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Articles written by lee hamilton

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  • Election reform is about more than fraud

    Lee Hamilton|Oct 4, 2017

    A dozen years ago, the preface to a report on federal election reform began with these words: “Polls indicate that many Americans lack confidence in the electoral system, but the political parties are so divided that serious electoral reform is unlikely without a strong bipartisan voice.” I can find no part of that sentence that’s not still true. Americans still lack confidence in the electoral system. The political parties are still divided. Serious electoral reform remains unlikely. Perhaps the only change is that the commission issui...

  • Good communication lies at the heart of our democracy

    Lee Hamilton|Aug 9, 2017

    Do ordinary citizens still have a voice in Washington and in their state capitals? Despite the cynicism of these times, my answer is, yes, we do. ... But we have to exercise it. I don’t just mean going to a town hall meeting and yelling, or shooting off a letter or email. I mean making an appointment to sit down with your representative — in his or her office, at a cafe in the district, or wherever else you can meet — and holding a real conversation. We don’t do this often enough in our country. The heart of a representative democracy does no...

  • Encourage good media

    Lee Hamilton|Jul 12, 2017

    I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to journalism, I’m a traditionalist. Old-fashioned, even. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that even while confidence in the media drops to new lows and Time magazine feels moved to wonder “Is Truth Dead?” on its cover, huge numbers of Americans have come to believe the media is not as authoritative as it once was. Straightforward, responsible journalism is an indispensable public asset, a cornerstone of democratic life. This is threatened by the trends reshaping the media landscape.... Full story

  • A president struggling to get on track

    Lee Hamilton|May 3, 2017

    I have significant differences with Donald Trump’s political stances, but I want him to enjoy a successful presidency. It’s good for neither the country nor the world when a U.S. president struggles or fails. Yet I also believe that constructive criticism can help a president grow more capable. It’s in this spirit that I want to take a hard look at the Trump presidency so far. President Trump’s personal and stylistic approaches may have served him in business and on the campaign trail, but are problematic in office. He has an unfortu... Full story

  • In praise of pragmatism

    Lee Hamilton|Mar 22, 2017

    As you watch the healthcare proceedings on Capitol Hill, imagine what things might be like if we lived in more functional political times. In particular, what if Congress were run by pragmatists? It would not change the issues at hand. On the one side, you’d have the Republican majority in Congress, which for the most part believes that the healthcare system should be left to the private sector. On the other side would be Democrats who, to varying degrees, see an important role for government to play. What would change would be how the two s... Full story

  • The threats to our representative democracy

    Lee Hamilton|Feb 22, 2017

    With so much turmoil in Washington and around the country these days, it’s easy to get caught up in the crises of the moment. These are, indeed, worth our attention — but so are longer-running developments that threaten the health of our representative democracy. I want to lay them out in one place, so that the most serious problems confronting our system don’t slip from our attention. First, it has become very hard to make our system work. Our country is so large, so complex — and, at the moment, so polarized and divided — that it’s toug... Full story

  • Our system comes with no guarantees

    Lee Hamilton|Jan 11, 2017

    There are a lot of dire predictions about our representative democracy out there. We’re just past a presidential election campaign in which candidates complained about a rigged political system. Now, commentators worry about the imminent failure of the American experiment. I don’t agree with these predictions of calamity. Our representative democracy is not on the verge of collapse. But I do see stresses and tensions that should concern anyone who cares about our system of self-government. Our representative democracy has been remarkably sta... Full story

  • Want to govern effectively, Mr. Trump?

