what’s causing inflation? let me count thy ways…

With most public policy challenges, we tend toward simple explanations and blamecasting.  Such it is with inflation.  I am not a fan of President Biden, but I do not think rising prices are all his fault.  However, I do hold him and his administration responsible for their failure to assess the multiple contributing factors and address them to the extent they can.

The basic principal at play is straightforward.  When supply exceeds demand, prices go down.  When demand exceeds supply, prices go up.  Let’s explore:

  1. Pandemic Response – When COVID-19 first hit in 2020, we didn’t know what we were up against.  Afraid of the worst-case scenario, our public health officials drastically restricted economic activity across the board.  Many suppliers of goods and services either downsized or went out of business entirely.  Two years later, as consumers have unleashed pent up demand, the decimated supply chain is not able to keep up.  Furthermore, in response to the turmoil many employees have changed their attitudes about how much to work or even whether to return to work at all.  Our $23 trillion economy is integrated and complex.  It will take time for production capacity to get back to where it once was.  (In hindsight, we should have taken a focused prevention approach to COVID-19, but hindsight is 20/20.)
  1. Monetary Policy – A dollar is not a good in and of itself, but its value is determined by supply and demand just the same.  If there are too many dollars chasing too few goods, the value of a dollar will go down and it will take more of them to have the same purchasing power.  That’s what Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman meant when he said, “Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.”  When Joe Biden was campaigning for president he declared, “Milton Friedman isn’t running the show anymore.”  This was akin to suggesting gravity no longer exists because Isaac Newton isn’t running the show anymore.  Sadly, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell echoed this hubristic sentiment after Biden took office stating, “Right now M2,” (the supply of money) “does not really have important implications. It is something we have to unlearn I guess.”  It wasn’t so much that the Fed was asleep at the switch as inflation swelled.  They were well aware of the signals and willfully ignored them.
  1. Limiting Fossil Fuels – On Joe Biden’s first day in office, he withdrew the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.  Furthermore, his administration suspended new oil and gas drilling permits.  His Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm famously laughed when asked her plans to increase oil production in America.  To the President’s credit, the Interior Department recently reversed course slightly to allow limited drilling in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.  It will take a while, though, for those efforts to result in more supply, thus the reason for Biden’s recent kowtowing to Saudi Arabia begging them to increase their production in the short term.  In addition, the financial industry is hampering the development of any new coal or natural gas power plants through its ESG score scheme, thus raising the cost of electricity.  We can debate whether paying more for energy is worth emitting less CO2 into the atmosphere, but it is undeniable that energy is a key component to the production of most goods and so ESG is making most everything more expensive.
  1. War in Ukraine – The White House has coined the term “Putin’s Tax Hike” to shift responsibility for inflation, but without question Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has contributed to rising prices.  Aside from the general instability and threat of cutting off natural gas supplies to Europe, food supplies are at risk as well.  Ukraine is a major exporter of commodities like wheat, corn, and sunflower oil.  We live in an interconnected world.  When the price of food goes up on the other side of the globe, it goes up here, too.
  1. The Jones Act – I’ve seen this point made a few places online, but not enough, so I’ll shine some light on it here.  In the aftermath of World War I, Congress passed and Woodrow Wilson signed the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act.  It requires that any domestic transport of goods from one U.S. port to another be carried out by ships built, owned, and operated in America.  Especially with our strapped supply chains, this protectionist regulation is unnecessarily limiting the transit of goods and making them more expensive.  The Jones Act is obsolete and should be repealed ASAP.

There is no way to flip a switch and make inflation go away, yet there are things that could be done to slow it down.  Unfortunately, it seems we’ll need a change of leadership in Washington before we see significant relief.



it’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Ah, it’s that time again… the time of the year in which one of the Intramuralist’s prioritized truths is made manifest.

But before we share, allow me to acknowledge a few of those major and minor truths. First, a few, five majors…

  • We believe in conversation.
  • We believe in conversation about the hard.
  • Conversation about the hard can happen well when we commit to never forgoing respect. Note: I said never.
  • We recognize that each of us sometimes blows it.
  • Hence, we also believe in humility and forgiveness. Humility is one of the values most lacking in our culture. In each and all of us.

