Category Archives: Stuff About Me

So, What Now?

The Aftermath

I have many friends who are terrified at the results of this election, and I have a similar number who believe that this is just what our country needs. As for me, I just recall a Facebook post I made in 2009:


Now, as then, this is not to be taken literally. Obama was different from George W. Bush, and Trump is very different from Obama–but if you think the President is the country’s boss, you’re missing a big part of the picture. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but none of those men were independent. And if you think Trump is independent, I have two questions for you:

  1. Why did he have a Donate button on his campaign website from Day One?
  2. Who took away his Twitter access just before the election?

Almost no one is truly independent: Someone has some control over you, whether it’s your boss, your family, your parole officer, or your campaign donors. If you are independent, it usually means you are alone, which usually isn’t a good thing. Senator McConnell has already made it clear that he’s going to oppose Trump on his term limits pledge and likely on his infrastructure plans, and it’s pretty clear that Speaker Ryan has a pretty low opinion of the President-elect. So Trump is either going to give up some control, or he’s going to get next-to-nothing accomplished.

My point with this is that, if you are opposed to Trump, there are plenty of potential allies out there, and many of them are not people you would normally consider. However, being 100% opposed to Trump’s plan is also incredibly misguided, because, despite the source, there is some really good stuff there.

His proposed ban on former White House and Congressional officials becoming lobbyists makes sense, and the ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for campaigns is a no-brainer. I like the idea–for a while, anyway–requiring the elimination of two regulations to add a new one, because there are a ton of obsolete regulations out there and making Congress dig them up is a worthwhile use of their time. Democrats should support Trump’s proposals to increase infrastructure and veterans spending, because it’s similar to what they have been trying to do for years. His Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act doesn’t go as far as it should, but it’s a significant improvement on the status quo.

Having said that, some of it is really awful. His trade and environmental policies are nauseating. Much of his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is dangerous, school vouchers will only make public schools worse, and the Wall is a horrific waste of resources.

In a bit of irony, if you look at the big picture, you need to shatter it into pieces, because the allies needed for each issue differ wildly. Trump wants to “Make America Great Again,” and on some issues, we should help him, but on many others, we should oppose him.

Action Items

1. Annoy Your Senators and Representative

I’m joking: Every elected official I have ever met is extremely interested in hearing from constituents.

As we learn the order in which these bills will start coming before Congress, we need to write and call our Senators and Representatives to oppose or support each individual bill. Always write on a single issue so that staff can organize them efficiently. If you feel strongly about an issue, get your friends to write on the same issue. Try to learn about your Senators and Representative and target the message in a way that appeals to them. Don’t write a Pro-NAFTA message to a pro-business Senator that focuses on the impact on workers: sell him on NAFTA’s positive effect on small business exports to Canada and Mexico. If he’s strongly anti-immigration, point out that NAFTA helps the Mexican economy, giving workers there less reason to want to come here. And if you need help writing something, drop me a line.

2. Know What Election Is Next

In Chattanooga, the next election is for mayor and city council in March 2017, with a filing deadline in mid-December. I don’t consider myself an executive, so I am not interested in running for mayor–or president–and my personal interest is in national and international politics, so I do not think I would be a good choice for city council. Some of you might be interested in those races. Now that I have been through the process, if you need help getting started, let me know.

3. Learn Something Every Day

If you don’t understand an issue, research it. Figure out what other issues are connected to it. Find an expert and ask questions.

4. Teach Something Every Day

You know something that someone else doesn’t. Find a student and teach them. For me, it’s easy: I have my daughter. But the reason I say this is the same reason why I told my daughter’s teacher to use her as an assistant: You will get deeper knowledge of a subject through teaching it to someone else. Writing this blog forces me to break down my ideas into parts people can easily digest.

5. Do Something Positive For Yourself

And no, this isn’t about greed or consumption. Don’t go to Kay Jewelers and buy yourself a tennis bracelet. Get the checkup you’ve put off for two years, and get your flu shot while you are there. Exercise. Clean your bathroom. Organize your photos. Accomplish something.

6. Do Something Positive For Someone Else

Be a shoulder to cry on. Open a door for the mom with her stroller. Compliment someone. Help a friend with a project.

7. Do Something Positive For The World

Pick up the piece of litter instead of stepping around it. Figure out which products you use harm the environment and find alternatives and/or contact the producers and ask them what they are doing to improve things. Drive a more fuel-efficient vehicle, and walk or bike more often. Volunteer.

