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WHERE ARE WE AS A NATION?

This blog is not about current politics.  Nevertheless, we think it’s extremely important for litigators to understand the mood of the country.  Why?  To make the proper “pitch” to those sitting on military juries or otherwise deciding issues affecting their clients.

Where are we as a nation?  Author Bill Bishop sees these factors in play:

  • a precipitous decline in trust toward governments
  • a similar lack of confidence in virtually all other institutions
  • an international lack of trust – regardless of political history, electoral system, or style of government. In many republics, the voting public considers its current leaders highly inept and often opts for big changes
  • voters feel strongly anti-government; they “vote with their feet,” spurning institutions they have supported for generations. Examples?   “Rust belt” voters choosing President Trump, or the calamitous decline in mainline Protestant churches; reportedly, the six largest Protestant denominations together lost 5.6 million members [20 to 30% of their membership] between 1965 and 1990.

Another thoughtful commentator summarizes things this way:

  • middle class wage stagnation
  • lesser job opportunities
  • and decreased opportunities for middle class social/economic advancement

Given recent election results, are progressive jurors the new minority? Author Ruy Teixerla thinks not.  “There’s no going back” – the place of immigrants, minorities, gays, and women is reasonably well-settled in American society.  The current administration will be unable to change this much, despite the enthusiasm of hard-core supporters.   Moreover, conservatives must live with demographic changes –newer generations are more brown than white, and probably more progressive than their parents.  Note the flirtation with “Bernie” and a bit of socialism.

Jettisoning Obama-era gains – such as environmental regulations – may not be easy.  True enough, much can be done by Executive Order.  However, everything from a clean environment to some sort of affordable health care is broadly popular.  They are often supported by deeply-entrenched programs which will be hard to eradicate.   Moreover, liberals can be expected to take many of these issues into the courts and voting booths.  A wall with Mexico?   Taxpayer Jones owns some of that land and may very well refuse to sell.  Taxpayers Smith and Brown may similarly refuse.   Eminent domain actions by a Trump government might end up being neither popular nor quite a “sure thing.”

Perhaps Americans can best be seen as “symbolic conservatives” who honor tradition, distrust novelty, and embrace traditional labels.   Nevertheless, these same Americans might arguably be called “practical liberals” – comfortable with a Federal government supporting everything from tax reform to PBS funding to Meals on Wheels.   Statistics seem to indicate that “welfare state” programs enjoy substantial public support.

Some see President Trump as a populist who ultimately will find scant common ground with the conservative Tea Party wing of the GOP.   Note the recent failure to replace Obamacare.  The new administration is already planning tax cuts for the well-to-do [trickle-down economics], underfunding important social programs, and implementing programs distrustful of immigrants.  However, Americans likely will resist transforming America into a libertarian nation – privatizing Social Security or replacing Medicare with vouchers.

All this leads back to the advocate’s vital need to understand what is going on in politics.  Jury members likely will be impacted by where they fall in the economic spectrum, in terms of both income and opportunity.  In turn, that will color their view of society and the world – and likely affect how they will vote at trial.

Again, we are not advocating any particular point on the political spectrum.  Rather, the intent is to encourage attorneys to know where their public stands, given our topsy-turvy politics.  Advocates must understand the aspirations, and beliefs undergirding military decision makers.  That know-how is crucial to effective advocacy.


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