Even with government gridlock, private actions can transform society. Many people despair that Washington is bogged down in bitterness and rancour. However, it is worth noting that earlier generations of Americans rolled up their sleeves and improved their quality of life even when the government was gridlocked or dysfunctional. Even during the extraordinarily divisive Jacksonian era, for example, America experienced tremendous amounts of cultural, economic and social progress. Why? Because the non-governmental actors of civil society went to work solving public problems with private resources. Bear all this in mind when you hear the doom and gloom about American politics and public discourse in the Trump era.
Karl Zinsmeister is an executive at the Philanthropy Roundtable in Washington and a leading national authority on the power of private giving and voluntary action to solve public problems. From 2006 to 2009, he was chief domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.