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!

Learning to Argue

I am slowly learning a lesson that most good bloggers seem to have absorbed. It’s a lesson my wife has been pushing me to learn after sorting through every PFA post. “You don’t have to write a novel about everything, Bill,…sometimes someone else has already written it.”

In the pilot version of the 435 Voices podcast I mentioned a simple graphic I had created that summarizes how Project to Find America hopes to help Congress begin to be more effective at making policy. Here it is.

The PFA Change Cycle

If you haven’t listened to the pilot podcast yet, I hope you will. I believe it makes a persuasive case for the logic behind this graphic.

However, even as I slog through the process of trying to find media guests for the first set of 435 Voices episodes, it is worthwhile to acknowledge that maybe I don’t have this model right. Maybe it actually looks like this.

A Competing Version

It is pretty easy to see that we’re not going to get politicians to change their polarized and divisive ways without somehow changing the voters who elect them. In other words, the green circle won’t change until one of the other two do. But maybe voters really can be the catalysts for changing this cycle.

I came across the work of Patricia Roberts Miller last spring as I was working on the Prezi deck I used to relaunch Project to Find America. She is a professor of rhetoric and writing at the University of Texas. Stop right there. Already, you are making a judgment about her based mostly on that one sentence. I’m not now judging you, we all do this, but for reasons that you will see when you click through to her post, it is important to understand that we do.

In the post Demagoguery; Or, the Pleasures of Outrage Professor Roberts-Miller articulates precisely the problem that Project to Find America hopes to address and offers a relatively simple (though certainly not easy) solution…we need to learn to argue better and then look for better sources of information that will aid those arguments. Not surprisingly, coming from a professor of writing, it is an extraordinarily well-written and thought provoking piece, I hope you’ll take a few minutes at lunch or this evening to read it.

A Day I’ll Never Get Back

I guess you could call it a workplace safety incident. I sat down at my desk yesterday morning with the best of intentions. I had been traveling on business this week and was determined to catch up on invitations to the podcast, follow up on some I’ve already sent and get a new post published on this blog.

But as I was beginning to pull together my thoughts and do just a little background research…it happened. I fell into a black hole. I clicked on a link and eight hours later I was reading about Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. I won’t take you through all the grisly details of a wasted day but a few of the lowlights might be instructive in explaining where I was intending to go with my post in the first place.

It started when I clicked on a link to an article in Vox magazine entitled Trump’s bizarre speech during the Dem debate illustrated the stark differences between the parties.” I’ve linked it here in case you want to read it. I’ll confess. Two things got me about this headline. One is the idea that anything that this President says would be so differentiated from the rest of what he says to earn the adjective bizarre…kind of like when somebody says something is super awesome. The other was a hope that the Democratic Debate, which for reasons I’ll cover below I had decided not to watch on Thursday night, had provided something different than what I had expected. As it turned out, I was disappointed on both fronts. I should have known better.

The President did what he often does in public speeches (and tweets.) He made fun of some people in a personal way that I think would make most of us uncomfortable. He took credit for things his policies have had nothing to do with and made assertions that are not only unverified but unverifiable. How do we fact check “cleanest water and air in the nation’s history?”

But most of what the President did on stage for an hour Thursday night wasn’t so different from what many politicians across the political spectrum do these days. He said, in effect: “everything that is good in your life you can thank us for, everything that is wrong is their fault. What they want to do is dangerous and if you’ll just put us in/back in office we’ve got a bag full of really great stuff to unload just around the corner. This is only somewhat generalized, it didn’t get a lot more specific than this.

So then I watched the Democratic Debate. It was different in tenor and different in style. A debate, in which ten candidates are at least nominally expected to talk about policy, is certainly going to feel different than what amounted to a campaign rally. But the substance, from my perspective, was similar. Several of the candidates called the President names, a few others called his policies dangerous and all offered the promise of a world that will be better with them in the White House, without a lot about the specifics and tradeoffs that will be required to make that happen.

To be fair, the debate format really doesn’t lend itself to an in-depth discussion of policy – how do you do that in 40 seconds? One of those ten candidates could go on to become one of the great Presidents of our time, but the format doesn’t make it easy to see which one. To put it another way – the behaviors that the candidates needed to exhibit to look good in this debate, to get the pundits to declare them the winner, do not correlate well with the behaviors they will need to be good Presidents, which is why I had resolved not to watch in the first place.

