This has been a rough year in American politics. After months of panicked anticipation, the sequester finally took effect in March, slashing spending on national security, aid to the poor, medical research, and everything in between. In June, the world heard revelations of widespread NSA surveillance of American citizens. September saw bitter feuding in the House, followed by a 16-day government shutdown that cost the economy between $2 and $6 billion, the White House estimates. Enrollment in new health insurance markets created by the Affordable Care Act began in October, but more than a month later, many states are still struggling with dysfunctional websites and a lack of clarity about available policies.
Americans don’t trust Congress to govern effectively. President Obama’s ratings have hit an all-time low. It seems like Washington has run out of good ideas for fixing American politics.
But maybe not. Over the next two days, politicos, pundits, and policy wonks will gather for the Washington Ideas Forum, an annual festival co-hosted by The Atlantic, the Aspen Institute, and the Newseum. Among the interviewees: Susan Rice, who was recently named National Security Adviser after surviving bruising accusations related to the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi in 2012; Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who will give his take on the ongoing Congressional battle to pass a new farm bill; and Ted Cruz, who starred in a “fauxlibuster” staged in protest of the Affordable Care Act in September.