We also promote some additional beliefs that society sometimes struggles with… for example, fitting in all sorts of categories, another five…

  • A person can be a Republican and still be a wise person.
  • A person can be a Democrat and still be a wise person.
  • A person can adhere to a Judeo-Christian value system and still be a _____________ (Fill in either Republican or Democrat).
  • A person can support abortion and still value babies.
  • A person can oppose abortion and still value women’s rights.

(Only examples. And sorry… we sometimes push the envelope a little. We also believe in a little respectful discomfort.)

All that to say that there are lots of opinions on this planet. There are opinions and preferences and deeper still, convictions. And guess what?

We’re not always right. I’m not always right. And the reality is that all too often we aren’t anywhere close to aware that we aren’t right.

That’s one of the many reasons I’m excited to share it’s time for the Intramuralist’s annual Guest Writers Series — that time of year we are intentional in promoting the perspectives shared by those other than me.

Friends, this is an articulate, bright and diverse group — diverse demographically, diverse politically and ideologically, too. I may or may not agree with their perspective. 

But that’s not the point. 

Each of these authors — persons deeply respected by me — is committed to sharing their perspective or story in a way that is respectful of the one who may feel differently. That’s a value we all share and a value we exist to promote.

Over the next 3-4 weeks you will hear from a group of people, each of whom has chosen a topic of which they are passionate. We’ll be discussing inflation, Roe, fact, fiction and more. We’ll talk about cognitive dissonance, January 6th, and even a little Bob Marley.

The Intramuralist truth thus made manifest over the course of these next few weeks is it is wise to listen to different people; varied perspective helps us grow. The echo chambers only, unknowingly stunt our growth.

We don’t believe in stunted growth. We believe in being sharpened by one another.

So enjoy the series, friends. Ask questions. Seek to grow.

May we always learn from the different. May we respect them even more.



politics not gettin’ religion

I’m starting to believe people enjoy using the word “great” succeeded by a major, significant noun to make the phenomena sound really big… ie. the “Great Depression,” the “The Great British Baking Show,” or the Covid-prompted “great resignation.” Today’s discussed “great” is the “great realignment,” identified recently by Axios’s Josh Kraushaar (who is quoted below) as “arguably the biggest political story of our time… Republicans are becoming more working class and a little more multiracial. Democrats are becoming more elite and a little more white.” The parties are changing. Why?

Allow us to again wrestle with the words of respected author and economist David French: 

“There’s talk of realignment in the air. If you think all the way back to 2012, you might remember a certain phrase—the coalition of the ascendant. This was the Obama coalition, the collection of all of America’s growing demographics, from nonwhite voters to single women. The Romney voters, by contrast, were fading. White, Christian, and married, they were the demographic losers in a population that was becoming both more diverse and more secular. Democratic dominance was inevitable.

That analysis should have caused us to feel a certain looming dread. Nations that use race or ethnicity as the organizing principle of politics are often quite unstable, and quite violent. This is true across the world, and it’s true in our own land. Systematic racial division and oppression fractured the country once. It’s foolish to think it couldn’t fracture again—especially when the political class intentionally mobilizes voters to vote as a racial bloc.

Optimistic Democrats didn’t see Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 so much as a refutation of the coalition of the ascendant theory as a quirk of the electoral college and a reminder that Hillary Clinton wasn’t Barack Obama. The nation wasn’t quite majority-minority yet, and thus that the white majority could still win races when identity politics reign supreme. 

But 2020 told a different tale. The Democrats got whiter, the Republicans got more diverse, and now all the assumptions are scrambled. Donald Trump lost the popular vote by a far wider margin than he did in 2016, but he did materially better with Hispanic, Asian, and black voters. In fact, Trump did better than Romney with nonwhite voters in 2016 (an improvement then mainly attributed to Hillary Clinton’s weaknesses), and he improved on that showing in 2020. What was once seen as an aberration now looks like a trend.

The trend continues. Last week Axios’s Josh Kraushaar described an ongoing ‘seismic shift’ in the two parties’ coalitions. As outlined in a New York Times/Siena College poll, ‘Democrats now have a bigger advantage with white college graduates than they do with nonwhite voters.’ The Democratic Party’s losses with Hispanics are remarkable. Whereas Obama won 71% of the Hispanic vote in 2012, and Biden won 65% in 2020, now the Hispanic vote is ‘statistically tied.’

Moreover, there are good reasons to believe that Hispanic voters will continue to migrate to the GOP. As Ruy Teixeira described this week on his Substack, comprehensive issue polling from Echelon Insights demonstrates that strong progressives have substantially different political and cultural views from Hispanics.

