With the way many people view government nowadays it is typical for me to get a strange look when I tell someone that I work in politics. I get an even stranger look when I tell them that I have worked for both parties. I always have to explain that I felt like neither party addresses all of the issues that are important to me and, surprisingly, I have found that most people will agree with that statement. After I graduated college I interned for a Tea Party Republican and in the 2014 election cycle I worked on a Democratic Statewide campaign. These were both incredibly formative experiences that taught me that one of our Country’s biggest problems has a common sense solution.
Personal stories matter in politics. Personal stories connect us to the issues. They tie large, abstract issues to personal, human events. They help us empathize. They help us connect to each other, allowing us to understand, even if we don’t agree. It’s personal stories that change opinions.
At a Centrist Project event last week, I met Jimmy LaSalvia, a gay conservative who has left the Republican Party. For years Jimmy had worked inside his party as founder of GOProud and as national staff for the Log Cabin Republicans. In 2014, disillusioned by the deeply entrenched opinions on evolving social and cultural issues, Jimmy announced he was leaving the Republican party, changing his affiliation to “no party.”
My conversation with Jimmy got me thinking about the personal events that lead us to the political decisions we make. Among frustrated voters — Independents, non-voters, and even voters who maintain a party affiliation — these stories are even more important, helping to ground and humanize a conscious decision to reject some of our countries oldest institutions.
"What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists." - Donald Trump
"People don't have the guts to address [Illegal Immigration]" - Donald Trump
"Our next President must work with Congress and every other willing partner across our entire country. And I will do just that -- to turn the tide so these currents start working for us more than against us." - Hillary Clinton
"These Republicans trip over themselves promising lower taxes for the wealthy and fewer rules for the biggest corporations without regard for how that will make income inequality even worse." - Hillary Clinton
On April 4th, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed by a white man. That night, presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was schedule to give a speech at a rally in the heart of Indianapolis' ghetto. Despite being urged by the Indianapolis police chief to cancel the event -- warning that riots were certain to erupt -- Kennedy resolved to attend.
Many in the crowd of three thousand mostly black attendees were not aware that King had been assassinated. Stepping to the microphone, Kennedy delivered the sad news.
"I have some very sad news for all of you and I think some sad news for all of our fellow citizens and people who love peace all over the world. And that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee."
The outpouring of grief can be felt in the audio records of the speech, but Kennedy continued. What followed was an improvised speech but one of immense power, setting a standard for political leadership that seems to be absent among the current presidential candidates.
Between September and December, 2014, you probably heard a lot about Millennials. Prior to the election, the conversations and articles likely focused on "Will they vote?" Afterwards it shifted to, "Why didn't they vote?"
The apathetic voting habits of young Americans is a constant fixation during each election cycle. The challenges facing this generation are generally accepted across age groups, with majorities of Gen X, Boomers, and Silents saying young adults face more economic challenges today than they themselves faced when they were starting out. The apathetic brand is a convenient way to explain why more Millennials don't engage with the system: they don't care.
Apathy is not the mass character flaw of an entire generation. It is a brand allowing the economic challenges Millennials face to be recast as problems of our own making, while shifting attention away from the root cause of our low participation.
Although the last Congress was the least productive Congress in recent-history, this new Congress isn't shaping up much better. Previously the domain of the Republicans, the Democrats have now adopted the mantle of "all-or-nothing" political brinksmanship, employing the same obstructionist methods which drove a government shutdown and a complete collapse in American trust in government. The battle over the Trans-Pacific Partnership fast-tracking authority was a prelude of what was to come, and now both parties are gearing up for a multitude of political battles coming in the near future.
"A summer of gridlock is bearing down on Washington, threatening to put an end to the burst of legislative productivity that kicked off Mitch McConnell’s reign atop the Senate.
Minority Leader Harry Reid foreshadowed the shift recently with vows to essentially shut down the appropriations process and block highway and defense bills unless Republicans move markedly to the left."
The endless cycle of partisanship and gridlock has renewed itself once again, as the Democrats have adopted the same damaging, irresponsible tactics that they derided when holding the majority, while the Republicans, in their criticism of the Democrats, have selectively forgotten how gleefully they employed the same tactics less than twelve months ago.
Americans deserve better than this. It is not just the hypocrisy of both sides in flipping roles. It is not just their complete disregard for public opinion, or the fact that continued use of these tactics further damages American trust in government, something no democracy can function without. Americans deserve a Congress that simply does its job, that fulfills its most basic roles without creating more problems. Americans deserve a Congress that is not constantly teetering on the edge of collapse.
