Teams > Individuals

Who will win the 2020 Democratic Primary? Who will win the 2020 General Election? In the (dis)United States we seemingly think one person can make all the difference. That there’s one person with the exact right proposals for improving health care, establishing an environmental ethic, strengthening frayed ties with allies, reducing gun violence, and revitalizing our infrastructure.

Due to our intense individualism and the incontrovertible fact that uniquely talented individuals sometimes make disproportionate impacts on institutions and organizations, when it comes to getting things done, we almost always underestimate the importance of teams.

The Trump Administration’s list of accomplishments is short not because of mean “Do Nothing Dems”, but because Trump has settled for a constantly revolving door of increasingly acquiescent men and women of questionable qualifications. We’ve travelled a fair distance from Lincoln’s Team of Rivals.

If we were more savvy, we’d expect the Democratic Candidates for President to have already named their Vice-Presidents so that we would have longer to evaluate the relative quality of their teaming. We’d even go further and require them to name possible other members of their respective cabinets. Our questions would not be limited to what the Presidential Candidate hopes to accomplish, but how likely are their VP and them to team well together? How well do they complement one another? Instead of expecting them to come up with policy panaceas, we should expect them to convince us that they’ll team better with Congressional leaders to pass meaningful legislation than their opponents.

One might protest that Vice-Presidents sometimes come from the consolation bracket of the Presidential Primary. A much earlier expectation would simply require some with Presidential ambitions to decide whether to hitch their wagon to another more likely winner of the Primary.

Many of us resisting Trumpism are hopeful that the person who wins the 2020 Democratic Primary will right the ship, but she won’t. By herself. She’ll need a similarly skilled Vice-President and Cabinet. The sooner we can get a feel for that small group, the better our decision-making, and the greater the likelihood that we turn the chapter on this dystopian novel.

Worser and Worser Gridlock

The Future of Transportation by Henry Grabar of Slate.

“Even here (the U.S.), in a nation of unprecedented personal wealth and plentiful land, the car-centric system has pushed up against the limitations of space, proving expensive to maintain and impossible to scale. In the fast-growing cities of the developing world, the situation is more extreme, as commutes consume a greater and greater portion of the world’s energy, time, and cash.”

Graber’s answer? Busses, bikes, and elevators. A bus, quite possibly if “. . . given its own lane, its own route, its own authority over signals.” A bike, hell yes. Elevators?

On bicycles:

“. . . no technology holds as much promise as the humble bicycle—especially when we include its newfangled, electrified cousins—to solve the geometry problem that is getting people short distances around a big city. Even in the United States, where everything is fairly far apart by global standards, 48 percent of automobile trips in the biggest U.S. cities travel less than 3 miles—a distance that, with the right infrastructure, could be easily covered by a smaller vehicle.”

One problem. Most Americans are too soft to cycle even 5 miles to/from the grocery store, work, dentist office. “It’s not safe, poor weather makes it impractical especially in my work clothes, and I don’t have the time!” Never mind that bicycles are often as fast as cars in dense urban environments.

The more pressing hurdle writers like Grabar never seem to address is the intense individualism that curses through the U.S. Individual car ownership does not make financial sense, but it is so deeply ingrained in American life because cars provide unrivaled privacy and freedom. We aren’t rational, so we each buy our own cars that quickly depreciate. And the costs to insure, maintain, register, and keep them gassed up require us to work longer hours than we’d otherwise have to. And nearly every car owner chooses their car over busses 100 times out of 100. Even if driving fewer than 3 miles 48% of the time.

Note to the transpo engineers, city planners, and pragmatic social scientists thinking most deeply about the future of transporation. It’s not primarily an infrastructure problem, it’s a psychological one deeply rooted in U.S. history. How do we get self-regarding U.S. car drivers to even consider more other-regarding approaches to travel? To care even a little bit about the common good, including our health and the state of our natural environment?

I don’t know, but this I do know, slight our history and irrational individualism and watch gridlock grow worser and worser.

Sierra Killer Climbs 5-2012 148

Internal dialogue, “Maybe I shoulda taken the car. Yeah, I def shoulda taken the car.”

Are You Crazy?

I am. Came to that conclusion the other day while mowing my lawn for the first time since late last fall when it was largely leaves.

As I criss-crossed the lawn, I wondered, what on earth am I doing? Why do we even have a lawn? Best I can tell, there’s three reasons to have a lawn. First, we have lawns to occasionally play croquet or badminton on or in Tiger’s case, to learn to chip. Second, many of us have lawns because we grew up in suburbia meaning we are captives of our childhoods. An extremely difficult to shake lawn aesthetic is deeply ingrained in our subconscious. So deeply ingrained we hardly ever question it. Third, we have lawns because the alternative, more public parks near where we live smacks of socialism.

Lawn lunacy is largely explained by nostalgia for our past coupled with an insidious individualism.

Maybe ten percent of lawns make sense. Meaning children play on them semi-regularly or people get great satisfaction from tending them. For people like us whose children are Gone Girl, lawns make zero sense. Especially when I’m thinking what I could be doing instead of pacing back and forth contributing to global warming, thus making it so I have to mow earlier and more often seemingly every year.

It’s completely whacked, by which I mean I’m whacked. As irrational as Paul McCartney’s hair as seen on SNL’s 40th ann. I felt sorry for “Sir” Paul. Not a gray hair on his 72 year old head. How sad to feel you have to maintain a youthful image that late in life. If I make it to 72, not giving a shit about my (probably amazing) appearance will be the most silver of linings. That and living somewhere without a lawn.