52 Weeks

Happy Election Day!

That’s kind of a joke, see, because its pretty clear that Americans have scarcely had an unhappier election day. There are elections taking place across the country today but those in three states seem likely to have national impact; Kentucky and Mississippi will vote for governor and in Virginia the entire state legislature is up for grabs. You can listen to a detailed account of the former here and the read one on the latter here. But the message in all three races is similar: more than anything the candidates say, do or have done, these votes are about Donald Trump.

Democrats are angry about the President “hobnobbing with dictators” and anxious to show him and his supporters that they are on their way out by voting for the Democrat. Supporters of the President say the impeachment process is “totally ridiculous” and want to show “the enemy” that they won’t stand for it by voting for the Republican. Isn’t there more than this?

Seriously, where does this leave us? 52 weeks from today we will, assuming the President is still in office, all get a chance to vote for or against Donald Trump. If he is not, the same will presumably be true of Mike Pence. But there will also be 34 elections that day for the the US Senate and 435 seats in the House of Representatives. If all we are going to do that day is vote for a straight party ticket couldn’t we just tell the candidates to not bother making the signs? Skip the attack ads (no one will miss them) and donate the money to charity instead…this idea is growing on me. We will put a D and an R in their respective places down the ballot and move on. Nate Silver could probably give us a pretty good guess…today…at what the 117th Congress will look like. Spoiler alert…it may not look as different as you think.

“But wait”, I can hear you saying. “We’ll have Elizabeth Warren, or Joe Biden or Bernie or Mayor Pete in the White House, we’ll be back to the good old days”…of 2015. It wasn’t that long ago folks. There were things about our country that needed to be fixed then, they need to be fixed even more now. But without a Congress made up of people that can think for themselves, that are running on some idea other than being an alternative to the “enemy” on the other side of the ballot, we’re likely headed for the same outcome.

But we can do something….and we don’t have to wait a year. First, if you are in a state where elections are being held today, and most are, vote…duh. And if those local elections are somehow free of partisan nonsense then revel in the way our process is supposed to work….votes based on ideas.

Next – just 17 weeks from today is Super Tuesday. Yes, it’s a big day in the race for the Democratic nomination for President. But it’s also the state primary day in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, California and Texas (together these states make up more than one fourth of the US House.) Remember that feeling of going to the poll in November and thinking, I don’t like either of these people? This is your chance to do something about it….pay attention to what the candidates are saying…now.

Starting the first week of December 435 Voices will begin looking at the districts in those five states; looking for ideas…not dogma.


Searching for a bit of inspiration in an uninspiring time I started reading Jon Meacham’s biography of Thomas Jefferson the other night and found this passage (and the cool Kindle feature of sending it to myself.)

I may be a chump…but it speaks to me and I think Meacham is right. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan -these men all seemed to be driven by progress. JFK didn’t say we’re going to build a big wall to keep people out, he said “we’re going to put a man on the moon.” Ronald Reagan didn’t lament a country whose better days are behind it and try to bring it back, he said, “It’s morning in America.”

What all these people have in common is the belief that we can and should be better. What’s better?

  • Better is health care bills that don’t cost more than your mortgage
  • Better is fewer people being shot…every day
  • Better is median household income going up in a meaningful way
  • Better is nature shows that don’t leave the whole family at the point of tears (and not because they change the programming)
  • Better is fewer people becoming addicted to narcotics and shooting up on street corners in broad daylight
  • Better is also simpler things: better commutes, safer streets, cleaner water and more time with our kids
  • But Better is usually hard and complicated work that is discussed by adults that act like adults
  • And most importantly Better is often a little better…every day until someday things are a lot Better.

We can all do better than writing angry posts on social media or forwarding a snarky zinger to someone we already know shares our view. The 435 Voices podcast is about progress at every level. What needs to be better and what might be done about it. Please join the conversation.

We’ve had four episodes so far:

There is plenty of room for comments and if you’d like to be a guest or know someone who would be great to talk about better and has some ideas on how to get there drop me a line.