8. Be A Positive Voice

Try to focus on what is right with the world and talk about it. We are close to wiping out guinea worm and polio. The world population growth rate is about half what it was in the 1960s. Violent crime and property crime are down about half from what they were in the early 1990s. High school dropout rates have dropped by about a third across all age groups since 1990. Look for the good news, and look for positives in negative stories. Don’t let people get away with spreading negative misinformation.

I’m still here, and I’m not going anywhere. If you need a friend, call me (423.933.4855–if I don’t answer, leave me a voicemail or text me: I’m a nanny, and sometimes I can’t answer immediately).

Finally, if you have a job opening for a quirky, versatile, low-maintenance, genius problem solver, please drop me a line.


Leave a comment

Filed under Stuff About Me

Campaign Postmortem


I spent ten dollars on this campaign: Gas money for a candidate forum in Polk County. So I spent just over 4/10 of a cent per vote, so I’m confident that I had the best return on investment.

I am truly humbled by the fact that so many people who I have never met voted for me. I have received many private messages and emails from strangers telling me they voted for me and thanking me for running, because I was a candidate they could actually support. I wish that I could represent these people in Congress, because they deserve better than what they are getting.

I sent Chuck Fleischmann a congratulatory email late last night. He did what he had to do to win. Many people are frustrated with him, and rightfully so, but I am certain that he is acting in what he feels is the best interests of the 3rd District, and a majority of the voters agree with him. I would be happier if he voted against the GOP platform every so often.

I was embarrassed last night that I had lost to Rick Tyler, but I am not now. I am embarrassed that 5,091 voters thought that his “Make America White Again” platform was acceptable in 2016, but I am relieved that he spent thousands of dollars on his campaign and probably killed his family business to get to that number.

I thought before the election that Fleischmann would get about 65% of the vote, and I had predicted that I would get between 2,000 and 2,500 votes–although I jokingly predicted that I would get 1,984–so I’m happy with my prognostication skills.

I never thought Melody Shekari was playing to win, but was rather playing to win far down the road, like in the 2022-2024 time frame. In any case, I think she ran a pretty awful campaign–but I don’t think she was really running it. I expect we will see her running again for a while, unless the local Democratic Party decides that 29% is too low to warrant giving her another chance.

I signed up for this election in the belief that there was a chance that Fleischmann’s support of Trump would result in a backlash. I told my potential donors to wait until that happened to send me money. I do not feel comfortable wasting people’s money, and fighting a battle that is doomed to fail because the opponent is too popular and too well-funded would be a waste of money. I could fight against a million-dollar war chest if his popularity had taken a hit, but it never did.

I don’t know if I will run again. I’ll stay informed and involved and see where the wind takes me.

Thank you so much for your support, your kind words, and your belief in me. I am truly honored to have been your choice for Congress.

Leave a comment

Filed under Stuff About Me, Tennessee 3rd District

My Senior Election Consultant


The candidate with his Senior Election Consultant (Yeah, I’m talking about myself in the third person. Sorry, it won’t happen again.)

I said at the beginning of this campaign that I wouldn’t use my daughter for campaign purposes. I think it’s a bit slimy when a candidate puts underage kids in their advertisements, and I think it opens them to media criticism, or, even worse, people from the public poking fun at them. I decided to wait until the campaign was over before talking about her. (Yes, I know that technically I could be out campaigning trying to scrounge up some last minute votes by stalking a polling place, but that’s not happening. Traditionally, campaigning stops when voting starts, and I happen to think that’s a pretty good tradition.)

I’m not going to resort to the tired old trope and say that I ran for Congress because I wanted a better world for her, because, frankly, it isn’t true. There are many other things I could have done that would have been much better for that. I ran because I wanted to try to make people think, and if I can get them to think, then maybe the world will be a little better for everyone. Zari already thinks, so she has a pretty good head start.

I have discussed almost everything about my campaign and the presidential campaign with Zari. As I said in my November Election Analysis, I hadn’t decided whether to vote for Clinton, Johnson, or de la Fuente, and that it was likely going to be a situational vote depending on the polls. What I didn’t count on was that no one would conduct a public poll in Tennessee after October 4, so I didn’t have fresh data on the election. This morning, before I kept her out of school so she could join me at the polls, I broke down my arguments for and against each of them. Clinton: I agree with most of the Democratic Platform, but I hate her connections with Goldman Sachs, who were largely responsible for the 2008 meltdown; I don’t like the two-party system, and I feel that a vote for her is a vote for maintaining it; and I hate that she lies about having evolved on some of her positions. Johnson: I like the idea of small government, but his isolationism on trade and military issues really concerns me. de la Fuente: Seems like a pretty reasonable pro-business moderate Democrat running under the Reform banner, but his positions are all “what if?” questions.

