Beware the Ides of March

March 15 seems like an auspicious day for a Julius to launch a civics-focused blog. (I don’t want to call this a political blog, because I like the civility in civics.)

I confess I’ve wanted to do this for a while now. But when I began the vetting process in 2014 as a Presidential nominee for a White House position, I was cautioned against political blogging, likely to avoid running afoul of the Hatch Act, which prohibits Federal appointees from engaging in political activity.

Today, with that nomination having long perished following the end of the Obama administration (the Senate Finance Committee never docketed my confirmation hearing), I am of course free to blog as I please. In thinking about what I might have to say, I realized that I’m not interested in fanning flames of contention and further widening the partisan divide. I’m a DIY kinda guy, so I would rather write about ways to improve America.

Yes, I am a Democrat and I lean left. But I also recognize a few Republican heroes, and like many Americans, I have opinions that cross party lines. I would like to see both parties learn to compromise, abandon poisonous propaganda, and maintain our leadership status as much on the world stage as here at home. I would like to see intelligent and fact-based debate between parties; I don’t mind impassioned disagreement, but what I find loathsome are out-and-out lies and misrepresentations.

I especially despise the attack on our proud tradition of a Free Press. I hate the phrase “fake news” when it is used to hide behind falsehoods. And I would especially like to see our leaders, on both sides of the aisle, grow up and act like statesmen (which by the way is a gender-neutral noun; you can Google it).

In January of 2013 I offered a proposal to the White House for a solution to what I saw as an alarming rise of misinformation in the public sphere. In it I wrote:

Every democratic society depends on the dissemination of knowledge and truth to its citizens. That is why as a nation we are so focused on education. In today’s Internet-powered Information Age, when digital demagoguery can be so persuasive, it is knowledge that enables us to choose for ourselves what is right and true.

And yet, the citizens of America lack much of the knowledge that would help heal the national divide between blue and red. It is true that we are a diverse nation, and it is our nature and our right to debate and disagree. But the common citizen is easily swayed by those with political agendas, and can’t get past the dogma and rhetoric to see for themselves what is fact.

The agendas are becoming ever more extreme, and even the Fourth Estate is polarized along party lines. A whole industry of fact-checkers is rising in the wake of America’s political mistrust. 

Five years later, with the rise of Trump and the ever widening gulf between Democratic and Republican partisans, the biggest casualty has been Truth, and with it, I fear, the best aspirations of our Founding Fathers.

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