But by early afternoon I was ready to pull myself out of the black hole when I veered into this headline: Ad Showing Ocasio-Cortez’s face in flames and pile of skulls airs during debate. I hadn’t seen the debate live and didn’t know what was waiting for me. Unfortunately this time the headline described it perfectly. It is sickening.

To characterize Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as somehow today’s version of Pol Pot is like saying Homo Denisova and the Whiffenpoofs are related. There are some common characteristics, but they are much more different than they are alike. This kind of nonsense is as destructive as it is ludicrous. It is 14 months until the election and already we have attack ads. If this is what we have to look forward to then it will be a wonder if anyone is listening to anything that any politician has to say by November 3, 2020. I turned off the computer after watching this and went to make dinner.

But here’s what I was going to say before I fell down the rabbit hole. If Democrats get their wish and one of the 10 Democrats on stage on Thursday night wins next November that, by itself, is no assurance that any of these behaviors are likely to change. It might make them worse. Republicans will resist again, as the Democrats have been for the last two and a half years. The President on Thursday called the Democrat-controlled House the “most obstructive group of people” he has ever seen, ironically in reference to his wall. That surely is the pot calling the kettle black, as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy…who was sitting in the audience could tell him.

On the other hand, if Donald Trump wins again…we get another five and a half years of this at a moment in history we just can’t afford to waste. When will the cycle of resist until our party wins again stop? Where does it end?

It ends when we stop paying attention to zero-sum nonsense and start paying attention to substantive ideas and demanding substance at the polls. It ends when we stop dismissing the lies that politicians tell us by assuring ourselves that “they all do it.” This is a big deal folks. Far more important than any policy change that is likely to be enacted by the 117th Congress or the next President is the opportunity these upcoming 470 elections present to say.. enough is enough and the peril to our system of government if we don’t.

Our current election discourse is a race to the bottom so let’s score it as such. Lowest score loses.

  • -10 points for every thing a candidate says about another candidate you wouldn’t say to a coworker
  • -50 points for every thing a candidate says about another candidate that would likely get you punched in the nose by that coworker.
  • -25 points for candidates that attempt to take credit for things they had nothing to do with
  • -30 points for candidates that blame their opponent for things they had nothing to do with.
  • -10 points for each instance of a candidate talking about what’s wrong with someone else’s idea instead of what’s right about their approach.
  • -10 points every time a candidate blames “the other party.”
  • -10 points for each argument made using unverified assertions
  • -20 points for each argument made using unverifiable assertions
  • -25 points for someone running against someone who is targeted in an attack ad.

As our President is fond of saying, “I’m kidding…well, I’m not really kidding.” You could keep a little scoresheet next to your television remote and keep a running tab until it’s time to go cast your ballot, first in the primaries next winter and spring and then in the general election.

As Americans we like sending messages. Well how about this message…you do more of this stuff than your opponent…you lose. No matter what party you are in or if you are the incumbent or the challenger…we’re done with this.

Why You Should be a Guest on 435 Voices

Okay, I’ll confess. This post serves a double purpose. I have some ideas of people I think would make great guests on my upcoming podcast 435 Voices and I am beginning to invite them. So I am hoping this page will convince them to join a guy they’ve never heard of on a podcast that hasn’t really launched yet to talk about something few people are comfortable talking about. More on that in a minute.

But perhaps you, or someone you know that I don’t, would also make a great guest. The more the merrier – truly, so if after reading this description of what I’ve got in mind you want to be a guest please consider this an invitation and drop me a line and if you’ve got someone else in mind please forward this to them.

So, what is 435 Voices? Well, the 435 comes from the number of voting districts in the US House of Representatives. There will be one podcast episode devoted to each of the 435 congressional districts and every day until the 2020 election we will publish a new one. “Woah, that’s a lot of podcasts and a lot of politics you might well be thinking. If I wanted help sleeping I’d just download the sound of ocean waves.”

So let me start with what 435 Voices isn’t. It isn’t about politics. It isn’t about the 2020 Presidential Election. It isn’t about who is right and who is wrong and it isn’t about which “side” is winning or losing.