She thought about it for a bit, then gave me the mildest suggestion ever, which I took. “[CANDIDATE] doesn’t seem so bad, I guess.” That’s almost exactly how I feel about all of them, so I took her advice. I’m not happy about my vote, and I don’t want anyone to take any of what I said as an endorsement, so I’m not making my choice public. (Don’t bother asking Zari: She won’t tell you either. My campaign is leakproof.)

My points with this post:

  1. I voted.
  2. I’m not happy about it.
  3. My daughter is great.
  4. I took my own advice and listened to people.
  5. If you haven’t, get out there and vote.

For everyone out there, thanks for reading, thanks for your comments, and thanks for your support. I’m going to keep this blog going for a while, because I’m sure I’ll have some postmortem comments. I don’t know if I will try this again in two years. I’ve had a few people ask me that, but I have said for a while that one thing this campaign gives me is something to say to the people who for years have asked me why I don’t run for office: “I did.”

Finally, I’m going to be at Buffalo Wild Wings on 153 tonight at 7:00 for my Defeat Party. Come out and say hi.

Thanks for everything. I appreciate all the support.

Leave a comment

Filed under Stuff About Me

On Parenting, or How I Work

For the past three years I have worked during the day as a nanny, while doing eCommerce consulting at night and on weekends. My daughter is nine-and-a-half, so I’ve been a dad for a while now. I am hardly an unbiased observer, but I think my daughter has turned out pretty well. I know some of it is due to her being naturally calm–she slept through the night the first night and only cried when something was actually wrong (unlike me, who my mother assures me was a horrible baby)–but I like to think that I’ve also done a few things right.

I am not trying to tell anyone else how to raise their kids, because my initial approach is pretty simple. What I did was think and observe. I learned about the family members and thought about what problems they have. For example, my ex has pretty severe motion sickness. Once I figured out what issues might arise later, I developed a plan to prevent or solve the problems. With my daughter, if I was walking with her–and not trying to put her to sleep–I would spin, wobble, or otherwise move in an exaggerated manner to get her accustomed to motion. I would carry her upside down or at odd angles regularly. People often looked at me like I was insane (well, I get that quite often regardless). However…


States my daughter has visited. We drove to all except California, Idaho, and Texas.

We take long road trips. The only time she gets carsick is if she tries to read on winding roads. Would she have had motion sickness if I hadn’t spun her around as a baby all the time? I don’t know, but it’s possible that what I did prevented it.

From long before she was born, I’ve been focused on being a good father. We read the first six Harry Potter books to her before she was born–probably 80% of the time I did the reading, as it’s significantly easier for the non-pregnant parent to be well-rested. I was fortunate to have a job that allowed me to bring my daughter to work with me, so I was the primary caregiver. (This isn’t to say anything against my ex: She had a higher income than I did, so she contributed her fair share, just the reverse of the “traditional” American family.)

We decided that when she turned two, we would send her to preschool. We had two main requirements:

  1. It was preschool, not daycare.
  2. It wasn’t religious, because we wanted to handle religious education ourselves.

We found a real gem, which, due to changes in Tennessee state funding rules, closed shortly after we left, although the original location is still open in Downtown Chattanooga. Siskin Early Learning Center specializes in educating children with special needs and developmental disabilities, but they do this by teaching them with typically developing children. As such, from an early age my daughter was exposed to children of a very wide range of abilities and backgrounds. She learned that kids sometimes can’t help acting out, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t play with them. She figured out how to teach her friends how to do things and developed incredible patience.

I think that far too often people segregate themselves, because they prefer to be with people who are like them. I am strange in that I mostly don’t look for people who are like me, because in my experience I have more fun and learn more when I associate with people who are not like me. I am really happy that because of her preschool, my daughter makes friends with just about anyone. In a discussion this past week–we had plenty of time due to her being home sick with pneumonia–she explained her criteria for her best friends. She doesn’t like hanging out with kids who talk about the same things, do the same things, and act the same way all the time. She seeks out the adventurous kids.

I do have a few rules of parenting. Your mileage may vary:

1. Don’t lie to your kids.

This may seem simple, but most parents lie to their kids. Exhibit A: Santa Claus.

Yeah, I know. I deprived my daughter of the mystery and joy of Christmas. Bah, humbug. She learned that people who love her gave her presents instead of giving credit to a mythical fat elf. But, more importantly, she didn’t lose faith in me when I had to explain that Santa wasn’t real. If I tell her something, she believes it–or at least she believes that I believe it, since I have taught her that I sometimes make mistakes.

Now, not lying to your kids doesn’t mean telling them everything. It has often been tough to tell her “I will explain it when you are older,” because I know that she doesn’t have the background to understand some things. I do tell her far more than most parents would, because I don’t believe in hiding the fact that the world is sometimes evil from her.

2. Don’t stick to a rigid schedule.

I have seen too many kids–and parents–get very anxious when their schedules are disrupted. We’ve had a running joke for about seven years that my daughter’s bed time is 8:30. We wave to it as it passes. Dinner can be at 5:00, or dinner can be at 9:00. Sometimes we get up at 1:00 a.m. to go for a stargazing drive. Yes, even on a school night.

What I have now is a very adaptable kid. If something unexpected happens, she shrugs it off and moves on. She doesn’t panic or break down in tears. We pick up the pieces and move forward. (Now, I get that some kids need consistency and structure. I have a nephew on the autism spectrum who sometimes doesn’t do well when things don’t go according to plan, but I think that for most neurotypical kids, adaptability is a positive trait.)

3. Negotiate

Yes, sometimes I will say “Because I said so,” but that’s rare. I have raised a little negotiator, because I feel that kids do better when they think they have some control over their lives.

“Dad, can I have some cookies?”

“You may have two.”




Now, I started that negotiation knowing that she was going to end up with three cookies, but she felt like she got something extra–and she did, but I made her work for it.

There was one time in preschool where one of her friends asked his mom if he could stay fifteen more minutes. His mom picked him up and carried him out. My daughter came up to me and said, “He should have asked for two more minutes.” At age four she knew that if you make an outrageous request, the other side may just shut down the negotiation entirely.

I almost never tell her that it’s time to leave; instead, I will tell her that we need to leave in X minutes. That does two things:

  1. It gives her a chance to wrap things up.
  2. It gives her an opportunity to negotiate–and if she has a good reason for a few extra minutes, I’ll go along with it.

As such, her complaints when leaving are minimal, and never the complete meltdowns I’ve seen from other kids.

4. Diaper changing is surgery.

Prepare the surgical area, get your instruments ready, then wheel in the patient.

Unfold the diaper. Lay out the expected number of wipes plus one. Take the cap off the ointment, if needed. If a wardrobe change is needed, have the clothes laid out. Don’t try to do all these things while the baby is screaming on the changing table: It just makes a bad situation worse.

5. Don’t let other people make your kid afraid.

I am the father of a Free Range Kid. I don’t insist on keeping my eyes on her at all times when we are in public. I actively encouraged her to talk to strangers. (She knew not to go off alone with strangers and to ask me about anything really out of the ordinary.)

A few times at playgrounds, other busy-body parents told my daughter not to do something, usually involving climbing on something they thought was dangerous. Once she ran to me crying as a result. My response was consistent: “Go, right now, and climb what she told you not to climb.” While she did this, I stared down the other parent. Now, was what she was doing completely safe? Of course not–but nothing ever is. I taught her how to climb, and I taught her how to fall, and she was always pretty good about not going above her abilities.

A couple of times, she’s wandered away from me in a crowded place. For example, she went to look at a toy in the Winnie the Pooh shop in Disney World. Before I even knew she was gone, she had found an employee–she knew to look for people with badges–and they tracked me down. As a rule, 99%+ of strangers will help a kid. Make sure your kid knows that.

Now, if you take all these rules and tweak them just a bit, you get:

0. Embrace diversity, and treat people with respect.

  1. Don’t lie.
  2. Be adaptable.
  3. Negotiate.
  4. Prepare for when shit happens.
  5. Don’t let other people make you afraid.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and don’t forget to vote. For me, preferably, but at least for whomever you think is the best person for the job.

Leave a comment

Filed under Stuff About Me

Ten Reasons You Shouldn’t Vote For Me

Every other candidate tells you why you should vote for them. I’m weird: I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t. Too many candidates are afraid that if you find out their weaknesses or where they aren’t “normal” you won’t want to vote for them. I think the opposite: I want to get my differences and oddities out in the open, because I think you will relate to me better if you know me better.

