Editor’s note: This analysis is part of 2017 Presidential Inbox — an ongoing Stimson Center series examining the major global challenges and opportunities the Trump administration faces during its first 100 days in office. Click here to read the full series.
By Brian Finlay
Amidst the most contentious and occasionally mean-spirited campaign in recent memory, the great American marketplace of ideas has been tarnished. Compounded by years of gridlock in Washington, and a growing unwillingness to seek bipartisan solutions, President-elect Donald J. Trump faces a near-overwhelming agenda both at home and abroad.
With the election of Mr. Trump, the American people have made clear that our inability to come together to solve big problems is impacting our daily lives. From our inability to innovate solutions to the scourge of violence at home and abroad, to the rise of government debt and growing tide of terrorism, good public policy has fallen victim to partisanship and power politics in a near perfect storm.
In the early 1900s when the modern think tank was conceived, the world faced a no less daunting array of threats to our common peace and prosperity. The onset of World War I loomed. The global economy transitioned from one of seemingly unfettered growth to crushing recession. And here in the United States, government only began to seriously grapple with the nation’s deeply divided and shameful history on race relations. In this complex environment, think tanks were born to generate and share public policy solutions, to educate policymakers and the public, and to look beyond the short horizon of current policy to the long-term implications, threats and opportunities that may be looming. Think tanks were more than just a business. They were born in an era of public service and were dedicated to the betterment of society as a whole. Between today’s broken government and partisan rancor, it is our responsibility to advance an agenda capable of restoring global security and economic inclusion.
Today, the Stimson Center is launching a new series: Presidential Inbox 2017. In this series, the Center showcases the best of what a think tank has to offer: a zeal for idealism balanced by a commitment to pragmatism. Stimson envisions a world in which the historical tendencies toward injustice, criminality, greed and violence are defeated by the positive forces of peace and prosperity. In the chapters that will follow over the coming weeks, our team of analysts will offer an array of pragmatic steps President-elect Trump can take in his first 100 days in office to address some of the most pressing threats to global peace and economic prosperity.
Subsequent Presidential Inbox chapters will offer a near-term strategy to help address the global phenomenon of terrorism, widening insecurity in the Asia-Pacific region, and the appropriate stewardship and management of our oceans and natural resources. Our recommendations for the first 100 days seek to restore balance to global trade policies, promote American engagement with emerging economies, and build a less confrontational relationship with China. In short, the series seeks to break the artificial boundaries that inhibit smart policymaking and promote division — whether between Republican and Democrat, between security and development, or between the public and private sectors.
But beyond offering practical solutions to these discrete problems, the ideas contained within this series offer a set of new tools that can be applied more broadly over the course of the next administration, restoring the great American marketplace of ideas, and building a more collaborative and cooperative foreign policy for the 21st century. Throughout its history, Stimson has been uniquely positioned and singularly successful in identifying global threats, bridging divisions, and bringing together uncommon constituencies in common cause.
Today, many Americans are expressing a profound anxiety for the future. But we will do well to recall that the United States of America has survived a turbulent, divisive, and occasionally even violent history to emerge as the strongest force for peace and prosperity the world has ever known. The first 100 days of a Trump administration presents a real opportunity to put the harsh rhetoric of the campaign firmly in the rearview mirror. The American people, beleaguered by partisan infighting, deserve to see Washington working again. The ideas contained within this Presidential Inbox series offer an early platform to build that cooperation. Now more than ever, I invite you to join us in the development of this new nonpartisan strategy for global security and economic expansion.
Brian Finlay is President and CEO of the Stimson Center.