Hispanic voters are far more likely to believe that America is ‘the greatest country in the world,’ far less likely to support defunding the police, far less likely to believe ‘racism is built into our society,’ and far less likely to believe that transgender athletes should play on sports teams that match their current gender identity. In most cases, the polling gap is just immense. 

What accounts for such monumental differences in beliefs in values? As my colleague Jonah Goldberg often (and rightly) says, we should reject monocausal explanations for complex social phenomena, but here’s a factor that simply isn’t discussed enough. The Democratic Party has a huge ‘God gap,’ and that God gap is driving a wedge between its white and nonwhite voters…

A party that’s culturally disconnected from (or perhaps even scornful of) traditional religious faith is going to alienate itself from tens of millions of voters it could otherwise reach. The danger to the nation is a version of the same danger represented by ethnic identity politics. If there’s one thing that can fracture a nation as thoroughly as ethnic division, it’s religious strife. The historical examples—from Catholic/Protestant to Hindu/Muslim to Sunni/Shiite—are too numerous to count. Indeed, we’re watching a great power war unfold in eastern Europe that’s motivated at least in part by profound religious animus. Our nation will be far, far healthier if we don’t divide on sharp religious lines. 

Religious conflict and political religious separation is also dangerous to religion itself. Turning one party into the ‘faith party’ not only risks repeating many of the compromises of the Trump era (many Christians saw supporting the GOP as their only real choice), it also risks melding together faith and power and faith and ideology in deeply destructive ways. 

Countless political and cultural issues don’t have a clear ‘Christian’ policy solution, yet when a party’s members perceive it to be the party of American Christianity, then the platform is wrongly infused with religious fervor, even on issues (like tax rates, gun policy, environmental policy, foreign policy, and countless others) where the correct religious answer is far from clear…

The future is not yet written. Both parties are at a crossroads. There is time for secular progressives to understand that Christians (including especially the black church) are an indispensable element of the progressive coalition. At the very least secular Americans should demonstrate respect and real tolerance for traditional religious beliefs…

Conservative Evangelicals—who come disproportionately from the South—have a real opportunity to turn the page on generations of terrible sin. Why are black Christians still so politically separated from the white church? Because for centuries all too many white Christians viewed their black brothers and sisters less through the lens of a common faith and more through the bigoted lens of a different race. It was white identity politics that separated the church, and its lingering legacy is a roadblock to unity today.

While Hispanic Americans don’t share the same history as black Christians, the hateful and fearful language around immigration (including, for example, ‘replacement theory’ discourse) causes too many Republican Christians to view Hispanic immigrants more as a political threat and less as brothers and sisters who likely share the same faith.

In December 2016, the executive editor of the New York Times, Dean Baquet, famously told NPR’s Terry Gross, ‘We don’t get religion. We don’t get the role of religion in people’s lives…’

But if we don’t ‘get religion’ we won’t fully get the seismic shift in American politics. America is a multi-ethnic, multi-faith, and deeply religious republic. If one or both parties can embrace each element of that reality, then we have a chance to make sure that seismic shift moves our politics towards the respectful pluralism that America requires.”

David French… always makes me think… of someone more than me.



what’s inside the head of a 20-something man?

Let me start by acknowledging I’m really not qualified to write this. It’s not because I’m not a boy, as let’s be honest, no one gender, ethnicity, etc. can speak for all others of the same demographic — a point we oft ignore.

I also am not qualified even though I have semi-successfully/semi-not co-parented three solid young men of said age. My experience does not equate to expertise — another oft missed reality.

Perhaps what would most make me qualified to write would be if I were some sort of licensed professional counselor. I work with many… but alas, I am not.

Hence, I write not from a place of omniscience nor even competency. I’m simply sharing an impassioned perspective… dare I suggest, one more framework of sharing we oft fail to disclose. We’re passionate. Reasoned. We have solid opinions, perspective, even conviction. However, we do not know all. No matter how impassioned we may be.

I keep looking at the gun issue… the violence issue… the evil. Actually, I somberly appreciate that there is indeed a collective heartache across the country when it happens. No one wants it to happen. We just don’t know how to stop it.

I thought it again this most recent weekend, as the incident occurred in my high school stomping grounds.