1. I’m not terribly patriotic.

I am patriotic, don’t get me wrong. I like being an American, and I approve of most of what America does and I agree with much of what America represents, but I am not a “My country, right or wrong”-type of person. I don’t think that the United States of America is always the best country in the world. I don’t understand the need many Americans have with having children in school say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning starting in kindergarten, when most kids that age don’t understand what they are saying or even how important a pledge is. (I also don’t understand the need to repeat it every day: Does it expire?) I’m not sure I own an American flag, much less have one on display. (I had a European friend visit my house while touring the country. He said my house was the only one without a large American flag on display.)

Having said this, I want the U.S. to be the best country in the world. I think governments play important roles in improving the standards of living of their peoples, and our government has a critical role to play in areas such as education, the economy, and health care. I really want to always be proud of my country, but I see too many problems for that to happen.

2. I have failed. Often.

People are attracted to successful people, and I have had my share of successes. I have had many failures. I can’t seem to keep a relationship going for much more than six years. I had a really difficult time in college calculus, and I wasn’t very good in high school biology. I was an incompetent recruiter. Despite three years of golf lessons, I cannot drive a golf ball in anything approaching a straight line. My fashion sense is bad enough that my daughter once asked me if I even knew anyone with a sense of style.

3. My desire for fairness sometimes overrides self-interest.

I understand that part of a Representative’s job is to promote the interests of the district, but I will have a difficult time doing that in situations where there is a question of fairness. Having studied negotiations for many years, I am not a fan of win-lose scenarios where my side winning requires another side losing. I try to turn situations into win-win outcomes, where all sides get something they want out of a deal. In situations where I can help the 3rd District get government resources in a fair manner, I will push as hard as anyone, but I’m not going to be inclined to take resources from another district that really needs it. (Now, if that other district is already getting more than its fair share of help all bets are off.)

4. My mind will change.

I try to be very rational, and I gather information to the point of overload. Because of this, sometimes I will uncover a missing piece of a puzzle that completely changes my mind on an issue. For example, I was discussing a ballot measure in another state. I had read the measure–not what was on the ballot, but the full text of the measure–and I thought that it seemed reasonable. One of the other people in the discussion pointed out that the measure omitted an important safeguard, which could cause well-meaning people to be punished for acting in a responsible manner. As a result, I changed my position. In Congress, this would result in me introducing an amendment, but it might result in me voting against some bills that seem good on the surface, but where I see significant unintended consequences.

5. I am not a fan of tradition in government.

I am a fan of the USC Trojans, and I try to go to USC sporting events when they play within 500 miles of Chattanooga. One thing I really like about USC is the tradition. USC football doesn’t put names on the uniforms–they are the only school to have never put names on uniforms–and I like that tradition, because I think it puts the focus on the team over the individual. I like that USC has, mostly, the same uniforms that they had when I was there. The home field is an old stadium with a grass field, and a large marching band provides the music. I like that they play Notre Dame every year, and it bothers me that Notre Dame is now playing on field turf, blasts Ozzy over loudspeakers, changes its uniforms regularly, and moves the USC game to a night game because that’s how Comcast (NBC) wants it. I don’t like the World Series ending in November, night baseball at Wrigley, interleague regular season play, or multiple rounds of playoffs before the World Series. In sports, tradition matters.

In government, tradition is often used as an excuse to give one group preferential treatment. Conservatives use “Traditional marriage” to deny rights to LGBTQ people. The tradition of having elections on Tuesdays suppresses voter turnout. English isn’t the official language of the U.S. and Christianity isn’t the official religion, but lawmakers often legislate like they are, often as an excuse to deny rights to heavily restrict immigration or to base laws on their religious traditions while almost simultaneously screaming about Sharia. Traditions should be judged on their merit, and not simply maintained just because “this is the way we have always done things.” Traditions in education often hinder innovation, such as looping, where students get the same teacher for two years instead of one.

6. I will usually listen to people who disagree with me more than people who agree with me.

I don’t like being wrong, and I have found that the best way for me to figure out if I’m about to do something stupid is to have someone who thinks I’m wrong to try to convince me that I am. They will often do a better job of finding the flaws in my arguments than those who agree with me. In the end, I find that I make better decisions by listening to dissenting arguments than surrounding myself with yes-men.

