to fix in sheer damage control. The country has been weakened in many ways. But we also have to think about this as a new beginning with bright prospects. (A recent NYTimes piece was good on prospects though rather breezy on answers.) It is not a given that 19th century level inequality is a fact of life or that we can’t be expected do much of anything for the common good. Since there’s no shortage of either money or opportunity, what we’re faced with is the difficulty of getting to where we ought to be.
After World War II, the US led the world into becoming a much more equitable and prosperous place. That challenge is again on the table.