I should start by acknowledging that there are no new ideas in the post. I just want to remind us all of something its easy to forget in the news cycle.
Notwithstanding our largely paralyzed political process, a party and President with plans to effectively destroy our openness and our generosity to the less fortunate, and an international environmnt with several major players whose committement to the values for which we have stood is, dubious to say the least, our overall assets are such that any other country and leader could only dream that their nation will possess them in their children’s time, if ever.
Not only do we still have massive economic power now backed by a powerful innovation machine, we have most of the leading educational institutions, speak the utterly dominant language, have a human capital pool from every country in the world, democratic values that remain a beacon for those of goodwill throughout the world, a political system with checks and balances that usually work, although not always as quickly as they have in the last three weeks, and not just a free free press but a system in which multiple layers protect that essential ingredient of freedom and progress. (If you have any doubt about how all those interact in a time of crisis, just look at the list of amici in the immigration case in the Ninth Circuit, as discussed here.)
Now, lots of terrible harm is going to happen to lots of people. The sate net will take vicious hits. There will be serious limits on voting rights. Government support of education and research will be very seriously hit. Only by a miracle will the damage to our health care system be less than the good that is done — although “repair” might end up giving us a better system in some states. One could add to this list.
But, unless our entire political system is destroyed (and I am actually less worried about that right now) most of our essential uniqueness will remain. Unless things get much worse, people will still want to study, teach, and invest here. They will still see English as the only non-native language they need to speak. Above all, we will remain the only country that large groups of people in every country see as the model to emulate.
If we are really lucky, or rather if we really deserve it, the way we ultimately overcome our current challenges will enhance our uniqueness and appeal. Few countries have the capacity for defense in depth of democracy that we have already shown. It may take four years, or even eight, but this too will pass. To quote Lee Hayes from an earlier era: “I’ve had kidney stones and I know.”