My thesis is that there is more in common among the interests of the people of the New York-21st district and the Georgia-14th than there is between them and either of their geographic neighbors. The same is likely true of the California-21st and the Iowa-1st. We’ve been sold this idea, for a variety of reasons you can read more about here and here, that there are only two types of people out there, liberals and conservatives, we’ve given them each a color and told that every policy question can be answered by choosing your flavor.

This fable is as ridiculous as it is destructive to the process of making laws. The last 20 years of policy making represents the worst extended stretch in US history. You know this and it explains why Congress’ latest performance rating was woeful. According to Gallup’s July poll, 17 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, 76 percent disapprove. You would have to go back a decade to get to a place where that number got even as high as 30 percent.

“But wait”, I can hear my intended guests saying, “you said this podcast isn’t about politics.” It isn’t. It’s not about Republicans and Democrats or Liberals or Conservatives or even Independents. It’s about us. The things we want as Americans, the things we can agree on that would make this country better. It’s not about politics, it’s about policy.

The goal of each of the episodes of 435 Voices will be to help listeners understand a bit about a part of our country they may not be too familiar with and along the way, I’m guessing, find out that we have many things in common that we would like to see get better in our world and thus things we would like our government to do or stop doing to enable that progress.

I am inviting 2-4 people that live or work in each district to be guests and each episode will run 25-30 minutes. The format will be roughly the same for each show.

Coming in Late September
  • An overview of the district, where it is, what it includes. What drives the local economy
  • Each guest will share something that most visitors don’t know about their district
  • Each guest will share their perspective on an outcome or two that is particularly important to the people of their district. We will start with the outcomes poll on this site but any outcomes are welcome as long as they are framed as outcomes.
  • We will then move to discussing any ways in which the government or private sector, either in the district or elsewhere are coming up with ways to make progress on these outcomes. Guests are encouraged to share links to be used on the show notes page.
  • We will wrap up with each guest sharing the thing they like best about living where they do.

If these questions sound good to you and you are willing to share your thoughts, I’d love to have you. My hope is to begin recording the segments in the next two weeks and although I plan to publish an episode every day I also want to record them close to their air date so it might be several months until we reach your district.


I was talking with an old friend of mine a few weeks ago. This particular old friend also happens to be one of the finest journalists and storytellers I know so, because I am hoping to recruit him to be a guest on my podcast, I will wait to introduce you until later. But during the course of our conversation he told me about a woman he had met who was working with an organization called the Solutions Journalism Network that had some goals in common with Project to Find America. He suggested that I reach out to her, I resolved to and then promptly forgot amid my travels earlier this month.

But, for whatever reason, that conversation was the first thing I thought of upon waking this morning and I’ve spent much of the day since on that site looking through a treasure trove of interesting articles about how we are collectively solving some of the world’s problems. Needless to say I will be reaching out soon.

One article that caught my eye was the story of how a woman in St. Louis started an organization in the wake of the Ferguson, MO shootings in 2014 that has helped at least one community foster meaningful conversations about race and bias at a time when that dialogue seems more crucial then ever.


Another story explained how the state of Arkansas (and some others) is enlisting the help of truck drivers to fight human trafficking.


This last one sparked some serious interest from the youngest member of the Craib house this morning. My son Alistair has shown an uncanny interest in the worn out and outdated electronics that fill our basement since he was a baby. Now an organization has come up with an approach that might help in not only reducing solid waste but also providing marketable service skills to a generation that may well need them in the age of automation.


What do these stories have in common? More than you might think. But at the simplest level they are all about solving a problem. I doubt that any would claim that the subjects of these stories had the only solution to a problem or even that it was better than others – just that it aimed to fix something…to make things better.

We need more of this…a lot more. If and when we get it, politicians will be expected to talk about the solutions they propose and how they will work instead of trotting out the tired and well-worn recipe to political campaigns today:

  1. Talk in general terms about all the problems our world faces
  2. Offer unspecific and unmeasurable solutions to these “issues”
  3. Blame the other guy/party for the problem and criticize their approach to dealing with it

If candidates are using this approach when others are talking about measurable solutions they should seem as obviously lacking as the fourth-grader on the playground who tells everyone what a great basketball player he is but never seems to be found on the court.

