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We Can Do Better Than This

By Sandy K. Baruah, President and CEO, Detroit Regional Chamber

Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, or how engaged you are in civic affairs, I believe that when all of us look around at the state of our politics, discourse, and democracy, we can agree that we can do better than this. The world’s leading superpower, the indispensable nation, the beacon of hope for democracy and hope the world over is experiencing a bout of tribalism, suppressed voter participation, growing income inequality and an international posture that seems to be confusing our long-term strategic allies. We can do better than this.

While these elements may seem unrelated, these and other economic and societal issues that we are grappling with stem from a loss of faith by the people in the underpinnings of our society. Faith in key institutions such as religion, education, businesses, news media, international non-governmental organizations, and certainly government – especially at the national level – are at record lows and continue to fall. Only our brave men and women in military uniform have been spared the wrath of diminished trust. We can at least be thankful for that.

At the core of this, people feel the institutions that are supposed to serve us haven’t been serving us very well. Whether this is reality or perception is almost irrelevant – the impact is clear to see. For our society and our democracy to function properly, for our society to address the challenges of the 21st century global economy, we cannot continue to go on like this. There is too much at stake.

This issue of the Detroiter is devoted to examining how our democracy might be improved. America is still known as the world’s leader in the experiment that is democracy. We are also the world’s leader in innovation. Perhaps it’s time to marry these signature traits to determine if we can improve the house of democracy that is America – within the foundations of our storied Constitution and longheld values.

Innovation requires experimentation. In this issue, we build on the ideas presented at the Chamber’s 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference by former Gehl Foods President and CEO Katherine Gehl and Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School. Their ground-breaking work, “Why Competition in the Politics Industry is Failing America,” poses important questions.

Questions such as:

  • Is the way we conduct elections really leading to the best outcomes that represent the most people?
  • With the largest block of voters identified as independents, why do the Democrat and Republican parties control so much of the voting apparatus?
  • How is our election process leading to greater gridlock and partisanship, particularly in Washington?

Equally as important, this issue will examine some experiments that are either underway or could be explored, to help resolve some of these issues.

We may not agree on everything, but we can all agree that we can do better than this.