Column originally published in the Tampa Bay Times.
There are few things that bring America to its feet like the tribal ritual of “March Madness” — mad because everyone has a chance to dream, to hope that this may be the year, the season to remember, the triumph against all odds.
The South Carolina Gamecocks out-duke Duke. Villanova is returned to the Main Line from the nation’s cheese capital. Xavier x’s out the Florida State Seminoles. Game after game after heart-stopping game.
Although we wear different jerseys and root for different schools, it is a unifying tradition that reminds all of us about the power of believing in the forces that drive life to a place of memory and meaning.
Today there’s another game going in the city on the Potomac. The shot clock is measured by bills proposed and laws passed, and the score moves back and forth between the two political parties refereed by the American people.
Logic suggests we would root for only one team, America’s team, to bring the championship home every year on the things that matter most. Our family. Our community. Our ability to have and retain a job. Our protection against enemies foreign and domestic.
Yet this week Washington will again engage in a game of winners and losers, of one-upmanship where upping our game is usurped by politicians and special interests out to up themselves.
This week, President Donald Trump has an opportunity to disrupt the system to do something heretofore unheard of: getting stuff done.
First up, Judge Neil Gorsuch, a supreme choice for the Supreme Court, whose experience, temperament and outlook fit the Master Disrupter. His defense of the “Chevron deference,” which holds that bureaucrats should not be empowered to interpret, versus enforce, laws, strikes to the heart of a federal government that’s run amok with powers it was never given and should never have.
This appointee is critical for the president at a time when he tries to supplant tabloid-like fixation on wiretapping with tapping brilliance where it counts. In basketball terms, this should be a layup.
Next up, heath care, where lives of Americans are literally on the line. This is where politics and posturing must give way to serious discussion and remedy. Obamacare, however well-intended, has been a remarkable retreat from common sense and marketplace-driven solutions. Premiums are soaring, deductibles are so high many forgo treatment and insurers are heading to the sidelines faster than Duke basketball fans.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has an opportunity to pass the kind of landmark legislation that comes along once in a lifetime that will impact hundreds of millions of lifetimes. To get there, he needs to hit a couple of three-pointers in the next few weeks to retain the GOP’s newfound home-court advantage. Do that, and the naysayers will move on to other turf to gripe about, other politicians to talk about, other crises to rail about.
Finally, the president this week has another chance of drilling one jump shot after another dealing with trade. Despite the less-than-smooth opening to the new administration, Trump continues to command the bully pulpit when it comes to jobs and the economy.
The stock market has soared, jobs are coming back to the states and the campaign-fueled attack point that other nations have benefitted at our expense continues to spark passion and public support. This is Trump at his Trumpian best, aimed at the solar plexus of a public restless to feel that the nation is back on its game again. So far, the crowd has liked it — a lot.
Today the pundits are back at it again, prognosticating peril at every turn, backed by polls showing the president has yet to fully gain traction with the nation. It’s a patently unfair report card given the new administration is barely out of the gates and major measures, while afoot, are just now being assessed and debated. It also belies the beliers who suggest the world has already come to a cataclysmic stop though the economy is better, jobs are more plentiful, and the nation is safe.
Early next month, America crowns a new national basketball champion. Many will be disappointed, others dispirited into despondency, and yet the sun will rise the next day as sports fans move on to the Masters, a new baseball season, the NFL draft, the Kentucky Derby.
Let’s hope Washington takes a cue from us and decides it’s time to play to win. One team. Together. At the buzzer.
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in Tampa and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.