This is achievable and it’s achievable in time to make a difference in the next set of federal elections coming next year. But we’ve got to start by doing three things.

  1. Just as we can only hope to change the behavior of elected officials at the polls we will probably only be effective at promoting better sources of news by, wait for it, consuming better news. Seek out solutions-based journalism. Solutions Journalism Network is a fine place to start. The upcoming 435 Voices podcast will also aim to highlight more journalists that are covering the nuances of issues that actually impact our lives. Finally, you might like this list of news sources from Forbes put together by a professor of journalism in response to a question similar to the one we covered last week.
  2. Learn to read and think about Internet news laterally not vertically. You will find a nice explanation of what this means here, but basically instead of reading more of a site to assess its credibility, leave the site open and use other browser windows to search on a statement and see what other sites have to say about it.
  3. Start to take a hard look at whether the people representing you in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are offering specific solutions to the outcomes you care about. Put their names in Google News and try Duck Duck Go too, it’s a pretty cool new search engine and you might be surprised to see some different things come up.

PS – While I’m on the subject of worthwhile organizations that are trying to mend some of the same fences we are, I want to mention Better Angels. A couple of readers have mentioned it to me after seeing what I’m tying to do here and I think their approach is fantastic. I hope you’ll have time to check it out. Incidentally, you can get a guide that offers approaches on how to have a productive conversation with that “difficult liberal” or “difficult conservative” in your life. I ordered both.


It was an Internet connectivity double whammy this week. I was celebrating my upcoming birthday by camping with my family and some friends in the hills of Vermont. Our site had no electricity and there was also no cell signal except for one lonely bar that came up if you walked to the top of a nearby hill. I started writing this post looking out at beautiful Ricker Pond last weekend but getting these words to join the billions of bytes traveling the Interwebs turned out to be more than I could muster.

Ricker Pond in Groton, VT

I was chatting with a friend on the trip about Project to Find America; I am not good at this yet. If you have been reading this blog lately it would be reasonable to assume that I am an insufferable person to hang around with. That may be, but it’s not because I talk about PFA all the time. It is a difficult topic to bring up. It is not in my nature to enjoy making people uncomfortable and from my perspective, bringing up the topic of politics does exactly that.

But she brought it up. I’m beginning to try to make some sense of next year’s election, she said, but I don’t know where to start, I don’t know what to believe. She went on to say that she thinks most of the people she talks with are in a similar spot and I have seen this happening with my other friends as well.

The idea of a representative form of government is based on the idea of an informed electorate. We can hardly do our duty to choose an individual to represent our views if we don’t know what is really happening and have little to base those views on. But instead of an informed electorate in the United States today we have a populace that is increasingly misinformed, which is much worse than not informed at all.

For reasons that are pretty well articulated in this Prezi but I won’t rehash here, our perception of any news we get is likely biased in the first place. Here is an interesting but troubling view of this. The statements below look pretty easy to me to parse but almost half of the survey respondents were able to correctly identify three or fewer of the five statements below in each category as fact vs opinion.

Is Truth in the Eye of the Beholder?

But it exacerbates that problem ten-fold when media organizations decide what to write about or show us based on what their mountains of data tell them we will continue to read and watch. We like stories about who is winning and losing because it’s easy to keep track of, particularly if there are only two sides… so those stories are what we get. Sensational stories are even better at drawing us in and politicians have learned this, so despite the fact that most of the issues our government is trying to sort through are nuanced, often the coverage is about people making outrageous statements rather than offering constructive ideas. Give us too much nuance and we’re clicking a link and off to find out the amazing truth about what Marcia Brady looks like these days (actually it’s not that amazing, she got older like the rest of us)…it’s called clickbait for a reason.

But the point of this post isn’t to bash the media. It is too easy a target and this problem does not have easy solutions. There are a lot of very good media outlets in this country and reporters providing excellent fact-based coverage of the news. But they are hard to find amid all the flotsam and jetsam. Even more difficult is finding stories that provide the objective nuance we need to understand complex issues like how to make healthcare more affordable for most people and what a sensible approach to immigration policy might look like.

