What are the biggest challenges facing the country in 2017 -- and how worried should Americans be about them?
A panel of journalists and editors outlined those challenges, from President-elect Donald Trump in the White House to the challenges to democracy across the globe.
Asked what the biggest story of 2017 will be, Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic, said it’s “the upending of American politics.”
“The story is of the outs coming in and the ins going out,” Goldberg said. “...And the deeper story, also, I don’t want to forget this -- the deeper story is globalization, and technological disruption, and anxiety born of rapid change, rapid, destabilizing change, the fragility of institutions.”
“We are at a hinge moment in history,” he added. “Since 1945, we have played a certain role in the world. And it’s not entirely clear that after January 20th we’re going to play that same role.”
David Frum, a senior editor at the Atlantic, said it’s not just an American crisis -- it’s a global crisis of democracy as we know it.
“A neo-fascist party may win the presidency of France this year. Democratic institutions in the countries liberated in 1989 are falling apart in Hungary, and Poland, and other places -- Croatia, elsewhere. The European Union is cracking apart,” he said.
Frum called the current “crisis of democracy” something that hasn’t been seen since World War II.
“It’s not an American story,” he added. “It’s a global story.”
And those changes touch the media as well, said Michele Norris, a journalist who heads the Race Card Project -- particularly when there is very little public trust in the media.
“We have to learn how to operate in a world where there is no longer a common set of facts,” she said. “People get their news in such a way that it usually affirms or confirms everything that they already believe. We have someone who is about to occupy the Oval Office who is dismissing many of the publications that we work or have worked for and is trying to bypass us and go directly to people.”
All of those challenges beg the question: how worried should Americans be about the fate of the country in 2017? The panelists had mixed views.
“Someone I know a little bit will come up to me, and say hello, and then say, ‘Tell me that everything is going to be okay,’” Frum said. “And what I realize is, I can’t give you the assurance you want. I am not sure that everything is going to be okay.”
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson said there’s real cause for concern both because Mr. Trump might overreach -- but also because his government could collapse under the weight of its inexperience.
“I think there’s a deep concern about the possibility of overreach,” he said. “But I think we should be also concerned about the possibility of an entirely ineffective government that doesn’t value governing experience, that doesn’t value, you know, what government should do and what it can do under the right circumstances.”
Goldberg, however, argued that there’s reason to hope: the country has been through far worse before, and it will endure through the challenges of the next year and the new administration.
“We’ve survived worse things than whatever we’re facing at the moment,” he said. “I’m just-- you know, keep hope alive.”