Impeached

So – what of Project to Find America in just the third week in US history when there have been headlines that contained this single word?

What shred of hope is left for an aspiring movement that calls for cooperation and compromise in a week that the two American political parties acted with such forceful unanimity, not behind the country they both represent, but behind the parties themselves? What indeed.

I watched several hours of “debate” on Wednesday. Actually, I mostly listened. I found it distracting to marvel at how Billy Long could remain awake and appear interested after dozens of versions of the same speech.

I listened as members from one side of the aisle told the same story in 90 – second increments; The President broke the law, he represents a “clear and present danger” to our republic, he must be removed.

I listened as members from the other side used the word sham more times than humankind had collectively used it to date. I heard that the President had done nothing wrong, that this was a “witch hunt” perpetrated on an innocent man by a dangerous political party obsessed with reversing the results of the last election and, curiously, “putting Hillary Clinton in the White House.”

I’m not completely detached from reality. I get, sort of, why this was destined to be a vote along party lines – only 5 of 427 representatives voting, four of them Democrats, failed to vote with their party. But while I did not listen to the whole six hours, what I did not hear in any of the debate (and feel confident didn’t happen since I’ve not seen any reporting of it) was a single Democrat say something like this:

“I’m really not sure about the evidence. The report from the judiciary committee says the President committed multiple federal crimes including criminal bribery and wire fraud, I would have liked more time and more evidence to see how the President’s actions line up to those charges. However, I will be voting yes because I will not have this opportunity again and I believe this man should be removed from office.”

What I also did not hear was a single Republican use language like this.

“I will be voting no on both articles of impeachment, I am unconvinced by the evidence contained in the report from the judiciary committee. However, I want to make it clear that I find the President’s actions, actions he freely admits having taken, to use US foreign policy decisions as a means to his own political aspirations to be utterly reprehensible. These actions are not okay and I expect him to refrain from similar activities during the remainder of his time in office.”

Said no one this week, at least in Congress.

These are the headlines from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal digital editions early Thursday.

They are from two widely circulated and respected news sources with distinctly different editorial board viewpoints. If you look closely, though, you will see three themes emerge in both: President Trump was impeached, the vote to do so was almost entirely along party lines and the general public remains bemused and divided about the proceedings. If the public is truly divided, as I’d suggest we might be, even within ourselves, why are members of Congress not similarly vexed? Instead, to hear both sides tell it, there really was no decision to make, the vote was a foregone conclusion – Donald Trump either had to be impeached or it shouldn’t have even been discussed.

This afternoon I was driving to the grocery store with my soon-to-be 12 year old son and, as often happens with this kid, he asked me a question that gave me pause. “I wonder what’s going to happen”, he said, “when we run out of gas.” He didn’t mean, Dad – you forgot to fill up the tank this morning, he meant…when the world…runs out of gas. A half mile later I said, “I think that’s a good question, but I’m more worried about what will happen when we run out of rubber.” 

Elizabeth and I watched a documentary on Amazon Prime earlier this year called This Giant Beast that is the Global Economy. One episode, called simply The Rubber Episode, looked at a disease called Rubber Tree Blight and detailed the disastrous effects it would have on the global economy if the disease spread to the very small part of the planet where nearly all the world’s rubber is produced. In short, according to the program, the global economy would “literally grind to a halt.”

This got Alistair’s attention. He spends hours at a time sketching out future versions of flying machines, the prospect of them having no wheels was dire indeed. “What can we do about it, Dad?”

I explained that the short answer to this question presented in the episode is to increase the biodiversity of the species by researching and developing alternative sources of latex.

“Is that happening,”he asked? “Not as fast as it needs to,” I said.

“Why not,” said Alistair? “Because,” I replied,” it requires governments to invest both the research dollars to develop these new sources and to create the regulations required to allow the new products to get a foothold in the market so that they can sustain themselves.”

“Why don’t they just do that?” “Because they, in our country…is Congress.” That gave us both pause.

Four years ago the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers released a report called Global Megatrends 2015. I had the pleasure as part of my day job to introduce the man who is now US Chairman of PWC, Tim Ryan, as he presented that research at one of the HCI conferences. His 40-minute talk changed the way I think about almost everything and part of the idea behind Project to Find America was certainly born that day. If you want a three-minute summary of most of the same trends, check this out.

We live in a world that will require more adaptability and flexibility than any point in human history. But if the impeachment vote proved anything this week it was this….Our representatives don’t work for us…they work for one of two political parties and those political parties do not agree with nor cooperate with the other because it is their mission and sole purpose to defeat the other in elections.

So when that which is politically expedient is matched up against that which is better in the long term it doesn’t take long to imagine how politicians that answer only to their party are going to vote. What shred of hope indeed.

But that brings me back to where this story started. I don’t have much hope. It’s been a month since the last post, a month in which exactly one article was added to my better database. Part of the gap was due to the fact that I was very busy keeping the lights on. But a good part of it, I will confess, was also due to the fact that I just didn’t know what to say to be encouraging.

But I also realize that this disconnect between Americans and the politicians that represent us is real and getting worse and there is very little coverage of it in the news. So I’m going to spend the next two weeks enjoying the holidays with my friends and my family, I hope you will be doing the same. But when the next post appears in this space (and with it a new series of 435 Voices episodes) we will be 60 days from Super Tuesday. It’s not much time, but it’s enough to help find candidates that are actively acknowledging that they will need to work with the other party to make progress in 2021 and beyond and reacquaint the incumbents running against them with a concept they should have understood all along…America and all its people first….political parties second.

I wish you and yours a joyous and peaceful holiday season and may 2020 be a happy New Year for us all.

Bill