Can America hold this President accountable?
Recent events have exposed serious flaws in our way of governance and managing crisis.
How are we managing?
Accountability, unfortunately seems a likely contender for ‘first horse out of the burning barn.’
We crow that we can ‘walk and chew gum’ at the same time but our cognitive dissonance at managing crisis and managing the managing of crisis is sleepy-eyed at best. We are behind the eight ball looking at the eight ball we have created:
Blame. Or precisely, ‘how we blame’ is the culprit: the spectator holding the empty water pail cluck clucking the burning barn.
Reality check: ‘accountability’ is not about blaming or shaming, blaming’s cousin. ‘Accountability’ is about weighing risk and reassessing outcomes.
Myth number one: as a country we’re exceptional because we always come out of crises intact.
We are exceptional because we are rich, rich in natural resources, rich in accumulated wealth. The crises we ‘don’t come out of’ are triggered by events not borne of ‘collective poverty’: natural (Katrina, Sandy), cyclical (depression, recession). The consequences however are ‘real poverty’ unequally distributed.
We mourn over the ashes, the losses and like Annie, don’t collect the meaning of their loss but hope for the inevitable (eg. ‘the sun will come out tomorrow’)
Coffers don’t automatically open when the barn is burning.
Myth number two: somebody “fucked up”. We yearn to name and then like a puppy-love swooning teenager develop intimacy with a living, breathing culprit. One who wears pants. The latest Salem witch. Lost on us is the conundrum of bad decision making together with institutional foot dragging and CYA.
Myth number three: what crisis? When all else fails just dis-acknowledge, gloss over, obfuscate. Point any incredulity back at the pointer. Kill the messenger. Act appalled. “Concerned.” Oblivious to cause and effect.
Myth number four: ‘they’ did this. A variation of myth number two seasoned with paranoia. Our TV addled minds seize on the “other” as an antidote to self-reflection. When the going gets tough the conspiracy theories get traction.
Are these myths American made? They are not. But this part is clear: in America because of our wealth and heretofore global prominence we are uniquely gifted at perpetuating them without limited consequence.
So we listen to our President, myth maker in Chief and cluck cluck about Election Day. The voting booth is our water pail. So hard to conflate the multiple crises we are enduring to the “easy fix vote ‘em out solution.”
Where is the cloud clearing? We have in place some of the most admired governance regulations and prescriptions, which we leave withering on the shelf or proudly and patriotically shred. We snarkily lampoon khaki wearing ID badge lanyard bedecked bureaucrats, “essential workers” of the business of monitoring the decisions and decision makers. Where are our accolades? When was the last time we hugged a regulation or a regulator? This sorry state of affairs took a dismal turn when a District Court judge recently questioned the “constitutionality” of… hold on… the Consumer Financial Protection Agency.
Here’s another sign: America once upon a time was the global go to place for students who sought American university degrees in science, history and yes, management. Where are they now? The global brain drain has come to our shores.
If we took a poll today, how many folks would agree to what the Federal Government’s role is in managing a national crisis? Some in the current White House think it’s on the state and local governments to solve the crises. “We’ll stand by ready to help.” We are encouraged to pray and celebrate a different outcome.
Another cloud clearing, which in my opinion, we abuse through disenfranchisement is local governance, the very asset the POTUS likes to smear and patronize. Not the practice of local governance but the infrastructure. With respect to Tip O’Neil, “all governance is local.” We have in place representative governance, elected officials, opportunities for good governance, and laws which can be attended to. If “freedom” is on our morning cereal box, “governance” is the milk we pour.
Another sign: state governors demanding of the White House. leadership. Scoring political points? Maybe. Calling out truancy? You bet cha’.
Echoing Woody Allen, “Showing up is 75% of success.” Let’s add “showing up is 75% of excellence.”
What does accountability gain us?
July 3, 2020