I therefore also appreciate the valiant efforts to make the violence stop. While persons disagree on which gun control efforts are effective — which thoughts and prayers are vital — the reality is that each wants the awfulness to stop. To be clear, there are spaces and places to have that respectful debate; sometimes that’s been here. But today, this is not one of those places. I want to honestly wrestle with a sobering, different question…

Why is it that the profile of the shooter is often a 20-something man? (FYI: According to the FBI’s analysis of active mass shooters in 2021, 98% were male, and 57% were under the age of 35.) Few women mess with mass shootings. We also aren’t seeing many men in even some midlife crisis. In the mass shooting — meaning a minimum of three or four victims of gun violence (not including the shooter) in a public place — why is it typically a young man?

Whether it’s the isolated mass incidents or the weekends of many urban streets, why is the shooter — the perpetrator of violence — most frequently in recent years, a 20-something man?

What’s in that young man’s head that makes him think this is ok?

It makes me ask what we’re teaching the young men in today’s society. What cues from culture are they getting that confuse them so? … that make them think that such an abhorrent activity could be wanted or wise in absolutely any possible way?

You’ll remember I said I wasn’t really qualified to write this. I’m not sure who exactly is. For if we knew what it was and we knew how to control or to at least limit the manifestation of evil, we would do so. So let us ask a few questions of the person whose brain may still be forming…

What do they believe about themselves?

Do they see themselves more highly than they ought?

What’s most important to them?

How do they view other people? Do they respect all others? Believe in serving others?

Why don’t they value all human life?

Have we taught them to hate anyone or any one demographic?

Have we taught them another’s thinking, opposition or even existence matters less?

Are they entitled? Are they lost? Are they too isolated?

Who do they trust?

Where does their value system come from? Have we somehow taught them that whatever they believe is good and right and true?

What do they think it means to be male?

Do they know what it means to be a wise father?

Do they have a faith? Do they find identity in being God’s kid or in something lesser?

Do they have healthy community? Do they know that accountability, respectful submission and authority are good?

And where do they turn for help when they are confused inside? Is it even ok to admit they are confused? … hurting? … that they don’t have life all figured out? … that they each indeed do matter? … always?

Only questions, friends… no judgment. Just trying to understand. Obviously, our culture is knowingly or unknowingly giving cues to our kids that are somehow confusing. I cannot assume to know what nor why nor how all of the above succinctly and specifically applies. I’m not qualified.

But our lack of qualification shouldn’t deter the asking of the complicated question.



again, on the other side of me…

For the last five years a wise mentor has repeatedly asked me about the above, bold question. Not only has he asked me the question, he’s also stayed put for the answer. He didn’t run when he received feedback that wasn’t fun. He didn’t deny when he heard a response that was hard. There was no trigger to flee or fight. He craved wisdom. Growth. He thus has always remained present and asked sincere questions of what he doesn’t understand.

Help me learn more…

I’ve learned much through our frequent give-and-take process. It’s been so insightful, I’ve written much about it here. The question:

What’s it like to be on the other side of me?

I love the key behaviors embedded in the learning… staying present and put, not running, no denial. Asking questions of what we don’t understand.

The beauty of such an interaction is that it sharpens us both…

No judgment. No shame. No arrogance whatsoever.

I observe, too, a competing phenomenon — when we fail to be simultaneously bold and humble enough to ask the above question…

When we really don’t care what it’s like to be on the other side of us…

Sadly, we lose credibility. 

When we’re mad as hell and don’t give a damn, so-to-speak, in regard to what we say, how we say it, and who it hurts, the person on the other side of us makes a fairly firm conclusion….

They have no desire to be like us…

… think like us…

… or adopt any aspect of our point of view.

Who is attracted to the one who leads with judgment, shame or arrogance?

Who is attracted to the one who thinks they have it all figured out and only the one on the other side of them needs to grow and change?

And who wants to think like the one whose passions and politics have blinded themselves to the beauty of relationship? … community, too… 

Friends, there are a plethora of passionate opinions out there. This is true on all sides… from all 360° angles… maybe more. But let me humbly propose a tiny nugget of wisdom. When we engage and interact with judgment, shame or arrogance, the person on the other side of us isn’t all that thrilled to be there. When we drown out or demonize, the person on the other side of us has zero desire to be like us. In any capacity. 

We aren’t making a positive difference.

It’s thus been a sad couple of weeks. We’ve seen the echo chambers huddling; we’ve seen them even be blind to what they actually are.

