Former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Wall Street Journal oped today has an insightful thesis in its headline: “This Political Fight Will Go Many More Rounds: Even if Trump retired quietly to Mar-a-Lago, a return to civility would be highly unlikely.”
Jindal writes: “Democracy tends to give us the government we deserve. Bill Clinton wasn’t responsible for the rotting of personal morality; he reflected what was already there. Similarly, Mr. Trump did not create the polarization and politicization of everyday life; he’s simply great at riding a wave that was already coming ashore. Mr. Trump’s passing from the national scene will not automatically usher in a new era of comity and harmony.”
Jindal’s words reminded me of the work of Dr. Ronald Heifetz, my former Harvard professor who identifies two major challenges in social change: adaptive vs. technical. A technical challenge is one that can be solved by the current knowledge of experts, and adaptive challenges requires new, deeper learning. What we’re seeing right now is old, technical paradigms in how we’ve approached government, yet what we need is a far deeper, new learning.
One long-term adaptive challenge that Jindal rightly identifies is the creep of federal government: “As the federal government’s role has grown at the expense of local officials, civic institutions and individual autonomy, political debates have become more consequential and more heated.”
Another difficult, culturally-based, adaptive challenge Jindal identifies can only be solved through empathy, through the practice of growing our national empathy muscle:
“Seeking common ground becomes even more difficult once political opponents see each other as the enemy, in moral terms, rather than as misguided patriots. Although it is tempting to credit Mr. Trump with a unique ability to drive the other side crazy, this is not a new development. Recall the wild allegations that Mr. Clinton was complicit in a conspiracy to kill Vince Foster, that President Bush invaded Iraq to secure its oil and avenge his father, or that President Obama was born in Kenya. Even if Mr. Trump retired quietly to Mar-a-Lago, a return to civility would be unlikely. That would require both parties to stop governing as if they represent a permanent majority, and instead to limit the power of their offices to what they would be comfortable with their opponents possessing. Lowering the stakes may be the only way to turn down the heat.”
When Jindal says both parties should “stop governing as if they represent a permanent majority,” this makes sense. Yes, it’s true that elections have consequences, but those consequences have expiration dates. If we all accepted these inherent rules, rather than pretending those expiration dates don’t exist, we’d make some great strides out of the gridlock.
Photo by Strupey
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.