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Tobin Harshaw

A 10-Step Guide to Saving American Democracy

A conversation with Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations about Jan. 6 and the obligations of citizenship.



Photographer: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

The Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the US Capitol, we are told by our finest legal and historical minds, was the founding fathers’ “nightmare”  and a  “step on the way to the abyss.” Actually, those long-dead gentlemen knew a thing or two about insurrection, having not only fought a war of independence but also having endured two armed rebellions over perceived government overreach, a rather fraudulent presidential election, and the vice president killing the former Treasury secretary in a duel of pistols at dawn. So, not to go all Marjorie Taylor Greene on you, but the republic has seen rocky times before and survived. 

Nonetheless, there’s no doubting that in the age of Twitter and TikTok, the ugliness spreads father and faster than the framers could have conceived. So how do we resuscitate civility, honor and compromise? Richard Haass, the longtime president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has some ideas — 10 of them them to be exact. He lays them out in a new book, “The Bill of Obligations,” a lean guide to political mores and citizenship that avoids the pitfalls (pomposity above all) that so often afflict these endeavors. Haass, a recovering Republican, and I discussed the book this week; here is a lightly edited transcript: