Questions Left Unasked

A Look Back then Marching On

A few thoughts about last night’s Democratic primary debate on CNN and then back to Congress where the future successes or failures of all the candidates on both sides will likely be determined.

First – this debate was an improvement on multiple levels from the most recent Republican version. Unlike that event, which for most of the evening made me feel like we were listening in on a conversation taking place in the 7th Grade girls bathroom, this debate actually covered…wait for it…issues. Serious conversation took place on financial regulation, social security, gun laws, energy independence and several other topics all without anyone calling another candidate names or dropping in sexist or racist innuendo. There is hope that the words politician and grownup are not mutually exclusive.

dem debate

Second – Anderson Cooper’s questions were an improvement on Jake Tapper’s. Although the network persisted in trying to frame the debate as some kind of boxing showdown between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton (strange visual on that…right?) the questions mostly got to the issues that ought to be debated as there are significant policy differences between the two Democratic front runners (as outlined in The Atlantic this morning.) Bernie Sanders got the most applause of the evening (and I will say my own as well) for shutting down the invitation from Cooper to get into the muck of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, which will make zero difference to anyone in the months and years ahead and instead redirecting the conversation toward income inequality.

Third – Like most debates this event was light on specifics. I found myself wondering exactly how Bernie wants to pay for everyone to go to college and whether his math adds up. I also wanted to know more about Hillary’s approach to lowering healthcare costs; the “we aren’t Denmark” line was effective but a “We’re #1 because we are America” approach hasn’t seemed to work too well in practice. I also wanted to hear more about Martin O’Malley’s plan for clean energy independence by 2050 – a worthy goal…how? But to be fair there is no way to get into specifics in 60 seconds. It is up to us to read what we can and ask questions early and often where there appear to be gaps. Here are each of the five candidates Web sites.

Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders

Martin O’Malley

Lincoln Chafee

Jim Webb

Last though are a couple of questions that weren’t asked but I wish had been:

For Hillary Clinton – you have aligned yourself pretty closely with much of the work of the Obama administration and blame partisanship in Congress, probably rightly,  for the inability to get more done in the last seven years – what would you do differently than the President has done to work with a Republican-controlled Congress should that majority be preserved? Why will it work for you?

For Bernie Sanders – You have campaigned on the idea that we need a revolution in domestic policy and that many parts of our political process are broken – it is hard to disagree. But what if the people don’t turn out next November any more than they have in past elections and we end up with the same kind of Congress we have today. Do you think you could pass any of the sweeping kinds of programs you are campaigning on? Why and How?

Huzzahs to No Labels

If you are off on this beautiful Columbus Day

It is a gorgeous fall day in Northern New England on this Columbus Day. If it is as nice where you are and you happen to be off work then you will want to get outside. But when you come in watch this. It is a video of a conference happening today. It is being produced by an organization called No Labels and in a news landscape that gets a bit more depressing every day it offers a glimmer of hope for bipartisanship in the 2016 election cycle. Columbus Day in VT

The conference, which is streaming live on the Web from Manchester, NH features participants across the political spectrum from Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump (eight presidential candidates in all) The theme is non partisan progress and a conference focused on cooperation and compromise is like a breath of fresh autumn air. Take a look and let me know what you think.

I Was Gone but now I’m Back

Catching Up

Hi there, it’s been awhile. More than a month, in fact, and you might have been forgiven for thinking that was the end of Project to Find America. Somewhere out there on the Web, I’m sure, is a detailed analysis of how blogs die and not posting for a month is probably right up there on the list, usually explained by getting a new job, or a new girlfriend or boyfriend or a newly-found fixation with daytime television.


But these things don’t really apply here. I am  still talking about and teaching individuals and companies about the importance of Human Capital, still happily married to my Lovely wife and not yet transfixed by the Young and the Restless except those that are on C-Span. Truth be told, I’ve been busy keeping the lights on – and in the meantime I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to make a difference in an election cycle that’s now just over 13 months away.

