2018 is an election year. Best I can tell, the differences of opinion turn on Trump, Pelosi and guns.
And, lest I forget, Americans are once again watching a spending battle with a government shutdown threat adding drama. This will all be resolved with much more spending buying the votes needed.
As an outsider and used-to-be insider, let me suggest an agenda for the 2018 candidates.
First and foremost, is it possible to renew our civil institutions and if so what must be done?
Citizens give thumbs down to most government institutions. Gallup routinely asks, over a broad range of institutions, a straight-on question about confidence.
In 2017, 12 percent of the respondents said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress; its highest favorability rating was 43 percent in 1973. The Presidency finds favor with 32 percent; its highest rating was 72 percent in 1991 (nice coincidence, I was then in President Bush’s administration). The Military continues to enjoy the highest confidence score at 72 percent. The news media, newspapers and television, were off almost half from their previous highs.
Failing institutions do not achieve lasting accomplishments. When, as a customer, was the last time you had a good experience with a declining business?
Government decisions, to act or not, are made and then harshly judged by the dissenters. Most often they point to soft or hard corruption. The so-called soft side is taking contributions from organizations that have a stake in the outcome.
Advocacy today pivots on grievance. Rarely do advocacy groups offer constructive alternatives.
The Republicans spent years trashing Obamacare and then, even with a congressional majority, could not clearly outline an alternative or pass one. Democrats, having frozen Republicans out of healthcare legislation, were complicit.
Republicans returned the favor in passing recent tax legislation with similar dissonance. But the dissonance that should scare all of us is — I repeat — that Congress, the bulwark against authoritarian government, is favored by 12 percent.
Democracy, even when buffered by republicanism, is inherently fractious; that is okay. Our constitution guarantees free speech and the freedom to petition the government. Importantly, the House of Representatives must stand for election every two years.
This latter protection anticipates a safety valve. I would like to give some unsolicited advice to those who want their hands on the valve in 2019. Build a platform around repairing the institutions of government rather than a litany of promises that will add more debt.
Here is my list:
President Trump, who promised to drain the swamp, has mainly substituted crocodiles for alligators. True reformists stand up.
Al Sikes’ leadership helped shape the arc of 21st century communication technologies from positions as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and then President of Hearst New Media. In 2004, the Manhattan Institute chose Sikes as one of eight winners of the Social Entrepreneurship Award for having founded READ ALLIANCE, which trains teenagers to tutor children with reading deficiencies. Sikes second book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow was recently published by Koehler Books.