What if instead of hanging out in insulated groups where we rhetorically bully the different, we instead asked questions of what we disagree with, don’t understand or both?

… What if we stated our opinions in ways that refrained from making character judgments?

… What if we processed perspectives without attacking another’s integrity?

… And what if we really were a tolerant people? Because let’s face it. We aren’t.

It’s been a fascinating few weeks, we’ve said — but fascinating in not necessarily a good way. It’s amazing all the people who claim to stand for something so moral and just — on all sides — but then turn around and attack another. Sorry, but my sense is that such equates to not being quite so moral nor just.

So as the discussions continue, maybe we should be bold — and yes, humble — enough to ask: 

“Tell me… what’s it like to be on the other side of me?”

Then respond with grace. Compassion and questions, too.

And then maybe, just maybe, we’ll each make a little more positive difference in the world…



craving leadership; not sacrificing compassion nor competency

Allow me to confess something I’ve said sincerely and humbly in private circles. In order for our country to really be the land of the free and the home of the brave and a place we can each be proud to call “the beautiful,” we need wise leadership. 

My faith is not in any one person. My faith is also not in any one party. No person is so capable and no party is so full of integrity.

My sense is simply as a country we would benefit immensely from wise leaders who are consistent in communicating what is good and right and true… who are men and women of unquestionable honor, who will adhere to the Constitution, who fully comprehend the issues, who work not to deflect all blame, and who will resist the urge to appease their party’s political fringe.

Let me be sincere but bolder still… For our leaders to lead wisely and well, we shouldn’t have to sacrifice either compassion or competency. With sincere, all due respect to our two most recent presidents, this obvious lack has hurt us.

I find myself wishing for the insight and wisdom of presidents past — imperfect still, as each of them were. But we can be encouraged and learn, for example, from the relationship between former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. As first published five years ago by Perri Konecky:

“Bill Clinton may have beaten George W. Bush’s father in the 1992 presidential election, but the two former presidents seemingly have a unique and fascinating friendship. During a forum at the George W. Bush Presidential Library on Thursday, July 13, the two discussed their bond… they discussed importance of unity and ‘humility’ in the Oval Office.

[Intramuralist note: emphasis on unity and humility.]

As for Clinton’s close friendship with Bush’s father, Bush said, ‘It starts with Bill Clinton being a person who refused to lord his victory over Dad. He was humble in victory, which is very important in dealing with other people. Dad was willing to rise above the political contest. It starts with the individual’s character and both men, in my judgment, displayed strong character.’

‘Why do I have a friendship with him?’ Bush asked of his bipartisan bromance with Clinton. ‘Well, he’s called a brother with a different mother’…

‘If you want to be president, realize it’s about the people, not about you,’ Clinton said. ‘You want to be able to say ‘things were better off when I quit, kids had a better future, things were coming together.’ A lot of these people who are real arrogant in office, they forget . . . . You don’t want to say, ‘God, look at all the people I beat.’

The men also referenced the advice former presidents pass down to their successors. George Bush Sr. gave Clinton advice about being the commander in chief, and Clinton did the same when George W. Bush was elected president after his two terms. Bush did the same for Barack Obama, which also explains the warm relationship Bush and Michelle Obama share.

The two reflected on the power of the presidency in their conversation. ‘The decisions you make have a monumental effect on people,’ Bush said. ‘Presidency is often defined by the unexpected. It makes the job interesting.’”

Oh, what we can learn from previous leadership…

Noting what’s important…

Humility. Strong character.

Knowing it’s about the totality of the people — not about the person or President.

How to handle the unexpected.

Not deflecting all blame.

Never sacrificing compassion nor competency. Ever. Making no excuses for one or the other.

Just pondering today, friends… always craving what’s better and more… what brings us together… and focusing on what’s good and right and true.



freedom of speech, religion & football

Thank you, Charlie Puth, for your 2016 Nine Track Mind hit…

We don’t talk anymore

We don’t talk anymore

We don’t talk anymore

Like we used to do

We don’t love anymore

What was all of it for?

Oh, we don’t talk anymore

Like we used to do

We have trouble with the most basic of things. Why? Maybe because we can’t talk. We talk intelligently, maybe, sometimes, but also inflammatorily, disrespectfully, arrogantly, partisanly, etc. etc. Oh, we don’t talk anymore like we used to.