On the Road Part One

In the last few weeks  I have been to: San Francisco, Columbus, Ohio, Upstate New York, Denver, Chicago (twice) and Washington.  I’ve talked with lots of people about what we’ve been working on here and the vast majority of them have been encouraging; there is a greater sense of discontent with the political status quo than I remember at any time in my life.  When I mention in my “elevator pitch,” as I almost

What are the questions in the CA-12? Stay Tuned

What are the questions in the CA-12? Stay Tuned

always do, that the goal of PFA is to reduce the level of partisanship in Congress they seem to get it. Heads nod in a way they almost never do in a political discussion. People are generally sick and tired of politicians blaming the other guy, reducing issues to a series of scripted rhetoric instead of specifics and accomplishing nothing.

The only part I’m not sure is getting across…yet, is that it isn’t me that is going to change this – it’s us. All of us, and it won’t be enough just to wait a year and “vote the  bums out” (remember – we returned 95 percent of the most ineffective Congress in history to Washington in the last midterm election despite the fact that their approval rating was barely above zero .) Without changing the discussion in the months leading up to the 2016 election we would just replace them with a less experienced replica of themselves or a polarized mirror image. From Bernie Sanders to Donald Trump, whether things get better in this country in the years up to 2020 has a lot more to do with the 470 or so seats in Congress that will be decided on November 6, 2016 then who wins the Presidency that day. Don’t believe me? See Exhibit A: Barack Obama and Exhibit B: George W. Bush.


A fair question. In fact, since a large part of what I’m advocating is that we ask politicians to very specifically spell out how they plan to solve challenges, it seems quite appropriate to ask me. So here goes.

  1. Find out who your Congressman is. It’s easy – it will take you two minutes at this site. It will open in another window. Maybe you already know who your rep is but humor me – at the very least you will find out what # your district is (MA-6, CA-53,) which almost no one can remember since it often changes, and in the months ahead we will refer to those district numbers a lot.
  2. Use the “contact me” link on your Representative’s site (you will find this on the site above too – generally it is the rep’s last name dot house dot gov) to ask them specific questions about the issues you care about. You think I’m crazy but that’s why these links are there. Your rep cares more about what’s on your mind than you think. Is it a college intern reading it? Maybe, perhaps probably. So what…enough questions on a topic and it will be passed up to the Congressman or Congresswoman. Which issues? You will have to decide here. It is not my mission to tell you what to care about, on the contrary – getting you to decide and act is. But if you like any or all of these – feel free to use them:
    1. Adjusted for inflation, the Median Household Income is lower today than it was 30 years ago. What can you and Congress do to help reverse this trend and increase wages for the average American? Why hasn’t it happened already?
    2. Are you in favor of repealing or modifying the Affordable Care Act. If you are in favor of repealing it, what approach would you use to reduce healthcare costs for the average American? Are there other countries using this approach? If you are in favor of modifying the ACA – how – and how will these modifications work better to lower healthcare costs?
    3. This week’s tragic shooting in Oregon was the 295th incident this year in which four or more people were shot and injured or killed. There have only been 277 days. What do you propose Congress can do in terms of legislation to reverse this trend?
  3. Find your local media outlets on the Web (a simple Google search for television and or newspaper and your town should do it) and use their contact page to encourage them to ask the same questions. Certainly when Congressmen engage in buffoonery it is tempting to cover it but what we really all need is more substantive coverage of how they are actually legislating…or aren’t. The only way we will get this is by demanding that our local media outlets deliver it or find ones that will.

That’s it for today. I am hopeful of getting to many if not all the districts between now and Election Day 2016  and finding out the questions on people’s minds. Tomorrow we’ll start with some of the places I’ve been recently.

If you’ve got a Sunday of football watching (or baseball – it’s the last day of the regular season after all) on tap enjoy it all (or a beautiful fall day for those here in VT) but send out some questions during the commercials!