7. I’m not from Chattanooga.

I moved here after my first divorce in 1996, then left from 2000 to 2003. I have lived in Chattanooga longer than I have lived anywhere else. I think that because I have lived other places I sometimes have a better perspective on what works and what doesn’t work here, but I’m not completely culturally integrated with Chattanooga. I have joked for years that I will move away the first time I catch myself saying “Y’all,” not because I have anything against it for others, but because I like that I speak pretty formally. It’s similar to my feelings on gun ownership: I fully support the right of responsible people to own and use guns, but I don’t particularly care to own one myself.

Is being a native better than being here by choice? I honestly don’t know, but some people prefer natives.

8. I prefer to make decisions based on verifiable information rather than gut feelings.

I have been a fan of science for as long as I can remember. Until I got my first pair of glasses, my dream was to be an astronaut, at which time I changed to wanting to build spacecraft instead. (I reluctantly gave up on that when I realized that I really wasn’t very good at advanced math.) Conversely, when I have made important decisions based on instinct rather than information, I have often made bad decisions. I know that, on almost every subject, there’s someone out there who knows more than I do, and they can point me to the best information on all sides of a debate.

For one example, due to twenty-four hour news channels and easy access to information online, most people think that crime is much worse today than it used to be. The actual evidence, however, shows the exact opposite: Violent and property crime has dropped by about half in the past twenty-five years. If you trust your gut, you might think that we need harsher laws, penalties, and much more law enforcement on the streets. If you look at the research, you might learn that the drop in crime is not really affected by any of that, but rather by other social and environmental factors.

9. I am not easy to compartmentalize.

Unlike Chuck Fleischmann and Melody Shekari, I am not a party loyalist. My views are my own–literally. If you agree with all of my views, you are probably crazy, because I am certain some of my views are wrong–I just wish I knew which ones. So, if you agree with the Republican or Democratic platforms in their entirety, then you should vote for Chuck or Melody. I won’t ever vote for or against a bill based on its title, author, or sponsors. Whenever possible, I will read the bill in its entirety. If that’s not possible because of time constraints, I’ll have my staff split it up and read and summarize it for me. If that’s not possible, I won’t vote for it. I’m not willing to blindly support anything.

10. I have behaved inappropriately.

In sixth grade, I snapped a classmate’s bra strap. I was a frequent underage drinker in college. I’ve told racist, homophobic, and sexist jokes and done racist, homophobic, and sexist things. I made spending money in college by betting on tape-delayed sporting events. I almost always drive five miles per hour over the speed limit. I helped get someone fired in an attempt to get their job. (I was desperate, and I didn’t get the job.) I’ve said bad things about other people because of beliefs I didn’t like, and I’ve said offensive things about their beliefs.

I like to think that I’ve learned from these mistakes, and I have apologized when possible. I do my best to treat everyone with respect, even when I disagree with them and especially when they don’t respect me. But I also know that I’m not perfect, and I am going to make mistakes.

So, those are ten very good reasons to not vote for me. I hope that you find my honesty, desire to improve myself, and thoughtfulness to be sufficient reasons to vote for me, but if they aren’t, I get that too. No candidate is, or should be, right for everyone.

Thanks for reading.


Filed under Stuff About Me

Preparing For Life After November 8

It is nineteen days until the election. I am confident that most of you are like me and cannot wait for it to be over. I am almost overwhelmed by the anger, shouting, name-calling, antagonizing, and just plain nastiness.

Because my standard operating mode is that of problem solver, I started thinking about this question:

What can we do after the election to bring the country back together?

Michelle Obama hugs George W. Bush

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

I have a few ideas. Let me know what you think.

1. Take down your signs and remove your stickers soon after the election is over.

I know, I know: You want people to know either that you were on the winning side or that you voted against the winner, but part of what you are doing is continuing the division that has become so acrimonious.

Instead, take down the signs, peel off the stickers, and put away your buttons so you can sell them on eBay in twenty years.

2. Listen to the other side and ask questions calmly.

(It wouldn’t hurt to do this now.)

I know, you don’t get it. After all of the evil things that [TRUMP/CLINTON] has done, how could anyone have voted for [CLINTON/TRUMP]? Well, it turns out that there are many reasons for people to vote the way they did. You may not think that they were good reasons, but that’s not as important as the fact that your friend did think that they were good reasons.

In my case, my problem with most voters falls into one of three categories:

  1. They voted for the candidate from their party, very often because that was the party their parents supported.
  2. They voted based on the press coverage from their favorite news source (and yes, it is almost always one source).
  3. They voted because they agreed with the candidate on one or two key issues.

