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National identities are replacing political ideologies around the world.

Beware… extreme nationalism elsewhere has led to autocracy and dictatorships.

Then, conspiracies and lies overtake truth and facts.

Freedom of speech is lost, and a free press becomes the designated enemy.

And in our country, white people and party extremists are already beginning to fear a loss of control.

But most important right now is simply for our President to clarify “what it truly means to be an American.” More than anything this is what the world needs from us… and what it will take to save our democracy.

I have written many times about the role mayors and city managers of major cities were playing in international relationship-building. But I never heard the term “subnational diplomacy” until I watched a Brookings Institution webinar on the topic.

Featured was the mayor of Dallas, Texas. His role was to champion “new initiatives” cities are taking to develop international relationships. Called “subnational diplomacy,” he and other city leaders are seeking to increase support from the state department in Washington.

The Dallas mayor, and his top level advisory group, see clear economic and other advantages resulting from better international relationships. He and other webinar participating mayors refer to the large number of businesses in their areas with expanding international interests. They talked about international interests and activities going on at local schools, universities, arts organizations, and nonprofits. They point out that such coordination could very well result in more young people seeking international careers… possibly even becoming American diplomats.

What is seen as new, is often something old, but revitalized with new passion and leadership. World Affairs Councils in Dallas and other cities have been involving their international businesses, university experts, and many other groups in their international activities. Since the 1950’s Sister City organizations all over the U.S. have been building international relationships between cities around the world. And some large city mayors and leaders are also seen as experts in international terrorism, because the seeds of anarchy have been sown in their neighborhoods, and these cities are where the violence has occurred.

I agree that it often takes a new slogan and new passions to modernize familiar practices. So I will support “subnational diplomacy” wherever it is happening… even though the term is not very inspiring! After all, the more people and groups involved in international relationship-building the better! And saving our democracy needs this right now.

Bipartisan is the only way to govern a democracy, however, it is abundantly clear that with this legislature bipartisanship is impossible.

Presidential messaging must now aggressively promote the total program that is best for a democracy… and be relentless everyday in stating what is destructive about current partisan behaviors.

Controlling messaging in our new social media world requires shouting out everyday on all available platforms, and constant repetition using simple, memorable phrases.

It’s time for the President to get very aggressive and courageous about explaining clearly what is wrong, what is factual. and why. In other words, it’s time to forget all bipartisan hopes and get tough!

History doesn’t always repeat itself… but issues and values often linger, and echo.

  1. Abraham Lincoln tried to eliminate slavery, but white supremacy continued to echo in American culture.
  2. It still resides deep in the subconscious minds of many who consider themselves accepting of all races.
  3. And it surfaces in unexpected ways… such as when minorities appear to get special treatment at work… or when a black family moves into a white neighborhood… or when white voters simply allow submerged feelings to surface when voting.
  4. Admittedly, some very dangerous groups have always believed that white culture is superior.
  5. Therefore, the founders’ dream of equality can only be realized if true patriots continue to champion democracy and equal justice.

It seems clear that the founders knew all along that they would need to rely on future leaders to make “liberty and justice for all” a reality. Saving the American democratic system must therefore be our top priority.

American Core Ideas…

  1. “Equal justice” was stated as an essential principle. But it was also realized that slavery, white supremacy, and other serious stumbling stumbling blocks would have to be dealt with over time.
  2. A form of democracy called a “republic” was uniquely designed into the American system. This was done with the hope that only leaders of “high virtue” would hold high office. Ben Franklyn famously said… “You have a republic if you can keep it!”
  3. The “Declaration of Independence” made it clear there would be no monarchs, autocrats, or dictators in America.
  4. “Freedom of speech and the press” were so important to the founders that they were included in the Constitution.
  5. “We are a nation of immigrants.” From the very start government leaders have made this obvious fact clear.
  6. “Forming a more perfect union” would require avoiding political and social polarization. It was this fear that caused George Washington to declare himself an Independent… a fear which he warned about again in his farewell address!
  7. “Access to voting” has always been seen as an important feature of American citizenship.

These core American ideas are what can restore unity to our polarized nation… a prerequisite for regaining international respect, and global leadership.

Recent media revolutions have been huge game-changers for everyone… and most especially for leaders.

  1. Institutions, politics, the family, education, and much more, have been changed forever.
  2. A daily information explosion now produces a permanent state of confusion.
  3. Social media platforms have become weapons for ruthless governments and individuals.
  4. Legitimate institutions and governments struggled to be understood. Even those that want to be transparent.
  5. Photojournalism and television brought even more drama to news reporting.
  6. Television quickly dominated coverage of riots, demonstrations, and shootings.
  7. Focusing on the action, and using close-ups and picture montages, TV news can be very deceiving.
  8. Consumers are overwhelmed with information… and now tend to chose the outlets that best reinforce what they prefer to think.