    Lee Hamilton|Dec 28, 2016

    As Mario Cuomo said, politicians campaign in poetry but have to govern in prose. Now we have a president-elect who campaigned in tweets ... but still will have to govern in prose. Donald Trump showed great skill as a campaigner, steering his campaign past a slew of professional politicians who underestimated him at every turn. Now the test is whether he can govern — that is, whether he can run the United States government, conduct foreign policy in treacherous times, and reshape domestic policy to fit his goals. This requires a very d... Full story

  • Even voting is at issue in this election

    Lee Hamilton|Nov 9, 2016

    One of the more intriguing aspects of this unusual election year is the extent to which the underpinning of the election itself — voting — has become an issue in its own right. An act that we used to take for granted is increasingly being called into question. Just look at the headlines from the past few months. Russia, it seems clear, is trying to meddle in the process, sowing confusion and distrust about the integrity of the vote and about the vibrancy and fairness of our democracy. There have been questions about the cyber-security of vot... Full story

  • For those eligible, voting should be easy

    Lee Hamilton|Jun 29, 2016

    The elections process is not usually grist for inflammatory rhetoric. But this year has been different. Republican Donald Trump labeled the GOP primary process “crooked.” Democrat Bernie Sanders suggested his party’s use of super-delegates made its nominating process a “rigged system.” For many voters, the intricacies of voting rules quickly became a topic of overriding interest. Now that the primaries are over, I hope Americans remain just as intrigued by the laws governing general-election voting in their states. Because at the moment, t... Full story

  • What it takes to be an effective citizen

    Lee Hamilton|Jun 15, 2016

    It’s so easy in a presidential election year to forget that our system is not about a single person. This year especially, when the dynamics of the presidential contest have dominated news coverage so thoroughly that even the Senate and House races have largely disappeared from view, the crucial role that citizens play — apart from serving as voters in the presidential drama — isn’t even an afterthought. Yet effective citizenship is the base on which our representative democracy rests. Our vitality as a country depends on the involve... Full story

  • Standing with Belgium: Attacks show necessity for plan to defeat ISIS

    Lee Hamilton|Mar 30, 2016

    Last Tuesday, the world was again horrified by coordinated terrorist attacks at the airport and subway in Brussels, Belgium. Dozens of people lost their lives, and many more were injured. Even before they took official responsibility, there was little doubt that the perpetrators would turn out to be ISIS affiliates, whose attacks in Paris last November took the lives of 130 people. At the time of this writing, four Americans have been confirmed to have lost their lives in the Belgium attacks. These horrific acts against innocent civilians are... Full story

  • Water storage solutions needed to reduce threat of drought

    Lee Hamilton|Mar 16, 2016

    Hot summers, several years of low snowpack, and the severity of recent drought across the West illustrate the extent to which water is truly the lifeblood of Central Washington and our economy. Unlike the west side of the Cascades, the “rain shadow” effect caused by the mountain ranges keeps Eastern Washington dry, with less than 10 inches of rainfall on average. Communities throughout Central Washington, including employers, manufacturers, agriculture producers, and tribes, depend on access to water supplies through irrigation and water inf... Full story

  • You know who I feel sorry for? Today's politicians.

    Lee Hamilton|Dec 30, 2015

    You’ll laugh at this, but hear me out. This is a very tough time to be a politician — whether running for office or trying to lead while holding office. The women and men who’ve undertaken to represent us face circumstances that make campaigning and governing unusually challenging right now. Not that they’ve ever been easy, at least in my lifetime. Our size, diversity, and multi-layered government structure; the number and complexity of the problems our political leaders face daily; and the divided politics of our time, which make settlin... Full story

  • Is this really the best we can do?

    Lee Hamilton|May 23, 2012

    As you undoubtedly know if you pay attention to national affairs, the United States faces a perfect fiscal storm at the end of this year. A confluence of deadlines and policy triggers unlike anything I can remember in a half-century of public life will produce massive budget cuts and serious tax increases. At least, it will if Congress and the White House don’t act. So it must be all hands on deck in Washington, right? You know where I’m going with this. The House has worked for roughly a third of 2012 so far, and will be out of Washington cam... Full story

  • It’s Not Just Congress: Citizens also have room to improve

    Lee Hamilton|Mar 21, 2012

    As a member of Congress, you get used to being graded. Interest groups send you questionnaires, check your voting record, and then issue their “report cards.” Editorial writers opine freely on your performance. Pollsters issue monthly updates on how Congress is faring with the public. Members of Congress learn to expect this judgment and criticism. It’s part of being an elected official in this country — and should be. But they also learn that Congress is part of a larger political system that also involves We The People. Our democracy doesn’t... Full story