My Dream Intro to the Inaugural Speech

What follows is a suggested draft, which was sent to the president. Since no response was forthcoming, it seemed appropriate to share it with the world. While obviously it is not a perfect solution — there probably is none — perhaps it would be better to try something like this than simply to continue to wring hands and beg for cooperation. It is time to at least talk about some systemic changes to address the systemic and counterproductive political gridlock we are stuck with today.

I stand before you for the second and last time to swear that I will do my utmost to defend and uphold all of the American people to the very best of my ability. Twenty years ago I barely imagined ever standing here at all. To stand here for a second time in today’s world is quite a rare thing and is a big honor with even bigger responsibilities.

The biggest responsibility I have — we all have — is to ensure that the world we live in and leave to our children and grandchildren is at least as good as the world we inherited. In recent years some of us have lost that focus and as a consequence we have drifted off course to the point that we have crept up on the risk of leaving the world to our inheritors in an impaired state.

I see as my main challenge and goal for the next four years to help steer our ship of state back on a proper course. I cannot do that alone; we have to do that together. I said similar things four years ago today. I meant them then. I mean them ever more so now and in a different way. Today there is a greater urgency to the need than there was four years ago.

Four years from today you will be witness to someone else being sworn into office. All of us owe it to that person and ourselves to provide a better start on their term in office than we have recently experienced this year. The core of our problem today is the systemic partisan political gridlock. There are a few things brewing for a long-term solution to that problem but we really do not have the time to wait for that long term. We need to do something now.

I suggest three new ideas — to be used together — to make an effort now to put that gridlock on hold to allow us to address our fundamental goal of dealing with out debts and deficits.

First, we should come together and seek a unanimous vote of both houses of Congress that the most important goal of this presidential term is to secure the future for our inheritors by beginning to reduce the debts of the country to a level that can be sustainably managed going into the future. If we can agree on that broad goal, that can be the beginning of a process that can reach broad bipartisan agreement on how to do it.

Second, we should agree to suspend all open and active partisan political activity for the balance of this year — such as party caucusing — while we seek to address the various specific matters that stand in the way of achieving our agreed basic goal. We should conduct our debates about the best way to achieve our agreed goal with the explicit purpose of finding compromises that may not make everyone happy, but will move us toward our goal, in a way that a preponderance of independent expert economists and statisticians agree will work.

Third, to enable legislators to vote their consciences (as they finally did after Jan. 1 when 88 Senators and 85 House members voted for the new tax bill to avoid the Cliff,) without fear or favor from party, we should suspend the tradition of publicizing how each legislator votes until we have accomplished all the legislation necessary to putting us on the path to our goal or one year from now, whichever comes first.

At a minimum perhaps, the American people might credit the president with trying to lead in a different way and that might strengthen his hand in the issues that lie ahead.

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A Dance of the Pygmies: Let’s Strike It While the Iron Is Hot

Some 150 years ago Darwin peered into the past and the future and wrote The Origin Of The Species. It did not change the real world but radically changed the way almost all people see the real world. And, of course, in every imaginable way man has continued to evolve. One of the strangest ways man has evolved is in the political arena.

The political evolution has been shrouded in journalists’ and historians’ revelations of good times and bad for American politics — such as, ‘it has never either been this good or bad’ — to the point that most people have given up trying figure out where we are in any evolution of politics. But, that may be a big mistake because if we fail to diagnose what we are actually doing wrong, we are bound to keep evolving in the wrong ways such as falling deeper and deeper into the hole of democratic gridlock which may turn out to be just as bad as undemocratic tyranny.

For example, how we have been dealing with the so-called cliff problems has been counterproductive to the point that at this writing, our Congress may be, despite a possible half-baked compromise a day late and a mile short, about to create a self-inflicted recession on our economy, just as that economy has begun to show real recovery after five years of travail.

Our elected legislative leaders are using (or misusing) the fruits of two basic procedural developments which have evolved in recent years:

  • In the House the Republicans continue to have a controlling majority despite the fact the Democrats won a majority of the votes for all the seats because of serious misuse of gerrymandering redistricting, made worse by a virulent minority group of Republicans (the Tea Party types) who hold their leadership hostage to their single-minded demands.
  • In the Senate the Republicans continue to have effective control despite the fact that the Democrats have a majority of the seats (which is a significant deviation from our founders’ insistence on majority rule) due to misuse of the filibuster rules which effectively require a 60 vote majority instead of 51 votes, and to make matters even worse the controlling party cannot even force a vote without the consent of the minority party.

Those two evolutions in our political process have also effectively diminished the traditional consequences of this fall’s presidential election in which the incumbent Democrat was reelected with an historically significant majority of the popular vote, endowing him with quite a clear mandate on several issues including taxes.

How could this have happened?

Basically, the American people have demonstrated over and over that despite all the noise (and there is a lot of it with hundreds of TV channels and an enormous social media) that they ‘get it.’

But, it now appears that the Republican congressional leadership has been seriously underestimating the common sense of ‘the people’ by playing the ridiculous game of trying to pin the tail of blame for gridlock on the Democrats in hopes that if they might succeed in shifting the blame, they might avoid challenges from within their own party to their incumbency.

That sounds to me like a ludicrous misshaped hope of personal greed for self-preservation obviously trumping what they were elected to do — which is to look after the interests of the American people not themselves.

And, that is their big mistake today because the American people, as they spoke in the November election, ‘get it’ and those Republican leaders in particular should get their due in the next election.

But, amazingly that may not happen because of the procedural problems noted above.

The result is that we are in an evolutionary whirlpool dragging us into an ever worse political morass.

That suggests to me that the time is at hand to try to break this vicious cycle we are in by slightly reshuffling the deck of political rules to break the hold of the procedural deadlock which currently embraces us and our otherwise promising future.

The three basic things that need desperately to be addressed are:

  1. Congressional districting
  2. Filibuster procedures
  3. Campaign finance

It may sound too ambitious to even suggest but the moment may be right to attempt to create a national consensus around this agenda. This year’s election coupled with this December’s congressional pygmy charade of ‘negotiations’ is positively clear in the common sense minds of a significant majority of Americans as just that.

What better moment could there be to strike at the pygmies while the iron is hot!!