Note the Supreme Court recent ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, objectively summarized by Ballotpedia:

  • The case: High school football coach Joseph Kennedy prayed at midfield following the conclusion of games. The school district told Kennedy this violated school board policy and required him to stop so as not to violate the Constitution’s establishment clause. Kennedy stated that he would not comply. The school district attempted to accommodate Kennedy’s expressions, but Kennedy declined the offers and prayed on the field again after two more games. Kennedy was placed on administrative leave. Kennedy sued the school in U.S. district court for violating his right to free speech. The court ruled that the school district suspended Kennedy solely to avoid violating the establishment clause. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the judgment.
  • The issue: The case concerned religious expression at a public school and the Constitution’s establishment clause.
  • The questions presented: 1. Whether a public-school employee who says a brief, quiet prayer by himself while at school and visible to students is engaged in government speech that lacks any First Amendment protection. 2. Whether, assuming that such religious expression is private and protected by the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses, the Establishment Clause nevertheless compels public schools to prohibit it.
  • The outcome: The court reversed the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and held that a coach praying on-field after a football game is an activity protected by the First Amendment.

To ensure we are unambiguous in our representation of this situation, initially Mr. Kennedy prayed on his own. Over time, some players asked if they could pray alongside him. Kennedy responded by saying, “This is a free country. You can do what you want.” Most of the team ended up voluntarily joining him. This occurred for over 7 years with no voiced complaints.

Note also for the purposes of accurate discussion: the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently banned school-sponsored prayer in public schools. But this wasn’t school-sponsored; it was the appearance of school-sponsored prayer.

Hence… was the prayer actually private? Was it public? Did players participate voluntarily? Do they have the right? Were students in any way coerced? Was peer pressure involved? Does that matter? Was the public school system endorsing religion?

Also reasonable questions… Was this an erosion of the separation of church and state? How much does voluntary matter? What’s the relationship between prayer and free speech?

(And for us personally…) Where are we inconsistent in our application of free speech? How much does my alignment or lack of it with the cause impact my judgment of what’s constitutionally protected?

We’re trying to always get to what’s good and right and true, friends. So how do we talk constructively about what this is and what it isn’t? How does the freedom of expression of religion apply? I’d love to get to what’s healthy/not about said decisions and minimize those partisan rhetorical pockets.

As Wendi Hendricks said last week as a contributor to Real Clear Policy, “For perhaps the first time in America’s history, you can’t express a difference of opinion without fear of being shunned by your friends, disowned by your family, let go from your job, and canceled on social media.” We now have trouble with even the freest of speech.

Why? Because…

We don’t talk anymore

We don’t talk anymore

Like we used to do…

Oh, it’s such a shame

That we don’t talk anymore.

Respectfully… always…


the exhausted American

The Intramuralist wrote about respected economist David French’s eye-opening book, “Divided We Fall,” addressing potential secession… two years ago. Note what the author so poignantly shares now, as written recently in The Dispatch:

“… I’m growing increasingly wary of the binary analysis of American life. The more I travel this country post-pandemic, the more I encounter the third faction—the ‘exhausted majority’ first identified by More in Common’s ’Hidden Tribes’ survey all the way back in 2018. Under this analysis, America isn’t just red and blue. It’s red and blue and just plain tired.

Who are these tired Americans? The polling answer from the survey is the two-thirds of our neighbors and citizens (from across the political spectrum) who are fed up with polarization, forgotten in public discourse, flexible in their views, and still believe we can find common ground

The exhausted American is in my email inbox, writing personal, anguished letters about lost relationships. The radicalized American is in my Twitter feed, furious at any deviation from the party line. The radicalized American is capturing institutions, making life miserable for dissenters left or right. The exhausted American doesn’t know where to go. Who speaks for them?

The exhausted American does not make a religion out of politics, and is thus at a disadvantage when confronting the ferocity and zeal of the true political believer. 

The exhausted American is hungry for simple decency, and will seek out friendships on the left and the right, so long as respect trumps differences. Even the most extreme disagreements are manageable so long as a friend is willing to listen and learn, and you’re willing to listen and learn in return. 

The exhausted majority is also the hope for America. 

Make no mistake, the answer is not found in the polarized wings. Each side has too much animosity to reach any kind of accommodation and too little power to achieve any kind of permanent triumph. In my book, I posited that federalism could be an answer to our political divide, but partisan animosity has grown so great that state governments are wielding local power in the service of national fights. 

