Hyper-Partisanship and the Skewed Perception of Government

The recently released President’s Management Agenda opens with the following statement:

When America’s Founders wrote the Constitution, they laid out a clear vision for the United States Government:  to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.  To this day, the business of Government remains to serve the American people in these foundational areas.

Two decades into the 21st Century, the public still believes that the Federal Government serves critical roles and, in some areas, performs them well. Yet, public trust in the Federal Government continues to decline, sitting at near-historic lows.

 

The recently released President’s Management Agenda opens with the following statement:

When America’s Founders wrote the Constitution, they laid out a clear vision for the United States Government:  to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.  To this day, the business of Government remains to serve the American people in these foundational areas.

Two decades into the 21st Century, the public still believes that the Federal Government serves critical roles and, in some areas, performs them well. Yet, public trust in the Federal Government continues to decline, sitting at near-historic lows.

There are many theories about why public perceptions of government are in the toilet, but the one that rings true to me has its roots in the hyper-partisanship that has taken hold in Washington, D.C.

Congress has difficulty passing legislation and budgets because legislators are boxed into extreme positions by their constituents.   Mutterings about a “deep state” that is somehow in control of the government create distrust about the motivations of civil servants.  Vitriolic public debates on issues like gun control and immigration poison our public discourse and drown out reasoned discussions.

All of these contribute to the public perception that government isn’t functioning and is poorly serving taxpayers, who have every right to ask, “Is this any way to run the government?”

The President’s Management Agenda lays out a blueprint to reverse this public perception of a failing government, but I believe the PMA will not be successful unless an effort is made to build coalitions of the willing who are committed to making government more effective and efficient.  We need to bring together diverse viewpoints to bridge partisan divides and develop sensible solutions to what have in the past been viewed as intractable challenges.

The Senior Executives Association is at the forefront of this effort and during 2018 will be working with the Administration to build effective coalitions that help fulfill the vision of America’s Founders.  Some of those initiatives are:

  • Modernizing the Civil Service Dialogues: SEA is partnering with the Hoover Institute to sponsor a series of dialogues that will explore three topics:  “The Civil Service System’s Justifications, Then and Now,” “Regulatory Reform,” and “Administrative Reforms.”   The goal is to pull together very diverse viewpoints and find common ground that can result in policies and legislation that lead to a modern civil service.
  • Shared Services Myth Busting: SEA is partnering with the Shared Services Leadership Coalition and the National Academy of Public Administration to hold a series of workshops on shared services, an important tool for the implementation of Agency Reform Plans and the PMA.   The first workshop was held April 5th and 5 more are planned.  The schedule for these workshops can be found HERE.
  • Public Service Leadership as a Profession: Fully developing the potential of career leaders is a key to reversing negative public perceptions of the Federal government. SEA’s Human Capital Leadership Community of Change has developed a white paper that lays out the five elements of a profession and a path forward to realizing the vision of creating Public Service Leadership as a Profession. A part of that implementation plan will be a series of dialogues in 2018 that address all five elements and how various stakeholders could play a part in developing the Federal government’s Leadership Profession.

It’s my belief, and hope, that these and other dialogues that SEA will sponsor in 2018 and beyond will have a positive impact the public’s perception of government.  I look forward to working with all SEA members to build these coalitions and restore some civility and honor to our public discourse.

Tags: Message from Your SEA President, Bill Valdez

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