Media literacy for consumers has therefore never been more important.

Cracks in our two-party government have been appearing for a long time. Is it now time to suggest we should have multiple political parties?

  1. In the Republican Party there are those with both extreme right-wing and traditional thinking.
  2. Some Republicans also appear to see benefits in an autocracy.
  3. And there are Democrats with centrist, left and right thinking.
  4. Some Democrats might even prefer a “green party” focus.

As the political pendulum swung between Democrats and Republicans over the years, various factions were appearing.

  1. In the 1930’s a Democratic President (FDR) used government to create infrastructure jobs. But even so his internal party support was not unanimous, especially when it came to foreign affairs.
  2. In the 1980’s a Republican President (Reagan) declared big government was the big problem. But internal factions eventually emerged, with more varied ideas about the best role for government..
  3. Today a Democratic President (Biden) is using government to end a pandemic, open up schools safely, rescue hurting families, provide other social safety-nets, and bailout failing small businesses. But internal factions on the left and right are already emerging.

Maybe multiple-party politics, recognizing the existence of these various factions, would better serve us now? It’s essential to keep in mind that recent media revolutions will keep these factions visibly on the public agenda… and therefore politically significant.

  1. The number of disillusioned Americans… Independents, Republicans, Democrats, middleclass families, and front-line workers… is increasing everyday.
  2. We simply must change our national conversation to the founder’s “idea of America.” “Save our incredible democratic republic,” must become our unifying theme.
  3. Passionate speeches need to be delivered at every opportunity. Celebration events need to be staged. Everywhere the “buzz” must be about democracy.
  4. Topics must include: a nation of immigrants; a nation of strong institutions; a nation of good jobs; a nation of great healthcare; a nation that cares for the environment; a nation of empathetic capitalism; a nation of strong allies; and a nation of individual freedoms.
  5. We must use every media-platform, holiday event, and all communication opportunities to focus on America’s democratic republic as the only “big idea” that can truly unite our nation… and help us regain our leadership role in the world.

  1. Today, most everyone tends to join only the social media platforms and information sources that reinforce their own beliefs.
  2. Thus, we all tend to join a digital media universe that brings us the most comfort.
  3. Trump followers have their own universe.
  4. Republicans and Democrats can each have their own universe.
  5. Independents and others can have theirs too.
  6. In fact, everyone probably is already living in their own “media comfort zone.”
  7. So, from now on, power-hungry politicians will be using social media platforms and biased news sources to talk directly with their followers, and other people may not have any idea what they are saying to each other…or planning to do!

Higher Ed was in big trouble long before the pandemic… according to the Economist, the world’s premier news magazine. So, after this pandemic what can we expect from a university education? 

   1. Universities have a huge challenge in front of them. They all will be coming back from COVID with many issues to address, and a variety of game plans.  

   2. Big issues include: examining the traditional concepts of academic freedom and tenure; determining the role of part-time faculty; defining how freedom of speech relates to hate speech and extremism of all kinds; dealing with how various views of individual freedom can function in a modern university; etc.  

   3. The pandemic experience proved that some courses can work well on-line, but others don’t. Most full-time students will continue to want some version of a campus experience.      

  4. Higher Ed journalists report that many professors, staff, and students are experiencing some level of pandemic-produced burn-out. Administrators will need to take this possibility into account, and in many cases provide help.  

  5. Most families will want to avoid huge student loans. Options include: attending a community college for the first two years; choosing a lower-cost public institution;  investigating short-term certificate programs; finding short-term degree programs; etc. “Gap years” also become viable options.    

  6. Some institutions will consider organizing subject matter differently. Interdisciplinary courses and programs often suggest that some traditional academic departments are “old school” ideas. There are many alternative and creative possibilities.    

 7. Many faculty, students and staff discovered during the pandemic that they can work effectively from home. This could free-up space in many institutions for faculty and staff conferences, innovative classes, and a variety of other creative uses. 

8. Topics such as global leadership, media literacy, international issues, and community engagement, have recently taken on new significance, and could find more prominent places in the curriculum.   

9. Many institutions will be rethinking athletics. Some will stay with intramural programs. Others will eliminate specific sports. Still others might cut entire intercollegiate programs. And all will be studying their ongoing relationships with donors… and the serious financial implications of big changes in athletics.            

Each university or college will need to determine its own future. Some institutions will fail. Others will seek and find mergers. Most will face some level of price objection, and all will be different in significant ways. And they all will need to factor-in the internationalization of everything.