Changing of the Palace Guard

It is interesting to live in Washington, DC and observe how sponsors and colleagues are reacting to the changing of the palace guard.  Most of these people are at least one level below the political appointees of the palace guard and will not be leaving.  They seem relieved, not existentially but practically.  Their new superiors may be in place for the next four years.

It appears that the next set of players will be experienced and competent.  That is a welcome relief.  I was privy to a high-level discussion of the White House’s stated criteria for political appointments over the past four years.  It is essential, I was told, that candidates have no expertise relevant to the agency they would lead and be destroyers rather than builders.

Flurries of executive orders dismantled policies and regulations intended to protect health, education, and environment.  This was motivated, in part, by enormous donations from fossil fuel companies to political campaigns and disinformation efforts to confuse and mislead the public.  The swamp that was to have been drained was actually carefully nurtured.

Government is intended to serve and protect the interests of all citizens.  Individuals, companies and other organizational entities attempt to maximize their personal gains from government coffers, but this is a consequence of our public-private ecosystems, not the primary purpose of these ecosystems.  Much greater transparency could help to moderate these very natural tendencies.

What can we expect?  The pandemic and its health and economic consequences will remain to be addressed.  The looming threat of global warming and its impacts will need considerable attention and investments.  Social and economic equity will require considerable work.  The difference will be that these challenges are not going to be denied.  We will openly recognize them and address them with expertise, resources, and commitment.

With the vaccine on the way, we will hopefully move back towards economic normalcy.  New leadership will also provide confidence in a “back to normal” government that will professionally address and manage the substantial challenges we face.  Further, we will again see consistent and truthful communications about what is happening and how the government is responding.


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