Enter 435 Voices. My original intent for the podcast we will launch next month was to invite people with a variety of backgrounds to talk about the outcomes that matter in their congressional district and approaches to delivering those outcomes. I may well come back to this before the series wraps up on Election Day 2020. But for now, I’m going to focus on at least two journalists from each district and my hope is to leverage the excellent work many journalists are already doing in their local coverage to contribute to these topics at a national level. Look for the schedule of the first congressional districts we’ll cover in the next few days and if you know someone who would be a great guest on 435 Voices please let me know.

Thank You!

Finally today I’d like to thank all the folks who sent me birthday well wishes yesterday on e-mail and Facebook and LinkedIn. They are most appreciated. Could I ask for just one more present from you this year? If you can think of two more people that might be interested in improving the way we talk about and cover political outcomes in this country would you send them the link to this blog (findamerica.org) and ask them to follow it too? It’s going to take a lot of us to begin to change the discussion.


And Now The News

If there is an antidote to the kind of inveterate optimism it takes to believe we can actually cure the ills of Congress it is a stroll through the news of the day.

So far today I have read a quite disturbing story titled The Global Machine Behind the Rise of Far-Right Nationalism, which as the author points out is a fairly ironic topic.

I’ve also learned a new and horrifying term...swatting.

I’ve read the latest on Jeffrey Epstein’s death

I even waded into op-ed, since it seems refreshing to me to still find opinion labeled as such in the newspaper rather than just mixed in with the news as if they were the same thing. Unfortunately this particular op-ed only served to convince me that what I would have guessed to be a universally desirable outcome, like safeguarding the electoral process, can be turned into a partisan topic.

I’m not suggesting these stories are not news, they are. The Times story, in particular, appears to have included some very good journalism. But isn’t there room somewhere for articles and information about what can be done to control healthcare costs? That has been at the top of almost every “which issues matter” poll I’ve seen this year. What is the President proposing to do about it? What is Congress’ next move when it returns to Washington next month? What does your representative think?

How about increasing wages? Or preparing today’s students and the millions of Americans without the skills to compete for the jobs of the future with those skills. Isn’t there room somewhere for coverage about what’s being done and, more importantly, not being done about that?

These were the top three outcomes listed in the July Project to Find America poll. Admittedly these are based on a tiny survey. More on that in a minute.

July 2019 Preferred Outcomes

Where do we go for news about what the President, or Congress or your state or community government are doing to drive these outcomes? That’s the question I’m hoping to address next.

But I need your help with this. Whether you voted or not in the July poll, I’ve reset the poll for August and you can vote now. And please please please, share this page with others and ask them to vote. Wouldn’t it be cool to get a real sense for the outcomes that Americans commonly want to drive instead of just the issues that divide us?

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Missouri

My son Alistair and I had just spent three days crisscrossing South Dakota. Some of the candidates for President in 2020 will not spend as much time in that state or see as much of it as we did. It is amazing and varied state. Yes, there are a lot of cornfields but there are also hidden lakes, agate beds, a great river with an immense connection to our nation’s history, Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and that oasis of interstate highway boredom, the Corn Palace.

But as we we’re passing into Nebraska and soon after Iowa, I didn’t know what I would write about the election outcomes South Dakotans might be looking for that would be any different than what I might have written before we embarked on this journey; we talked to some folks in our three days across the state, but not about that. Why that is should be the subject of some future post.

In any case, with a post still to write about South Dakota and the growing realization that I needed a different approach to the district we visited next (the Missouri-5th – outside Kansas City was in my sights) I was getting increasingly anxious and irritable about how I was going to get it all done and take Alistair to the places I wanted him to see and get us back home to Vermont on time. That afternoon driving down I-29 could be categorized by any number of adjectives – fun was not one of them.

But then, I had a forest-for-the-trees kind of moment that is easy to see when you are following a story but not so easy sometimes when you are living it. It dawned on me that spending all of my energy on what may well be a vain attempt to create a better version of the future for my son at the expense of an opportunity to spend real quality (read interesting and fun) time with him right now when he’s 11-years old and willing to spend it with me was stupid, perhaps insane.

All this to explain why Alistair and I spent the last week seeing interesting things: lots more of the Lewis and Clark Trail, which we followed from North Dakota all the way back to St. Louis, Omaha, The Gateway Arch, the beautiful city of Pittsburgh, but barely paused to think about what district they are in. There will be time for all that but quite possibly never a better time for this.

More about the districts and updates to PFA coming next week.