I fear for my country. We are threatened not by others, but by ourselves. We’ve weakened the independence—and with it, the accountability—of judicial, legislative, and executive functions. We’ve undermined the rule of law and our previously unifying e pluribus unum. Political parties, particularly since the mid-1990s, have fought each other as much as they’ve wrestled with the country’s challenges.
We’ve accepted as normal the expanding use of gerrymandering, a practice that proves our rhetoric about democracy to be a lie. Slick procedural actions in House or Senate are applauded as heroic by the political parties they benefit. Tribalism and hyper-nationalism masquerade as patriotism. America was founded not upon land or parentage, but on an idea, what becomes of it when the idea slips away? Nuclear bombs and great warships cannot restore it.
We teeter close to the edge of losing the distinction between the few critical elements of system and the many political decisions that can be made within that system. In baseball no one confuses good hitting or superb 3-6-3 double plays with the rules by which the game is played. It is only with steadfast conservation that the framework of national governance—the rulebook—can remain sufficiently robust to accommodate great issues of the day without itself withering. Healthcare, welfare, armaments, budget, balance of payments, border specifics, tariffs, and a thousand other significant matters are arguably less important than separation of powers and the rule of law. However vital and complex the plays in a game, the rulebook must be stronger.
In the Congress and in the Executive Branch (less, so far, in the courts) those rules have slipped mightily over the past years, replaced by doing the country’s business in transactional bits and pieces, untethered to great ideas, moral leadership, and even common decency. I fear for my country, that of my grandchildren, and for yours.