State legislation has become both performative and punitive, with a focus on rewarding friends and punishing enemies. California, for example, currently bans state-funded and state-sponsored travel to 20 American states, a form of economic sanction designed to punish states that California deems insufficiently protective of LGBT rights. Florida has enacted a broad range of laws that purport to crack down on ‘wokeness’ and punish expression with which the state disagrees. 

But what happens when the exhausted majority gets just a little bit energetic? It can check the excesses of left and right. In San Francisco an exhausted progressive majority recalled radical school board members and a radical district attorney. In the Southern Baptist Convention, an exhausted conservative majority has now twice turned back a politically radicalized and vocal fundamentalist wing that would transform the SBC into a MAGA denomination. 

I know and have met people who both organized and voted for the San Francisco recall. I know and have met people who resisted the fundamentalist takeover of the SBC. And the two groups share something important in common. While they’re both political in the sense that they have political values, politics is ultimately less important to their day-to-day lives than it is to their most motivated opponents. 

Invariably this means that the exhausted majority’s political engagement is more occasional or episodic than it is constant or relentless. The polarized wings never rest. The exhausted majority stirs itself when the situation is dire, exerts its will, and then returns to its true passions—whether that’s family, work, or faith. 

There was a time when I lived my life on the polarized wings. I spent more time worried about ‘the left’ than I spent thinking through what part my partisanship played in fraying the American social fabric. I saw the triumph of my political foes as a greater threat to the nation than the partisan conflict itself. 

I now hold a different view, one that’s closer to the view of America’s wisest founders at their most prescient moments. George Washington, in his farewell address, warned his countrymen against the dangers of factionalism and regionalism. James Madison, in Federalist 10, warned against the ‘violence of faction.’

Abraham Lincoln, the indispensable architect of America’s second founding, told the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, ‘At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.’

I’m concerned about our national union. I’m more concerned than I was when I wrote my book warning about the possibility of secession. But I also know that the solution to our challenge is hiding in plain sight. It’s the great bulk of the American people—the fed up, forgotten, flexible Americans who span the ideological spectrum yet don’t completely identify as red or blue. 

This July Fourth, I’m both proud to be an American and convinced that our best days can still lie ahead of us. But not if we’re too tired to engage. The exhausted majority has to get energetic, even if only for a time, to rescue America from the friends, families, and neighbors who are tearing it apart.”



why I love her…

As written by John Mitchum in 1973 — and shared here several years ago — my sense is it may be wise to pause, re-read and remember, especially now…

You ask me why I love her? Well, give me time, and I’ll explain…

Have you seen a Kansas sunset or an Arizona rain?

Have you drifted on a bayou down Louisiana way?

Have you watched the cold fog drifting over San Francisco Bay?

Have you heard a Bobwhite calling in the Carolina pines?

Or heard the bellow of a diesel in the Appalachia mines?

Does the call of Niagara thrill you when you hear her waters roar?

Do you look with awe and wonder at a Massachusetts shore…

Where men who braved a hard new world, first stepped on Plymouth Rock?

And do you think of them when you stroll along a New York City dock?

Have you seen a snowflake drifting in the Rockies… way up high?

Have you seen the sun come blazing down from a bright Nevada sky?

Do you hail to the Columbia as she rushes to the sea…

Or bow your head at Gettysburg… in our struggle to be free?

Have you seen the mighty Tetons? …Have you watched an eagle soar?

Have you seen the Mississippi roll along Missouri’s shore?

Have you felt a chill at Michigan, when on a winters day,

Her waters rage along the shore in a thunderous display?

Does the word “Aloha”… make you warm?

Do you stare in disbelief when you see the surf come roaring in at Waimea reef?

From Alaska’s gold to the Everglades… from the Rio Grande to Maine…

My heart cries out… my pulse runs fast at the might of her domain.

You ask me why I love her?… I’ve a million reasons why.

My beautiful America… beneath Gods’ wide, wide sky. 

My prayer is that in all this festering, polarizing crud that surrounds us, we never miss the beauty embedded in the Kansas sunset, Arizona rain, Missouri shore, Michigan chill, Alaskan cold, or in the Rockies, way up high. May we never miss the beauty in all the diverse people groups — with varied passions and preferences, convictions and commitments — from Nevada to New York City… from Massachusetts to Mississippi… May we never be numb to God’s beauty. May it always move and delightfully surprise us.