Grand Marshals selected for West Union Fourth of July Parade Adams County, Maysville Vet team up to save injured dog Michael S Knauff Victor P Price Success builds from the bottom up Finalists named for 2017 Fair Queen Contest William Glenn DeWine, Reader Call For Tips in Rhoden Murder Investigation MHS principal to take superintendent post Peebles Skate Park now a reality 2017-18 Fur and Feather Ambassadors named Caley Grooms is Cattlemen’s Beef Ambassador Dr. Mueller leaving Health Department’s free clinic Hourglass Quilt Barn returning to Adams County Lung, Thornburg are First Team All-District selections North Adams hosts annual Boys Basketball Camps Walk-off winner Wanda Hill George D Johnson Life can be a juggling act My favorite thing to do on the farm Wolves in Adams County! Ronald L Wedmore Three lessons from Dad Donald D Morgan Wenstrup uninjured in Virginia shooting Portman staff to hold grant funding workshop Raymond E Applegate Keeping the Peebles tradition alive Back on the hardwood, local hoops squads compete in Monday Night League Seven county athletes recognized as All-SHAC Baseball honorees Stepping to the podium Lady Hounds host Youth Volleyball Camp Senior Profile: Bryan Young Junior Deputy Boot Camps kick off in Manchester Hayes pleads “not guilty” to 109 counts Six-year-old girl finds long-lost class ring Jefferson Alumni awards annual scholarships Paul Tate Jr Marcus I Cox Jewell Gill James M Hill Jr Jeffrey S Jones Samuel A Disher Jack Sterling BREAKING NEWS: Parents face charges after son overdoses on opiate License Hikes and Tall Turkey Tales Danger under every rock Reigning Miss Ohio USA will judge 2017 Adams County Fair Queen Pageant Gordley’s hoops career will continue at Mount St. Joseph Russell C Newman Kenneth C Thurman George Uebel Summer Reading Program underway Honor Flight carries local veteran to DC When rescuers become victims Passing the torch, West Union hosts week-long basketball camp for future Dragons SENIOR PROFILE: Sara Knechtly Terry L Powell Willie Shreffler James C Fitzpatrick Senior Profile: Austin Parks Six countians named to All-SHAC Softball squad Lady Indians get summer camp season underway Memorial Day services pay tribute to local veterans WUHS Steel Band will perform at Bogart’s SSCC announces Honors Lists for spring semester Peebles Elementary releases Honor Roll for final nine weeks West Union Elementary announces Honor Roll for fourth nine weeks Back to State! Mom calls daughter “living proof” seat belts save lives Rent-2-Own donation means new soccer scoreboard at WUHS NAHS student selected for Engineering Summer Camp Southern Hills Athletic Conferences honors Spring Sports athletes Senior Profile: Kailyn Boyd Madison Welch receives Riffle Scholarship Junior Achievement Volunteers visit county’s seventh graders Marcella J Abbott James Ratliff Gladys Davitz Harry G Shupert Memories on Memorial Day A soldier’s story, a family’s grief Thank You for your sacrifice Seaman community honors local veterans with special tribute Former PES teacher dies in tragic accident All County Senior Citizens Day celebrated Parks signs with SSCC Soccer Senior Profile: Lexie Bunn Jessie Rodgers Memorial Day services set for county Truly our greatest generation Bertha Lashley Maia Swartz Jessie Rodgers Errors spell the end of Devils’ baseball season Senior Profile: Carry Hayslip Lady Hounds’ season ends with tourney loss to Paint Valley North Adams hosts Youth Volleyball Camp Time to get “Stroke Savvy”

We face real challenges to representative democracy

People who care about the United States’ place in the world often fret about challenges to representative democracy from other countries. I’d contend that the more formidable challenge comes not from abroad, but from within.

For starters, it’s hard to make American representative democracy work. Our country is large, growing, and astoundingly diverse by every definition of the term. To govern it, we rely on a bewildering array of branches and units of government, which means that to solve a problem you have to navigate a slow, untidy system.

And that system rests on the consent of a public that often wants mutually contradictory things: to encourage the risk-taking that produces a dynamic economy, for instance, while reining in the private sector’s excesses; or to shrink the deficit, but without cuts in defense spending or entitlements and no additional taxes.

Our challenges come at us with rapidity and mind-boggling complexity. They include racial and class divisions, the social and economic pressures confronting families, a strained public education system, a constant flow of complex foreign and economic policy questions. To deal with them, every level of our system needs to be at the top of its game.

I take heart from the diligence and creativity of many politicians, yet I’m worried that several trends, especially at the federal level, are weakening our ability to get the results we want.

Two of our basic governing institutions, Congress and the presidency, are struggling. Congress has adopted some unfortunate political and procedural habits: it governs by crisis, fails repeatedly to follow time-tested procedures that ensure accountability and fairness, panders to wealthy contributors, and too often erupts in excessive partisanship. There are glimmers that some members are willing to re-learn the legislative arts of negotiation, compromise, and consensus-building, but these need to be front and center, not an occasional hobby: in a government that reflects the American population, Congress cannot function effectively without these skills.

The presidency, too, faces challenges. The executive branch is bloated, has too many decision makers and bases to touch, lacks accountability, and desperately needs better, more effective management.

Moreover, the decades-long march toward increased presidential power at the expense of the legislative branch severely undercuts our constitutional system and raises the question of how far down this road can we go and still have representative democracy. There are valid reasons it has happened, especially because the modern world demands quick, decisive action. But our system functions best when we have a strong president and a strong Congress who can interact, consult, and work together.

We face other challenges as well. Too much money is threatening the core values of representative democracy. And too many Americans have become passive and disengaged from politics and policy; representative democracy is not a spectator sport. While the basics — voting, keeping oneself informed, communicating with officials, getting involved in organizations that promote the causes we believe in, improving our communities — are crucial, they aren’t always enough.

As citizens we also have to learn how to solve problems ourselves. We have to model the behavior we expect from our representatives at every level by ourselves working with all kinds of people, seeking to understand and find common ground with people who disagree with us, learning how to communicate our ideas effectively, and in our search for a remedy, building consensus behind the ideas we’re promoting.

Despite its challenges, our political system forms the core of American strength. It enshrines fundamental power in a body elected by the broad mass of the people, and is based solidly on the participation and consent of the governed. Allowed to work properly, it is the system most likely to produce policy that reflects a consensus among the governed. Above all, it has the capacity to correct itself and move on.

In other words, we don’t need to reinvent our system, but rather use its abundant strengths to find our way through our problems and emerge stronger on the other side.

It is not written in the stars that representative government will always prosper and prevail. It needs the active involvement of all of us, from ordinary voters to the president. Each of us must do our part.

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University; Distinguished Scholar, IU School of Global and International Studies; and Professor of Practice, IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.

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Lee Hamilton

Contributing Columnist

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