So, when I am discussing politics with someone who disagrees with me on a candidate, my first mission is to figure out which of the three categories they fit. If I learn that they are strictly a party loyalist, I start by talking about which of the party’s policies I like–and yes, every rational person should be able to find something likable in each party’s platform–to show them that I’m not completely against them. Once I get past that, I move on to some issues where I have minor disagreements and see if I can persuade them that my position isn’t unreasonable. (I don’t try to convince them I’m right, just that I’m not irrational.) If I can find positions where they disagree with their chosen party, then I might point out that the other side or a third party more closely reflects their views on that. The important thing here is to move from red vs. blue to pink vs. periwinkle.

If the problem is that they are single sourcing, I may find an example where an article has an obvious bias. For example, a Breitbart article today had a misleading headline that greatly exaggerated the number of late-term abortions. The data in the article itself wasn’t inaccurate, but calling 21-week fetuses “fully developed” is a gross misrepresentation that panders to pro-life readers. Now, Breitbart is particularly bad at this sort of thing, but there are sources on the left that do the same sort of thing. My approach with these cases is to point out the flaws in the article, while suggesting another article on the same topic from a less biased source. Unfortunately, much of the time people didn’t even read the article they posted, so they certainly aren’t going to read the article I suggested in reply, so I also try to succinctly paraphrase. Sometimes I even break through.

The way I approach single-issue voters is to try to show them that their single issue is never just that issue. My brain is weird in that I seek connections between issues. The textbook example here is the famous Freakonomics link between legalizing abortion and declines in violent crime. In my experience, there are very few truly independent issues, and those issues are rarely the ones that inspire major disagreements. I approach single-issue voters in a similar manner to party line voters: I point out the unintended consequences of their positions, not to persuade them to change their mind, but perhaps to change the rigor of their stance. Maybe I can convince the person who wants to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. that this is a bad idea because it might cause majority Muslim countries to ban Americans or American products.

But the important thing is to listen and discuss, politely and with understanding. There are some people with whom I disagree on many issues, many of whom I respect deeply, because our disagreement comes from a difference in core beliefs rather than a lack of understanding of the issues. For example, I am pretty cynical when it comes to thinking that people, in general, act more often out of selfishness than altruism, but I respect people who have a more positive view of humanity and make decisions accordingly.

3. Expand your circle of friends.

I’m pretty weird in that my circle of friends is pretty ridiculously diverse. I have friends who are millionaires, and I have friends who are on public assistance. I have friends of about a dozen religions and no religion. The ethnic diversity of my friends rivals the United Nations. I have friends in New York and Los Angeles, friends in Iowa, Nebraska, and Alaska, and friends in Australia, Norway, Israel, and India.

Locally, I’m a liberal. Nationally, I’m a moderate. Globally, I’m a conservative.

I remember reading a quote from a New York columnist who couldn’t comprehend how George W. Bush won the 2000 election, because she didn’t know a single person who voted for him. Likewise, I have some rural friends who can’t understand how Obama won, since everyone they know voted for McCain and Romney. In contrast, I have friends who are passionate about Trump, Clinton, Johnson, and Stein–and I understand why all of them are voting the way they are voting. It’s probably a big part of the reason why I don’t particularly care for any of the candidates, because I have repeatedly heard about the evils of all of them.

More importantly, it also shows that I don’t pick my friends because of their political choices, and that I believe that deep down we really all want the same big picture goal: For all people to have a decent quality of life and the potential to succeed. We may disagree on what those things mean, but that’s less important than the underlying good we all seek.

Please try to understand that people who disagree with you aren’t disagreeing because they are evil, or because they are stupid, or because they are selfish. More likely, they disagree because they have different ideas of what a good, successful America means and what are the best ways to get there. So after the election, find common ground, make new friends, and move forward together. It will be easier if you don’t call them names today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Listening, Stuff About Me

Sorry for the Silence

Life has been a bit crazy for me, and, obviously, for the election as a whole. I had much more time during the summer, when I didn’t have quite so many school-related activities on my plate.

When I originally signed up for this campaign, my concern was that Chuck Fleischmann’s support for Trump would come back to haunt him. Despite the avalanche of negatives against Trump, this still doesn’t seem to have swayed 3rd District voters a huge amount: Trump is still leading in Tennessee by double-digits–although we will see what happens with the latest sexual assault claims. (So, Chuck, still supporting Trump?) Fleischmann’s only tweet today was to wish the Navy a happy birthday, so no change in position so far.

