From our American press corps to major political parties, and in some cases even state and national government, American institutions appear less and less competent and trustworthy by the day.

In my adult life, the first taste of it was in 2000 with the dangling-chad disaster in Florida’s general election. Granted, statewide margins had probably never been thin enough to make the percentage of error possible with hole-punch ballots a factor until the Bush-Gore race. But when the race was tight, accurately tallying the ballots was a problem.

It was the first time that I realized that we can’t take it for granted that these processes are airtight, or that the people charged with running them know what they’re doing.

We live daily in a morass of “news” coverage, some from credible news agencies, and some from propaganda machines parroting partisan talking points or even baseless allegations.

That, combined with old-school news organizations operating mostly in facts, but tripping regularly over their own biases, has left Americans with no sources of information in which they can fully trust.

No mutually agreed-upon sources of information mean that Americans across the ideological divide possess no shared facts. If we can’t even agree upon the facts, you can forget compromise. We can’t even start a good-faith negotiation.

And now major elections—we’re looking at you, Iowa Caucuses—are clearly run by some kids from the A/V club who coded a new app this week, and are curious to see how it works.

The storyline in Iowa is one that will be used to craft lesson plans in organizational management and crisis communications classes for years to come. The entire debacle will be a lesson in what not to do. Terrible planning. Non-existent contingency planning. Sloppy execution. Disastrous messaging when the ship was going down.

Here in Alabama, we thought our own iteration of the Democratic Party was likely the least competent in the nation. They can’t even agree on who is in charge and should have the keys to the office.

Then the Iowa Dems said, “Hold our beer.”

So what’s the point in all this? It’s that for all of our advancement, all of our technology, and all of the tools at our disposal, we are no better off. In fact, we may be less competent within key national institutions than ever before.

That’s a problem. It is tearing at the fabric of our increasingly fragile national unity and stability. We can’t afford the level of incompetence that we’re suffering at the moment—a moment when we need the best and brightest minds and most diligent taskmasters at the helm of key institutions and processes.

Every time we have a failure of competency, it cracks the door for the conspiracy theorists to create more fear, stir more dissension, and deepen the divide. And while there are certainly instances wherein there is an intentional effort on the part of foreign governments or other bad actors to corrupt our processes and weaken our nation, it is more often the product of incompetence.

At this rate, hostile foreign powers and jihadists may be no more threatening to the future health and safety of our nation than our own laziness and ignorance.

Get it together, America. The stakes are high.


MORE ON Good Governance

Cameras (AKA the Government) On Every Corner – A Cisco Sorta Slope

I remember the collective groan that went up from motorists when “red light cameras” became a thing. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if the police were around to see you push your luck with a changing traffic light. Big Brother always would. The heightened accountability at busy intersections felt a bit creepy and oppressive, but most […]

The RESTORE Alabama Agenda

The 2020 Regular Session of the Alabama State Legislature is behind us. Did anyone notice? It was a Session marked more by what didn’t happen than by what did. One minute the lobbyists were being paid well to try and get marijuana legalized, state budgets were flush, and gambling bills were once again all that […]

Balancing Rights and Love of Neighbor

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has announced that our state is moving into an initial phase of economic recovery, known as “Safer at Home.” It relaxes restrictions on many businesses while keeping others, like restaurants, heavily limited for now. The hope is that all businesses will be allowed to resume a modified type of operation shortly. […]

MORE FROM Dana Hall McCain

Cameras (AKA the Government) On Every Corner – A Cisco Sorta Slope

I remember the collective groan that went up from motorists when “red light cameras” became a thing. Suddenly, it didn’t matter if the police were around to see you push your luck with a changing traffic light. Big Brother always would. The heightened accountability at busy intersections felt a bit creepy and oppressive, but most […]

Balancing Rights and Love of Neighbor

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has announced that our state is moving into an initial phase of economic recovery, known as “Safer at Home.” It relaxes restrictions on many businesses while keeping others, like restaurants, heavily limited for now. The hope is that all businesses will be allowed to resume a modified type of operation shortly. […]

COVID-19 Restrictions Unfairly Choke Small Business

When Mark and Susan Anderson were required by a statewide mandate to close the doors of their Dothan clothing and outdoor gear store, Eagle Eye Outfitters, they felt like it was a necessary sacrifice for the good of public health. By limiting retail shopping to essential items such as groceries, prescriptions, and fuel, the Governor’s […]