This isn't to say that either the Democrats or the Republicans should cave to the other's demands, but rather than demanding "all-or-nothing," our leaders should seek compromise. They should address the issues head on, maturely assess their positions, and recognize that their first responsibility is to the people. Each Senator is elected as a leader, it is time they acted like one.
None of this will ever change with out substantial political pressure, and that starts with you, the voter. If you are sick of seeing Congress accomplish nothing but making things worse, now is the time to act, before the season of gridlock begins. Keep it simple -- call your Senator's D.C. office and demand that they assume the responsibilities of leadership. Not sure how to get started? We are here to help.
Murder and violent crime have risen dramatically in several major cities in 2015. In New York, the murder rate has gone up 20% compared to the early months of 2014. In Los Angeles, violent crime is up 27%. In Houston, murders are up nearly 50%. In Baltimore, murders are up 37%.
Some are attributing this spike in murders to a so-called "Ferguson effect." The Ferguson Effect is the theory that the recent protests and public outrage against police brutality have causes police to draw back from everyday enforcement, leaving a 'criminal element' feeling empowered.
Facing the hard challenge head on is part of American culture. It is George Washington at Valley Forge. It's Susan B. Anthony and Women's Suffrage. It's the Civil Rights Movement. It's going to the moon and John Wayne movies. It is grit and determination in the face of considerable odds. It may not be a uniquely American trait, but it is a distinct part of American culture.
Yet there is another culture, birthed out of electoral politics, that says everything boils down to one cause and one effect. It allows candidates to identify a problem, brand its cause, and prescribe a simple solution to win votes. It operates under the assumption that modern Americans are nothing like our predecessors, and we can't be trusted with the hard answer.
This approach is deeply damaging to the American public, and the propagating of the "Ferguson Effect" is representative of that.
Right now in America a broad movement exists calling for change. It cannot be defined by any single label. Independent, Common Sense, Moderate, Centrist, they have all been used to characterize aspects of something much larger.
It is a movement driven by a deep disillusionment with politics. Its members are the crazy voters, the ones who view the low standards of leadership, the lack of government responsiveness, and the failure of Congress to do anything meaningful, and say "Enough is enough."
Right now, these voters represent a minority, but they shouldn't. In April 80% of Americans disapproved of how Congress was handling its job. Americans identify the government as our greatest national problem. Party affiliation has been in decline since 2008, and public approval of both parties is below 40% for the first time ever.
Polls show time and again that a majority of Americans are deeply dissatisfied with politics, but have lost faith in their own power to make a difference. It is the belief that we can do better, and the confidence to make that a reality, that sets this movement apart.
To effect the change we wish to see -- be it election reform, more independent candidates, a better functioning Congress, etc. -- we need to reawaken the self-confidence of the American voter and invigorate the calling of American democracy. Americans want change. What we need now is an army of agitators to show that change is possible.
That our political system is dysfunctional does not need to be overstated. The latest implosion over the Trans-Pacific Partnership demonstrates that enough, and a litany of polls and statistics reinforce the failures of Congress and the shared responsibility of both parties.
Yet when Americans decide to vote their minds and break from expectations, they are derided as crazy and denounced for refusing to conform to one side.
We have a different opinion. In a political system aching for change, it is the voters who disrupt, who break the status quo, that we need the most. They are the ones who see the problems endemic in politics and are willing to demand better.
So rather than deride them, we should celebrate the Crazy Voters, those of you crazy enough to make a difference.
Former Centrist Project Voice endorsed candidate Greg Orman has released an op-ed, calling for Independent presidential campaigns, and the reforms that could make them happen.
"The status quo is oftentimes very difficult to change, and those with something to lose are keenly aware of what’s at stake. But ask yourself a question: in a country where 43% of the people are politically independent, should candidates automatically feel like they need to be funneled into one party or the other to have a voice?"
You can read the full article here.
Greg Orman ran for Senate in Kansas in 2014, shocking politicos across the nation by his strong campaign in a two way race against incumbent Republican Pat Roberts.
This week there was considerable partisan fighting in Congress. Driven on by partisan ideologues within its numbers, one party vowed to hold up a key bill until other legislative items were addressed. A Senator, who had spent months crafting the bipartisan language of this bill, denounced it to the applause of his colleagues. While the party in support of the bill called for their opponents to act in the best interest of the nation, the vote failed on the Senate floor.
You would be forgiven for thinking that it was the Republican party in opposition to this bill, but in actuality it was the Democrats, led by Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Harry Reid (D-NV), who orchestrated the party revolt. It was Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) who denounced his own bill, while House Majority Leader John Boehner who called for the Democrats to act in the best interest of the nation.