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Wednesday, October 27, 2021
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  • INDIANAPOLIS – For those Hoosiers concerned with COVID-19’s effects on our communities and economy, could there be anything as disheartening as the energy and resources spent on the legal squabble among Gov. Eric Holcomb, Attorney General Todd Rokita, and the General Assembly? Since the spring, suit and countersuit have litigated – ostensibly – the constitutionality of the proper authority to invoke emergency powers. But it’s often felt more like intra-party posturing, a distraction displacing mature descriptions of the inevitable trade-offs involved in calibrating the separation of powers. At least as expressed so far, the anger surrounding emergency powers has little basis in a principled alternative understanding of the relationship between the legislative and executive branches. The standoff risks becoming, then, the latest expression of inchoate anti-establishment outrage in which “government control” becomes an empty signifier. Whichever partisan faction wins, Hoosiers lose. This is all the more frustrating given the vital importance of intelligently grappling with intra-governmental relations, a set of issues that had been simmering long before the pandemic ignited a turf war.

  • OXFORD, England – A central promise of the calls for unity that now saturate our public sphere is that a renewed focus on American identity – not partisan identity – will usher in a more humane politics. If only we could remember our shared national identity, it is said, we could reduce polarization and end what President Biden has called our “uncivil war.”  Numerous well-funded initiatives with this goal in mind have sprung up, such as the Aspen Institute’s Citizenship and American Identity Program, whose aim is to “promote a shared sense of national identity.” But here we are, despite widespread emphasis on national identity, more divided than ever. The persistent “national identity” framing might be part of the problem. In reality, settling the content of American identity isn’t a prerequisite for tackling other issues; it is itself our most divisive issue. The defining political battle of our polarized age, as a trio of political scientists recently argued, is an “identity crisis” over what it means to be an American.
  • OXFORD, England – The first time I heard of Sen. Lugar, I was in middle school. My dad was driving me back from swim practice with some political show on the radio (to my grand protestations). A story about the senator aired, and I asked who that was. “A true statesman,” my dad immediately replied, with an air of reverence I associated with only a few other figures. His dad, his uncle. The Pope. Ronald Reagan. Sensing I still didn’t know who the man was, my dad continued, “He’s one of our U.S. senators, serves in Washington. Each state gets two. And he’s about the best you could ever ask for.” Learning about Senator Lugar was one of the first ways I learned about politics, which is a little like learning about basketball by following Michael Jordan. Learning the rules of the game was inseparable from falling in love with it. Small wonder I’ve spent my whole academic career, and hope to devote my professional one, to learning about that thing he did so well while remaining so good.
  • OXFORD, England – On Thursday, Jan. 24, the State Senate voted 31-17 to pass Senate Bill 132, which would make it a graduation requirement for high school students to pass the same civics exam given to immigrants to the United States. The bill now faces consideration in the House. (Full disclosure: My dad, John, a state senator, was a cosponsor.) Senate Democrats, in unified opposition to the bill, raised concerns that instituting another graduation requirement, without any supporting resources, wouldn’t have the desired effect. Instead of more knowledgeable citizens, the argument goes, this mandate would only encourage “teaching to the test” and erect another barrier to graduation for students in under-resourced rural and urban schools. These concerns are valid, and they counsel against Senate Republicans’ bid to require testing without any supporting provisions. However, the need to boost civics education is too important for Indiana Democrats to sit on the sidelines. With some tweaking, it’s the perfect cause for Democrats to champion. SB132 has started an important conversation. We’ve all heard the statistics: Only 26% of Americans can correctly identify the three branches of the U.S. government; apathy and disengagement are ubiquitous.
  • OXFORD, England  – The White River flows between two unappealing banks. The first is neglect. We don’t talk much about this largest waterway in Central Indiana, which indulges in serpentine bends on its southwesterly flow through farmland and suburb and city, in no hurry. The river is not so much Indy’s best-kept secret as it’s one we don’t even know we’re keeping. The second is contempt. The butt of countless jokes, the White River is synonymous with pollution, and for good reason: pesticides, industrial runoff, and sewage have long flowed into it. And then there was the fish kill of 1999, when millions of fish were killed by chemical discharge, their bloated bodies floating belly-up across 50 miles between Anderson and Indy. Not a great reputation. Thankfully, that is changing. An alliance among the City of Indianapolis, Visit Indy, and Hamilton County Tourism is spearheading a new effort called the White River Vision Plan.
  • OXFORD, England – We need a service program for the state of Indiana. It is my firm conviction that there are few better things we could do for our state, our political culture, and the next generation of Hoosiers than to enact a program that gathers a selection of high school graduates from every corner of Indiana and gives them a year of structured service. Such a program would manifest political ideals from both the right and the left. It would help our communities and shore up the kind of civic bonds necessary for sustaining democracy – precisely those most threatened in this precarious political moment. I believe Indiana can lead the way toward a more constructive politics, and we can do it with a statewide service program. My inspiration stems from the urgency of the need: The polarization afflicting American politics.
  • OXFORD, England - I was thrilled to see Indy make the list of finalists being considered for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters (HQ2). Like many across the city, I began salivating at the prospect of 50,000 high-paying jobs and an influx of dynamic and diverse citizens. And I love what our shortlisting represents: Conviction among city and state leaders that we can run with the big dogs and vindication from one of the world’s most powerful companies that, yes, in this sense, we can. But these bright prospects haven’t kept me from having a few worries, too. Pursuing a prize this big carries risks – for Indy, and for the other cities involved in the incentive-based competition that the HQ2 sweepstakes has ignited. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, urban studies scholar Richard Florida voices perhaps the most common concern. Florida takes issue with the lavish incentive packages cities have been offering Amazon – most in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars. 
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  • Mayor McDermott won't hire unvaccinated Chicago cops
    "This mayor is not interested in the head cases from Chicago coming to the Hammond Police Department. Officers willing to throw their career away over a political issue? I just don't want that. The number one killer of police officers across the country right now is COVID-19. If you're willing to throw all that away over a shot, during a pandemic; if you're that rigid, I don't really want you in the Hammond Police Department, I'll be honest with you. Because I imagine you're going to be a pain in my ass a couple years down the road also and you're going to be a pain in the chief's ass. You can't be a police officer and not take orders from the mayor." - Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., on his Left of Center podcast, reacting to U.S. Sen. Mike Braun's call to welcome unvaccinated Chicago cops to Indiana police forces. McDermott is seeking the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 2022, seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. Todd Young.
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