A Detente over History?
A Shared Sense of our Past, a Shared Vision of our Future This is a commentary on the need for a shared sense of American History, first posted on February 15, 2021 in Between Hell and High Water. The author, Michael Koetting, writes a regular column, Between Hell and High Water, and is an advisor…
What Does the Flag Stand For?
The Unthinkable Risk of Turning Our Backs on Inclusive American Values This is a commentary on the meaning of our national flag, first posted on July 4, 2021 in Between Hell and High Water. The author, Michael Koetting, writes a regular column, Between Hell and High Water, and is an advisor to Civic Way. Michael…
Earning Our Citizenship—Like an Immigrant
As Citizens, We Are Duty-Bound to Make Government Better Highlights: Citizens can choose among three pathways to reengage in civic life, revive their communities and improve their governments: 1) as civic activists, 2) as civic leaders and 3) as public officials Civic Activists – Every citizen can honor their civic duty by getting involved, and…
A Better America
The First Step Toward the Change We Need This is Civic Way’s commentary on the latest federal pandemic recovery debate. The author, Bob Melville, is the founder of Civic Way, a nonprofit dedicated to good government, and a management consultant with over 45 years of experience improving governmental agencies across the US. Our earlier commentaries…
How America Ends
|Title||How America Ends|
|Author||Yoni Appelbaum, Senior Editor, The Atlantic|
Will democracy survive our current factionalism?
|As Is Situation:|
Our two-party system is messy, but it has shown a remarkable ability throughout our history to adapt to change. Continually competing for majority support, our parties have assimilated movements, built and rebuilt coalitions and tailored their platforms to those ever-changing coalitions. And they have absorbed and even quashed the assaults of Nativists, Luddites and Know-Nothings and other extremists.
At first glance, the author appears to suggest that it is solely up to the GOP (or center-right) to reform itself and save our nation, a notion that seems simplistic if not unfair. However, after watching the recent impeachment trial in the US Senate, the author’s fears about the GOP seem all too prescient. With the solitary exception of Mitt Romney, GOP Senators appeared almost eager to cast aside long-held conservative principles (starting with public accountability). To many observers, they seemed less a party than a cult slavishly devoted to their “supreme leader.”
Our history gives us hope that American system will prevail, but success will not be attained solely because of the work of one party or the consequences of one election. For our democracy to prosper, we must do more than hope that one party will put the country first. Sure, both parties could benefit from serious reform, but we also must take other steps. We must engage more citizens, reduce the influence of money in politics, improve civic education, make our elections competitive and improve governance. And we must ground these actions in our founding constitutional principles.
The Enemy Within
|Title||The Enemy Within, Atlantic, December 2019|
|Author||James Mattis, retired United States Marine Corps general & former Secretary of Defense|
Have we taught our children the principles of citizenship or already forgotten them?
|As Is Situation|
Mattis warns that our constitutional system, as robust as it is, cannot long endure our current tribalism & paralysis. He urges more personal humility, respect, compromise & collaboration. He counsels more support for our civic institutions & leaders who are diplomatic, collegial & patient. He implores us to substitute long-range ideals for short-term gratification. Finally, he calls for a renewed commitment by each of us to become better, more informed citizens, actively engaged in tackling the growing backlog of civic problems & perfecting our union for future generations. Mattis does not address the costs of civic education, but Civic Way believes that the best investment we could possibly make in democracy would be in a more thorough, robust K-12 civic education.
Our View of Democracy & Personal Responsibility
Introduction Some of us complain incessantly about our politics and politicians. Others dodge any discussion of politics whatsoever. As a society, we have become less and less adept at rising above our political biases, listening to divergent views and reaching consensus. Worse yet, we seem to be losing faith, not only in our civic institutions…
Our Day of Reckoning
|Title||Our Day of Reckoning|
|Author||Camille Busette, Director of the Brookings Race, Prosperity, and Inclusion Initiative|
Since 1968, has America made progress as a land of opportunity?
Our future competitiveness will depend on people of color, but the American Dream remains out of reach for too many. Regardless of the source—the Census Bureau, Federal Reserve or Annie E. Casey Foundation—or the metric, the facts are clear. People of color face the longest odds for success in the land of opportunity. And, despite post-Great Recession gains, our vast racial wealth gap remains. Even more worrisome, current federal policies could exacerbate inequality, limit economic mobility and undermine our global competitiveness.
Despite profound demographic changes (e.g., for the first time, most children under age 10 are non-white), our nation seems sharply divided between white and non-white, natives and immigrants, haves and have-nots, insiders and outsiders. For many people of color, the nation offers the threat of insecurity and despair. After eight years of our first African-American president and a national vision of hope, we have handed the keys of national power to the forces of anger, intolerance and greed.
To ensure our optimal economic performance and our global competitiveness, our nation must afford its young ample educational options and its adults every opportunity to fully participate in our ever-changing economy.
As the author reminds us, Dr. Martin Luther King called on us to recognize our common humanity. To honor our legacy, realize our hopes and inspire the next generation of leaders, we must become—and fight to remain—the land of opportunity.
The Power of Civic Engagement
Title Description Our op-ed pages carry the cries for action—populism, centrism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism and all manner of hybrid isms. Go left. Go right. Double down on the center. Each expert makes his or her case with varying degrees of persuasiveness, but most miss a fundamental point about America. We are not and have never…
Civic Progress Views
Title Description As Americans watch the 2018 Winter Olympics, we can count our blessings, and with good reason. Our ancestors have built—and given their lives to preserve—a land of freedom and affluence. With self-assurance, teamwork and timely investments, those who preceded us built a society to be envied. Each generation brought new energy and…