Introduction to Renew the Republic

Our society is rupturing and our political world is crumbling. It's time to renew our republic. Read what this essay series is about.

Our society is rupturing. Our political world is crumbling. We face an attack of problems we have no idea how to solve.

Nothing in our twentieth-century political playbooks works, everyone fiercely disagrees, and no one knows what to do. New ideas, political movements, divisive figures, and new ideologies are rushing into the vacuum this chaos created. As a people, instead of working together to build new things we’re ripping everything down. People are angry, frustrated, and more than a little scared.

The America we knew is collapsing. A new one hasn’t risen to replace it. No one knows what happens next.

That’s what these essays will be about.

Renew the Republic is a collection of essays grappling with this turbulent era in America. What’s causing it and how we can get through it to reach a new era of renewal and reform. Each numbered essay will discuss some aspect of what’s causing this turmoil, what’s happening to our country because of it, and what we can start doing to fix it.

When America’s Founders were fighting to pass their new constitution, they sent collections of essays into the world to argue and engage with ideas. We lost the idea of independent essay collections as vehicles for argument and ideas during the mass-media age of newspapers and magazines. With new media and ventures like Substack, we’re seeing them come back. I think of this endeavor as something like a modern, digital, Federalist Papers.

Whatever happens this November, we all recognize the world we knew isn’t coming back. America will face the same fierce divisions and impossible problems. Information-age economic disruption will still be rushing over everything like a transformational flood. We’ll still be amidst a global reorganization of great powers, as rising nations like China destabilize the status quo. We’ll still face dizzying cultural change. Decaying institutions. An onslaught of difficult problems from climate change, to automation, to a battered middle class, to a national reckoning with the legacy of slavery and discrimination too long put off. Not to mention a loss of faith in our leaders’ capacity to lead in this new world, if not faith in our republic itself.

We’ll remain the same divided people, with the same clashing values, demanding solutions no one yet has to new problems, fighting over the same issues as before. That’s what we have to fix to make this national disintegration stop.

If we hope for our lives to go back to something like we knew before, we have to rebuild our institutions and our politics to start addressing the hard problems of today, and the harder ones coming tomorrow. We have to update our society for the new ways in which we work and live in a transformed economy. We have to clean up our institutions so they once again work the way we claim. We have to rethink our government and culture so they work for this new world we now inhabit instead of the twentieth-century world for which we built them.

Perhaps most important, we have to ensure America once again lives up to its implicit promise that every American from every background has a fair and equal chance to pursue their dreams on a truly level playing field—the promise we call the American Dream.

That’s the debate these essays want to address.

Each essay in the collection will appear here on Substack. The first one, already available now, addresses one the greatest causes of our republic’s decay, our abandonment of the citizenship we once understood critical to sustaining a democracy.

Each additional essay will arrive in the same place. If you subscribe, which I hope you will do, they will also arrive in your inbox as they are published. There’s zero cost. The entire collection will also always be available here on Substack.

I hope you’ll consider sharing any essays you like with friends and on social media. It’s hard for voices and ideas to break through at a noisy moment like ours. It often takes someone reaching out, even just a retweet or a like, to capture people’s attention that something is important or worthwhile. Your help in spreading the word about these essays is as important as my job writing them.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to writing.