The Washington Post weekend Magazine section has a feature this week:
38 ideas for repairing our badly broken civic life
There are 38 contributors, from across the spectrums. Some of the ideas I agree with, some I don’t. But I reacted strongly enough to many of them that I decided to write 38 responses.
Require Everyone to Vote
This is one of several entries around the theme of changing how people vote to make voting more meaningful more most people. I generally agree with it.
A New High School Course: Identity 101
Oh, wow. I understand the premise, but it’s a Catch-22: those who agree with the proposal wouldn’t change with the course, and those who oppose it wouldn’t let their kids be changed by it.
One Month Without Social Media
The idea is to get people to interact with others more. On behalf of other introverts, no, thanks. You’re addressing a symptom, and not one I give much weight to.
Befriend a Libertarian
Hell, no. I hate Libertarians. They aren’t some middle ground we can all agree upon; they’re the fringe who are part of the current problem, the current administration’s plan to burn government to the ground through neglect or sabotage. This was one of the more blatantly self-serving proposals.
Tackle Tough Subjects at Dinner
In theory, nice. In practice? How are some parents going to react to tough topics from their children, such as, “I reject your religion,” or, “I’m not straight,” for example? The idea behind this is better summarized by another proposal still to come.
Outlaw Private Education
This proposal suggests that if there were no private education, people would put the gifts they give to private education into public education. That’s beyond naive. In theory, yes, all kids starting school should have access to comparable educations. In practice, some private schools are better at teaching fundamentals, and some are worse. Interesting goal; wrong approach, if you ask me.
Ignore the Cultural Elite
Ignoring the elite is how we got Donald Trump. Question the elite, sure, but ignore?
Mandate Military or Civilian Service
I like the idea of mandating some form of public service, but recent reports about fears within military ranks of white nationalism, including within the military, give me pause. Mandating service would reverse some of the self-selection that skews the military members toward white nationalism, but I’m not sure making more of them serve with their perceived inferiors will negate their learned white nationalism as often as idealists would hope. Maybe the split between civilian and military service would mirror today’s political polarization if we’re not careful somehow.
Allow Garage Unit Rentals
I don’t think the problem with American democracy today is largely caused by housing in some areas being unaffordable, letting the upper middle class become isolated from the working and lower classes. It might be a worthy idea, but it doesn’t help the core topic, in my reading.
I’m sure my political opponents dream; they just dream of different things.
A Women-Led Evangelical Movement
On the one hand, I’d be happy with more female leadership within all religions.
On the other hand, having seen some of the social efforts led by churches, such as using religion to justify discrimination against sexual or racial minorities, I’d prefer more secular leadership than religious leadership of social movements. I hope liberal and progressive religions get more socially active outside their own faiths, but I won’t assume religions are part of the answer.
A Constitutional Amendment on Equality
I’d like to see Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions enforce laws resulting from such an Amendment. We aren’t even enforcing current laws on equality. Attitudes have to come before legislation and enforcement. Prohibition — and, fifty years later, drunk driving — proved that.
Establish National Unity Week
As long as there are political parties and elections to be won, unity will always be threatened by the political benefits (for some) of fomenting division.
Switch to Instant-Runoff Voting
This, I like! This weakens the two-party system and creates room for moderates and third-party candidates. Would Trump have won if every state had used Instant-Runoff Voting? People would have voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson and known that they could still indicate a preference for Hillary over Trump if it came down to that.
It gets trickier for lower level elections. Would people learn enough about local candidates for office to make intelligent decisions about offices? Still, I like this for the same reason I like compulsory voting: it gets people involved and allows for more nuanced voting.
Remind the Government: It is Beholden to Us
Civil servants know to whom they’re beholden. It’s the elected leaders and political appointments, in my experience, that corrupt that.
Rein in the Congressional Budget Office
Someone doesn’t like the CBO. I don’t think the CBO is the cause of the breakdown of American civic involvement.
Teach Critical Thinking
I want to like this idea. I like the idea of critical thinking.
