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Citizen Leadership

Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership

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Is Democracy in the United States Salvageable?

It’s obvious from daily conversation — and well-documented in poll after poll — that Americans have lost faith in U.S. political institutions. Former Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Chapman has written a brilliant book warning that the trend threatens to undermine representative democracy and lead to tyranny. But Chapman, who also served as Washington’s secretary of state, comes at the danger from a different angle than most. The book is Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for all the Others. Read More ›

Whether a Con or a Hit Job, Kavanaugh Saga is Telling

Was Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against Judge Brett Kavanaugh a total con job?  It had all the earmarks of  an 11th hour ambush, facilitated by the irrelevance of the lack of corroborating evidence, a predictable presumption of guilt ginned up by a media that feeds sensationalism and mob rule, and  the calculated protection of the impenetrable shield of the MeToo movement.  It almost worked. There are also fingerprints of a Deep State political hit job. The Steele Dossier and Kavanaugh accusation have a lot in common in each being based on uncorroborated charges involving sex — tailor-made to foment a media circus, which is now the tail that wags the political dog in America. To better understand these destructive forces, we need …

Caesar’s Wife and the Politics of Destruction

Senate Democrats wrote President Trump Wednesday asking him to withdraw Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination over unproven charges of sexual misconduct: “The standard of character and fitness for a position on the nation’s highest court must be higher than this.” That standard seems to be an unquestionably blameless past. If someone has said something that attaches blame to you, however unsubstantiated, you no longer meet the “higher standard.” It’s reminiscent of the old saying that in a position of public trust, one must be “like Caesar’s wife, above reproach.” Yet no one is above reproach. Neither was Caesar’s wife. Read More ›
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Book Review of Politicians by Coyle Neal

There may be one or two Americans left in the country who don’t know that we are currently living in an anti-Establishment, anti-professional, anti-politician era. Nationally we have voted someone into the Presidency whose primary claim to high office is that he has never held office. (In my own state, we have had a smaller version of the exact same phenomenon.) In virtually every Congressional and state-level campaign beyond the Presidential elections, we have candidates (including incumbents) engaged in an ever-escalating rhetorical battle to claim the low ground of experience. In Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for all the Others, Bruce K. Chapman argues that this disdain for long-serving public servants has to stop. Read More ›

Book Review: “Politicians” By Bruce Chapman

There may be one or two Americans left in the country who don’t know that we are currently living in an anti-Establishment, anti-professional, anti-politician era. Nationally we have voted someone into the Presidency whose primary claim to high office is that he has never held office. (In my own state, we have had a smaller version of the exact same phenomenon.) In virtually every Congressional and state-level campaign beyond the Presidential elections, we have candidates (including incumbents) engaged in an ever-escalating rhetorical battle to claim the low ground of experience. In Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for all the Others, Bruce K. Chapman argues that this disdain for long-serving public servants has to stop. Keep reading.

Make the Seattle City Council Great Again

There seem to be cycles in city politics. Fifty years ago a small band of Young Republicans and Young Democrats came together in an unusual alliance to overturn the existing Seattle City Council. They called themselves CHECC: Choose an Effective City Council. It took a couple of elections, but they prevailed and it was then — in the 1970s — that formerly sleepy, somewhat stodgy Seattle began to get national attention as the “most livable city.” Sixty years before that, in the early 20th century, another group of novice politicians introduced the “Progressive Era” that gave us Seattle’s city water and light dams (providing abundant, cheap water and electricity), the public park system we enjoy today and the ship canal connecting Puget Sound …

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Darwin, Marx, and Something Called Political “Science”

The materialist influence of 19th-century thinkers still chills 21st-century thinking. It is true in biology, economics, culture, and government. In much of  the popularization and misuse of the claims of natural science and in much of modern German philosophy, tendencies toward atheism and gnosticism (searching for hidden meanings) are found. So are economic determinism and a serene resolve to change human nature. It was considered foolish by many 19th- and early 20th-century intellectuals to believe in God or self-evident truths, but “advanced” to aspire to the perfectibility of man. Read More ›
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"Stump Speaking" (1853-54) by George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), oil on canvas, Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Bank of America.

New Book Says Politicians Are “The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others”

Political “middlemen” who infringe on the relationship between the people and their elected representatives constitute a growing danger to democracy, according to new book, Politicians, by Bruce K. Chapman. “Politicians themselves are partly to blame for ceding responsibilities to unelected powers,” says Chapman, himself a former elected and appointed official. “Those powers include bureaucrats and judges, but also media, academics, non-profit cause groups, ‘professional reformers’ and  campaign businesses that ‘live off of’ politics, rather than ‘for it.” A good example of shifted responsibility, says Chapman, is Congress’ relinquishment of authority to government regulatory agencies. Another, Chapman says, is the “scandal business” that increasingly monopolizes public attention and is incentivized by unrealistic federal legislation. The advent of social media, which might Read More ›