A Super Tuesday?

It is Super Tuesday. If you are voting today I hope you will consider three things:

First – if you have five minutes – start your day with a video. It is a scene from the pilot episode of the TV series The Newsroom. I was reminded of it in an interview with the show’s creator Aaron Sorkin published this weekend. It might make you mad, it might make you sad, I don’t think you will be bored.

Second – if you have a few more minutes, review this prezi published here last summer. The character Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, is not wrong in the scene above – the prezi will tell you why. Cliff Notes? As of last year the United States had slipped to thirteenth in the world in the United Nations’ Human Development Index. It is a measure that looks at three non- political measures of quality of life: Life Expectancy, Knowledge and Education and Standard of Living; but since then new rankings have come out…the US has now dropped to a tie for 15th.

Finally, here is a simple concept for you.

If the candidate you are considering has a world view at either side of this Venn diagram, our hopes for making progress and moving our country forward again are slim, I hope you will consider someone else. Historically, and by design, our government only works through consensus and compromise. Are the people you are going to send to Washington next year going to work together (even with people with different ideas than theirs?) …or not?

One more note about political primaries. Yes, these are only primaries today. There will be a general election in November and thus it may be tempting, particularly in races for Congress to think…”this doesn’t matter, we’re just going to do it again in the fall.” But when we vote again the field will be dramatically winnowed from more than a dozen in some cases down to two or three. If you want someone in the middle of the circles above, the time to find them and vote for them is now. If your primary isn’t today but you want to know when it is…here’s a link for you.

More on the next steps for Project to Find America and the 435 Voices podcast coming soon.

Looking for Better

Let’s face it, you probably already know how you plan to vote next November. Aside from which two candidates are running for President, a choice most will make based on the party you identify with or the person you don’t want to have win, you could almost fill out the rest of the ballot today – a year before the 2020 election. Ask yourself, deep in your heart, if this isn’t true.

There is no judgment here. All of the evidence suggests that not only is this true but most of us are complicit in this reality. But isn’t it more than a little unsettling since we tell ourselves we live in a representative democracy?

Below is the latest summary from a site called Cook Political Report, which is widely viewed as an accurate and unbiased source of insight on American politics. It shows that only about 21 percent of the 2020 races in the House of Representatives are listed as anything other than “solid seats” for one party or the other. That is, we already have a very good sense of how 79 percent of House races are going to go next fall.

Cook Political Report 11/19

The Senate is slightly more competitive, but even incorporating the 35 Senate seats that will be filled in the next year, about three quarters of the races for Congress are already likely decided with the vast majority of those going to incumbents. The irony of this is that recent approval surveys of Congress suggest that about 25 percent (actually a slight increase) of Americans think Congress is doing a good job. So – about three quarters of the races are already decided and about three quarters of us think Congress is doing a bad job….weird right?

I came across a Vox article that is now four years old as I was going through the news the other day and I think it explains the problem here. It is entitled Confessions of a Congressman (you can see why it enticed me..wonkiness and voyeurism all in one package!) and it was penned by a member of Congress, though since we don’t find out who wrote it I have no idea if they are still a member. However, all “9 secrets from the inside” seem even more prevalent and problematic today than they did when it was first written. There aren’t a lot of bright spots to find in the article but it ends this way…”

“Get over your nostalgia: Congress has never been more than a sausage factory. The point here isn’t to make us something we’re not. The point is to get us to make sausage again. But for that to happen, the people have to rise up and demand better. “

After four months of these posts, it’s probably pretty obvious that I agree with the three primary points made in the article. Congress is broken, it is vital that we fix it now and it has to be us that makes that happen. I hope you agree too but if not here’s another Vox article that makes a pretty persuasive case on the first two points. Fair warning – it’s Craibian in length.

But the congressman who wrote the article said “the people will have to rise up and demand better” not “Bill Craib needs to blog more and you poor suckers have to read it.” If we are going to change the way Congress works then many, if not most of us, will need to work together to make it happen. So what does better look like and what can we do to bring it about?

The concept of better in this case is simple, it is members of Congress actually proposing something and working together to solve problems. That is obviously difficult while there are impeachment hearings taking place, but even while that process is playing out and certainly afterward, Congress is going to have to function properly in order to address some serious issues facing our country.

Better looks like this story about how our local congressman in Vermont thinks rural areas could address a serious shortage of nurses. These shortages are acute today in both red and blue states, there is progress to be had. It isn’t a salacious or gripping headline, it isn’t even about a big policy shift. Importantly, there is no guarantee that the approach being proposed would have the desired impact. But it does represent an idea that a few people have about a way that Congress could act to improve the lives of citizens. If the news we read and listen to every day had more stories like this, that would be better.

How do we bring that about? Tomorrow in this space I will propose three steps all of us could take in less than a half hour per week to move toward a better, more functional, Congress.

Of Radishes and Funnel Cake

Imagine you were walking up to this booth at the county fair.

Funnel Cake Booth

You’ve got one thing in mind…fried goodness. We’ll worry about later…later

And then you saw this on the counter of the booth

Free Radishes!

Who, in their right mind, is going to snack on a radish when fried dough awaits?

Well, as I said in a Facebook comment this week, this is kind of what it feels like to be writing about and advocating for congressional consensus and cooperation in the Age of Impeachment. It often just feels pretty irrelevant.

But then there are signs of hope. Like this story from the New York Times this week about an effort called America in One Room in which organizers invited 526 people from across the country that match the overall demographics of America to talk policy for a weekend. They didn’t necessarily convince each other but they left with a better sense of why others feel differently than they do. That’s progress – and the article is very worth reading if you have some time this weekend.

There’s also this story from NPR about two members of the House Judiciary Committee (front and center in the impeachment process) who, despite being from opposite sides of the aisle, regularly cooperate to try to advance policy and are being recognized for it.

We are getting close to the launch of 435 Voices. If you haven’t listened to the pilot yet – take 12 minutes and try to listen this weekend and subscribe. We will launch with the West Virginia-1st, South Dakota and the Georgia-13th in two weeks.

Happy Friday!