Political strife, terrorism, and human fallibility will not go away in 2018, but we can all resolve to do better than we did in 2017. While nobody can dictate events, there are many ways, on our own, we can do our jobs better.
In that spirit, we have New Year's hopes for the politically powerful people to whom we pay attention each day.
First and foremost are our wishes for President Trump.
The simplest improvement he could make is to quit Twitter. His tweets as president have undercut the dignity of the office and spread falsehoods. He does not and will not admit it, but he knows it. And knowing it, he should resolve to do better, to behave better. His tweets have armed his political opponents in the courtroom, undercut his aides and agenda, and hurt his cause, his presidency, and by extension, the country.
Another easy change this New Year would be to nominate more and better people to important jobs in government. Hundreds of important federal jobs have gone unfilled. As we write, that number is 250. As more than 300 days have passed since Trump's inauguration, anyone still in an “acting” capacity is there in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. The legal headaches this could create are countless.
Trump has nominated many excellent people, but also some utter clunkers. He needs to stop nominating unqualified individuals. Republican senators have, thankfully, blocked some of these, but they shouldn’t have to.
So much for the president. Now, what about Capitol Hill? Congress can do plenty to get its own house in order.
It can start by resolving to legislate in a deliberative and transparent way, contrasting markedly to the way the healthcare and tax bills were handled. Obamacare repeal may not have failed in the House the first time had leaders employed regular order. Let committees mark up bills in public with amendments and votes. Move bills to the chamber floor for debate and amendments. Treat lawmakers as genuine lawmakers. Do this in both chambers.
If everyone has a chance to fight, more are likely to sign on to the final package. The tax bill, though commendable, could have been better had it been shaped by the process we've just described rather than behind closed doors, in a rush.
Deliberative and transparent policymaking will not only produce better results, but will also foster public trust. Americans hate the tax cut bill, even though it is going to leave more money in most of their pockets. Why? Because it was pushed through in a rushed and opaque process which convinced people that Republicans were hiding something nefarious. Why give credence to Democratic demagoguing when a more traditional and transparent process can make GOP messaging so much more effective.
Last come our resolutions for ourselves and for the rest of our industry. The most important function of a free press is to hold people in power accountable. In Washington, this means federal officials, politicians, and the president most of all.
This requires conservative outlets watch what is important, rather than sparkly and distracting, and recall that government power, not its critics, is the biggest threat to liberty.
This will require left-leaning major media outlets to reacquire the sobriety, humility, and skepticism they have sacrificed during the past year in exchange for the self-aggrandizing ephemera that is its current sense of oppositional activism. The performative resistance of many White House reporters preening in the briefing room cameras or basking in the backwash of Trump’s tweeted barbs serves the public decidedly ill. The rush to report unvetted stories that confirm reporters’ biases show that Trump’s critique of news media is substantially true. Don't let it be so. Do your jobs well, and make your criticism unimpeachable.
In 2017, the public felt things were spinning out of control. In truth, few things are ever really under our control. For those things that are, we can all do better.