My concern is, everyone at Breitbart News as well as every conspiracy theorist thinks they’re using critical thinking. “Challenge the status quo! Question what they tell you? Do you really think jet fuel can melt skyscraper support beams?” Galileo was once right in the face of opposition from the Establishment, so every climate denier might be right, too! Critical thinking, man!
It may be that critical thinking currently is corrupted by anti-establishment biases. Critical thinking is always vulnerable to unrecognized biases. I’m not sure how to address that.
Give Every Teen a Black Box
Can you teach intellectual curiosity? If you can, that probably promotes critical thinking and helps inoculate people against biases, but I’m not sure you can on a large scale.
Fund Art Centers
For some personality types, sure; for others, no. I’ll accept this as a minor part of the effort and accept that I won’t like some of the art.
Push for Civil Rights Education
Every moron who’s telling about white genocide knows what civil rights are now defined to be. I see some benefit from teaching today’s youth that the struggle is constant, However, education isn’t the issue when we don’t agree on the fundamental value and worth of all people.
Prevent Left-Wing Media Bias
People don’t trust the mainstream media because they’re being taught not to trust them. Who’s teaching them that? The fringe movements on both the right and the left; the right are just better funded and now have their own shameless large media arms.
Let Government Co-Own New Technologies
I get very skittish around things that reek of socialism. I don’t trust unchecked capitalism, but neither do I endorse the government claiming the benefits of private entrepreneurship.
That said, I agree that government grants should somehow have a payback scheme written into them so that government-funded discoveries bring financial benefits to the government.
Redefine the Flag
This proposal seems to be about reframing arguments to use the buzzwords of the audience you’re trying to win over. I’m sure I missed something here, but I’m not sure what.
Stop Obsessing about White Privilege
This seems to stipulate that we’re not doing what we know and agree we have to do because we’re still arguing about causes and degrees of guilt. I’m not sure this stipulation is valid.
End the Blame Game
As I noted earlier, unity is vulnerable to the political advantages of divisiveness, and blame games fuel that divisiveness. In theory, great. In practice?
In theory, great. In practice, ugh. Take streets and roads. “Government built and maintains these roads! Thanks, government!” “Why did government build the roads instead of letting developers build them and HOAs maintain them?” “But then HOAs are just a form of govenrment.” “Which is why I don’t live in an HOA!” “And who pays for the road you live on, and the roads it connects to?” Ad nauseum.
Peer Review for Candidates
Donald Trump wasn’t reviewed and evaluated by his peers? Of course he was; we called it “Primary Season.” Some would argue that Democratic super-delegates peer-reviewed Bernie Sanders and voted for Hillary Clinton. Many Sanders supporters are still livid about that. This is where I prefer “instant runoff” voting instead.
A Marshall Plan for America
The Marshall Plan was for rebuilding a continent devastated by war. Trump’s rhetoric withstanding, we’re not that dysfunctional yet.
Create a System of Voting Credits
I like the proposals to shake up voting. I’m not sure how many people would use their credits wisely, either spending too many too early, or having too many left for an election for which they have no strong feelings. Implementation details will be nasty.
Keep Education Public
Or, as least in this effort, kill school voucher programs. I can get behind that; they seem to be a failed experiment.
Take a Stand, Local Officials
Local officials in the South took lots of stands in the Civil Rights era. I’m not sure that’s what George Takei meant.
Mandate Gun Insurance
While I like this idea, it addresses a symptom of America’s polarization, not the polarization itself.
End American Arrogance
Oh! My! God! The American right just had collective apoplexy. It’s another Catch-22.
A Grass-Roots Revolt Against Fake News
No one likes Fake News. Not Donald Trump, not the “liberal” mainstream media, not Fox News, not anyone!
See also, critical thinking.
Revive Human Decency
Again, this is a symptom of the polarization, not the cause, at least not at a level we can work with.
Bring Back the Cold War Economy
The Cold War economy was justified by a shared fear. It benefited the military-industrial complex — and its owners — more than the workers in the factories and fields. No, thank you.
Persuade Voters to Keep Clicking
See also, critical thinking and alleged media bias.
Cultivate National Gratefulness
They’re proud to be Americans, and they keep singing to say so. That doesn’t seem to have done enough so far.