Better Angels

Let’s Talk Civility In Politics

I find myself, in the wake of the passing of Senator John McCain this past weekend, thinking about the closing remarks from Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural when, in the wake of seven states having already seceded from the Union, he implored the country to remember “our bonds of affection” and appealed to the “better angels of our nature.” We try to stay apolitical with our newsletters here at Flat World Partners. At least, as apolitical as a sustainable investing firm that issues a weekly newsletter to decry the proliferation of single-use plastic serving containers or lament the ubiquity of guns can be. The general aim of this newsletter is to highlight an issue of the day and inform our readers how they can address it through investment. So with that in mind (and my begrudging acknowledgement that this is not the appropriate venue for personal catharsis via a soliloquy on civility, honor and patriotism), I want to focus this week’s newsletter on the feelings of mutual respect and compromise that our government was designed to encourage in other and McCain exemplified.

It’s natural, in the immediate wake of the death of someone that you’ve admired, to lionize them, emphasizing and promoting the best of their traits and deeds while conveniently ignoring or overlooking the warts and imperfections. John McCain was not perfect, and I think he’d be the first to acknowledge that. But, in a time when partisanship and identity politics has created as toxic an environment as many can remember I think it’s telling to listen not simply to the admiration and reverie with which McCain is being talked about, but the specific traits highlighted — self-sacrifice, civility, compromise, and humility. Whether that be discussing his immense self-sacrifice in refusing an early release from theHanoi Hilton. His civility towards a political opponent by refusing to acknowledge or perpetuate the birther movement despite being in the middle of a heated presidential campaign. His reputation for, and willingness to, compromise and the lasting relationships with the likes of the “Liberal Lion,” Ted Kennedy, or a man with whom he vehemently disagreed with over the Vietnam War, John Kerry that resulted. Or even the simple humility to admit a mistake, as he did in April 2000 when he admonished himself for not staking a more forceful stance on the Confederate Flag, 15 years before the conversation again rose to national prominence.

Since the announcement of the Senator’s death the outpouring of love and support has been almost overwhelming, ignoring particular deeds or political views that many would have labeled egregious only one week ago, and I imagine that irks some people (including many who read this newsletter). Even more, the aforementioned list of admirable traits spans a cavernous range from truly Herculean to the mundane or expected. John McCain was not perfect. But John McCain was a man who, more often than not, ignored the devil on his shoulder and treated friend and political foe alike with decency and respect. So, what I hope — regardless of if you revered the man or vehemently disagreed with his politics, and regardless of whether you agree with renaming an office building after him or find the recent fawning disingenuous and upsetting — is that the current good feelings surrounding bipartisanship and compromise take hold.

Tucker Pribor, Associate

This past weekend the Democratic National Committee voted to do away with ‘superdelegates,’ the controversial group of party activists and members that had an immense amount of power in the Democratic presidential nominating process.

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There are multiple apps today that make it easier to not only help sift through to find accurate information but also ones that help you actually engage. We like Countable and iCitizen, among others.

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Our CEO Anna-Marie Wascher mentors a startup called Motivote, launching off NYU’s Launchpad, that uses peer-to-peer accountability to get young voters to the booth. Their motto? Adulting is hard, voting shouldn’t be.

Forward Thinking Capital