Political Thinking for Everyday Citizens

Practicing a civic perspective

Since the beginning, thoughtful political observation has happened by way of big questions. What makes a question big? It’s something like the theory of relativity. From one angle, the question looks as simple as asking what time it is, but the answer requires looking at everything we thought we knew from a different perspective.

Questions of Civic Proportions: How Long Will We Wait?

Questions of Civic Proportions: How Long Will We Wait?

There’s a new trend on social media. Get in line to vote and start the stopwatch on your phone. Once you’ve cast your ballot, post a screenshot so we all know how long you were willing to wait.

We’re celebrating these stories as feats of persistence. The people will vote. Neither a pandemic nor shifting voting rules will turn them away.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: Can We Spare a Moment?

Questions of Civic Proportions: Can We Spare a Moment?

This public mind is tired. When discussing the Supreme Court nomination on a recent podcast, Dahlia Lithwick said she felt like a “boxing kangaroo.” She has to keep punching without ever knowing if her punches are making a difference. Just keep punching.

I wondered if democracy has always made punching kangaroos of its people. That was almost the theme this week.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What is strength without purpose?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What is strength without purpose?

Suckers and losers. Again, we all had to ask the question of whether or not President Trump is fit to serve as Commander-in-Chief. We’ve been here before. We’re stuck in a loop.

Responding to Jeffrey Goldberg’s article in The Atlantic, “Trump: Americans Who Died in War are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers,” the political punditry returned to a question they have asked many times before: why don’t we ever hear from General Mattis or General Kelly?

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What will happen if no one plays the game?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What will happen if no one plays the game?

Athletes have a playbook with moves we all have to learn to execute. The question of who will play the game and who will not transcends the court.

One of the most iconic images in sports comes from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two members of the U.S. track team, raised their gloved fists while the national anthem played. In his autobiography, John Carlos described the moment as being in the eye of a hurricane, “There’s something awful about hearing fifty thousand people go silent.” (Quoted in The Atlantic)

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What is strength without purpose?

Questions of Civic Proportions: Can We Chase Down All the Dead Ideas that Hurt Women Who Run for Office?

I wanted to know why Katy put her picture on her yard sign. I naively thought the decision came as a result of her side hustle as a realtor. I also hated that Katy ran with her first name, “Vote for Katy.” I hadn’t seen male candidates use either of these strategies.

A more experienced campaign hand explained it to me: Katy wanted people to see how likable she was…

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Questions of Civic Proportions: Can We Spare a Moment?

Questions of Civic Proportions: What is missing from our marketplace of ideas?

Our elected representatives called “Big Tech” to account last week. Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple all held down their corner of a Zoom meeting. Approaches varied, but most questions suggested that the primary concern was fair competition.

Is our marketplace of ideas missing more apps, more products, and more search results? That’s a fair question for an antitrust hearing.

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Questions of Civic Proportions: What is strength without purpose?

Questions of Civic Proportions: Is it different this time?

Spray cans left at the bottom of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia invited everyone to leave their mark. People there transformed the space around the monument into a community space, some described the scene as a “focus of civic outpouring.”

The pictures posted online include basketball and ballerinas. Look at the t-shirts and you’ll find the claim, “I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

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We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.

—Carl Sagan

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