As a nation, we have become Nero, dancing to the fiddle of partisan politics, as our infrastructure, global leadership and alliances burn. We face a swarm of challenges unparalleled since those cataclysmic moments brought on by World War II and its aftermath. Today’s partisan mash-up has let loose a dense fog that is stifling leadership imperatives on both national and international issues. Let me turn on some fog light:
1. We are facing a malevolent Russian actor whose failed nation has no alternative but to try to undermine and dismantle our democratic and economic systems through nefarious means, and we all know it.
2. We are facing China, our biggest economic and political challenge. When we try to sell into the Middle Kingdom, it “demands submission to the views (and values) of the Communist Party as the price of admission. That’s a big problem for American business.” (Myers/Buckley, Washington Post). Apart from Russia, “China may also be the world’s worst at Techno-Kleptomania” (Holstein, Wall Street Journal), and that’s another big problem facing American leadership and businesses.
3. We are facing trending demagoguery and authoritarianism world-wide, threatening the global aspirations of our countrymen, our friends and our allies. We have systematically dismantled the confidence of most of our economic and military allies around the world.
4. We are facing the challenge of protecting our intellectual property from governments that only know how to play from behind by stealing our secrets and pilfering our technology. Battling these national thieves is now a full-time counterintelligence, cyber-security job of the U.S. government.
5. We are facing the “trolling” scourges associated with social media, privacy, fraud and truth, direct affronts to our democratic values. We have normalized the slanting of truths to meet our circumstances. When truths become “alternative facts,” and when facts are just shifting perspectives, we have a menacing threat to our nation’s soul.
6. We are facing an infrastructure crisis in America. Has anybody noticed China’s shiny new roads, rails, bridges and airports? Where’s the competitive political yearning for our infrastructure?
We are facing a health care crisis in our country. We are paying extraordinary amounts for care and prescriptions, way beyond other “first-world” countries and still, we leave millions of Americans behind.
8. We are facing an immigration crisis in our country that threatens our economic and our national heritage. We must find the right solution for those who seek refuge and who offer the generative potential to keep our country resilient and durable.
9. We are facing the very real crisis of climate-change, and we are at a tipping point looming over our planet. The kind of challenge that American innovation has excelled at in the past now presents itself: how to create innovative industries and new jobs that will enable future economic growth, while simultaneously leading the world to a pioneering myriad of carbon-reduction solutions. Americans can be so good at competing.
10. And finally, we are facing a wealth gap. A federal Survey of Consumer Finances (Federal Reserve) indicates that one percent of Americans now own 40 percent of America’s wealth, the widest gap in over half a century.
Nero’s fiddle will not lead us out of these challenges. Contentment with the banalities of life will get us nowhere. We’ve had our fling with political divisiveness and adolescent leadership disorder. Indifference is not an option. It’s time for grown-up leadership to reset our American socio-economic values. We need responsible, pragmatic, truthful, energetic and visionary leadership. This kind of historic leadership only manifests itself from the ferment of citizens rising up with a spiritual purpose and intent to elect the best leadership to lead the free world with power, dignity, determination and decorum.
William J. Sims