This week is my daughter’s fall break, and as is our tradition, we took a road trip to various National Park Service sites. On this trip we visited Fort Donelson near Nashville (site of Grant’s first major victory and a win that opened the South to Union troops), the Lewis and Clark Trail Center in Omaha, Herbert Hoover’s birthplace in West Branch, Iowa, Pullman National Monument in Chicago, Lincoln’s Home in Springfield, Illinois, and Cahokia Mounds World Heritage Site near St. Louis. I like taking trips like this with Zari, as we both learn much about the history of the U.S., and, more importantly, we learn that almost no one is all good or all evil. Herbert Hoover was unquestionably a great humanitarian, but some of his policies helped lead to the Great Depression. George Pullman was an innovative businessman–whose practices toward his workers were often abusive. (As we were leaving Pullman, Zari told me that she couldn’t decide if George Pullman was a good man or a bad man. I said, “Good. That shows you’re thinking.”)

I was supposed to attend a League of Women Voters event in Oak Ridge next Tuesday, but since Melody Shekari and I were the only ones to RSVP, they cancelled the event. I understand, but I would have liked the opportunity to interact with Oak Ridge voters. (I’m looking for another opportunity: Stay tuned.)

Last Monday, I was interviewed by the editorial board of the Chattanooga Times Free Press so they could make an informed decision about who to endorse in the election. I don’t expect their endorsement, but I think I, at least, made a good impression. I enjoyed our discussion and hope that they saw that I wasn’t a normal candidate.

As a general practice, I don’t watch debates, preferring, instead, to read transcripts, because I don’t like being swayed by the performances. I broke my rule for the second Presidential debate, because, frankly, that election is over. As of this writing, FiveThirtyEight gives Hillary Clinton an 86.9% chance to win the election, and the trend is going the wrong way for Trump. I’m not a fan of either Clinton or Trump, but I liked Clinton’s answers better than Trump’s. I was watching with a few Twitter fact-checkers going on my phone, and, according to them Trump lied or twisted things much more often than Clinton did. I was left with my impression that, while I don’t like Clinton–an opinion she could change quickly by admitting that she has changed her positions on some issues–I think Trump is reckless and dangerous. His answers on Russia and Syria showed a naivete (sorry for the lack of accents–I’m on an unfamiliar tablet) of Carterian proportions. (Jimmy Carter may be the best human being we’ve ever had as President, and has done great things as an ex-President, but his foreign policy while in office was incredibly naive.) I thought the only good answer Trump gave all night was his last answer, where he talked about Hillary’s tenacity. On the other hand, I wasn’t thrilled with Clinton’s performance. Her continual smiles of disbelief at Trump’s statements were understandable, but seemed to diminish the gravity of what he was saying.

I am still undecided. There are seven candidates on the ballot, and I’m not enamored of any of them. The candidates are:

  1. Hillary Clinton – Democrat
  2. Donald Trump – Republican
  3. Gary Johnson – Libertarian
  4. Jill Stein – Green
  5. Alyson Kennedy – Socialist
  6. Rocky de la Fuente – Reform/American Delta Party
  7. Mike Smith – Independent (Conservative)

I won’t vote for Trump (dangerous), Johnson (Libertarian isolationism is also dangerous), Stein (her anti-nuclear, anti-GMO, and pandering to anti-vaxxers–note that I didn’t say that she was an anti-vaxxer, seem to indicate that she’s too anti-science for me), Kennedy (I’m pretty free-market), or Smith (too far right for me). This leaves me with Clinton and de la Fuente. Rocky’s position pages seem to be an endless series of “What if?” questions without any actual answers–but in this case, not knowing may actually be helping him. I agree with Clinton on more than I disagree, but I have a laundry list of problems with her–the aforementioned reluctance to admit a change in a position, her extreme pro-choice stance on abortion (completely legal until birth), and I wasn’t terribly impressed with her term as Secretary of State.

I don’t see myself voting early, if for no other reason than I need to know if my vote matters. Right now, it doesn’t. If Trump is still polling with a double-digit lead here, then I may vote for Rocky as an anti-two-party system vote. If the race somehow becomes close here but looks like a landslide nationwide, I may still vote third-party. But if the race nationwide is close, I may hold my nose and vote for Clinton. I only see about a two percent chance of that happening, but I believe that Donald Trump really is that dangerous.

As usual, I welcome your comments and questions. Have a great day!


Filed under Stuff About Me, Tennessee 3rd District