Grading Government on the Curve 

It is probably too early to give out report cards on our various branches of government, but before we move deeper into what could turn out to be a crucial year, a little preliminary judgmentalism might serve a constructive purpose.

  • Justin Fox Burks
  • Lee Harris

To start with the national government: Now, that is an unruly classroom. As a collective institution, it gets an Incomplete, and that's grading charitably. The president, Donald Trump, gets an F, and that, too, is almost an act of charity. It almost implies that Trump is trying to succeed at something. There's no question that the president has failed singly — to articulate and carry out a coherent, productive theme of government, as well as to accomplish any of his sundry private goals, notorious among which is his insistence on building a wall on our southern border. One of the first things most of us learned in school was the folly of the Great Wall of China. At enormous expense, an impenetrable barrier was erected across that Asian nation's northern frontier, preventing potentially troublesome access from without but also dooming a once thriving kingdom to hundreds of years of isolation and stagnation from which it is only now recovering. Trump would have us repeat that doomed experiment. Meanwhile, he is failing at various other assignments and seems not to know the meaning of homework.

On the score of conduct, he also fails at working and playing with others — having made a mess of our relations with long and trusted allies and simultaneously permitting — or inviting — outside bullies of his acquaintance to nose into our classroom and creating enough mayhem of his own to shut things down altogether. All in all, some form of expulsion may be the only option here.

At the level of state government, we've just begun what amounts to a new semester, and from the looks of things [see cover story], the various students involved in the  process seem entitled, at the very least, to an A for effort.

We have a city council that is just getting reorganized after several of its members transferred to other institutions. The reconstituted group is about to undergo crucial exams in the form of an election year, as is Mayor Strickland, whose authority to lead the body is about to be tested as well. The final grades here will come decisively this fall.

County government is off in a brand new direction under the tutelage of a new mayor, Lee Harris, who is proposing what amounts to a new curriculum based on re-evaluating the nature of justice. So far the body of commissioners he's working with seem inclined to follow his example and are working in harness, keenly exploring the new group project. This effort, too, needs some additional time for evaluation, but we are impressed so far.

Government is an inexact science, and opinions about it are famously subjective. All grading is, more or less, on the curve of our relatively modest expectations. We will periodically  look in on the various branches of government in this space and let you know what progress, if any, is being made.

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