Category Archives: Politics

Vote in every election like it’s a Presidential

I’m going to do something I don’t do very often, which is to talk about our parallel universes. That’s how important this is.

That’s how important the November 4th election is.

In the West Wing universe, 2014 is a Presidential election year. After two terms, President Santos will be stepping down and his successor will be elected.

In the universe of real-world America, 2014 is a midterm election year. But it’s every bit as important as a Presidential election year. Some might even say it’s more important.

Consider how much is at stake. Control of the Senate could shift to the Republicans, leading to even more gridlock than exists today. It’s very possible that Congress will accomplish even less than it did this year, if you can imagine that.

In state races across the country, the extremist conservative wave that crashed to the shore in 2010 could continue on its destructive path — or the tide could be turned by replacing Republican legislators with Democrats. From gubernatorial races to school boards, elections matter. They will determine the direction of the state and, in many instances, the country.

Look at where we’re headed. Voters are being asked to decide on some extreme amendments this election cycle, like the personhood measure in Colorado. If amendments like these pass, it will embolden other states to go to extremes. In states like Wisconsin and Michigan, voters can decide whether to kick out Republican governors who pulled a bait and switch — making promises they never intended to keep while silencing the voices of their citizens — or continue to live under leadership that’s serving special interests, not voters.

How did America get here? Because historically, Democrats don’t vote in midterms with the enthusiasm that they do in Presidential elections. They get complacent. They definitely got complacent in 2010. That can’t happen again.

As Republicans in many states do everything they can to take away voting rights — from passing onerous voter ID laws to allegedly tossing out 40,000 new voter registrations in Georgia — citizens must stand up and be counted.

Every vote matters. Your vote matters. A lot of these races are going to be close. Just a few ballots could make the decision.

Do you want to make those decisions? Or do you want to let someone else make them for you?

President Bartlet knew what he was talking about when he said, “Decisions are made by those who show up.”

Democrats need to show up for this election. That’s how we win.

The best defense against a system that’s going off the rails is to set it right again by exercising your democratic rights.

If you can vote early, do it. If you need to vote absentee, note your state’s deadlines and get on it. If you need a ride to the polls, find a way to make it happen.

Whatever you do, vote as if your life depends on it. Because in some cases, it actually might.

In the West Wing universe, Election Day will mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. There’s no reason it can’t be the same in both universes — in the best possible way.

<Image via Wikimedia.>

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It’s time to get to work — together

I can’t say I know exactly how I’d feel if the President hadn’t won re-election. Deeply disappointed, I’m sure. Heartbroken, probably. Maybe even angry.

But I do know this: I would not be taking it out on my fellow citizens.

Enough is enough. It’s time to move on. I say that to Democrats as much as I do to Republicans. No more gloating, no more blame, and for goodness’ sake no more hate and vitriol. From either side.

I’m not talking about intelligent, measured post-game analysis. It’s fine to look at what worked and what didn’t and learn from it. It’s the irrational, ugly responses that trouble me.

I freely admit that some Democrats have rubbed the other side’s nose in it too much. Let’s be gracious in victory.

But it’s the unrestrained anger I’m seeing and hearing from some Republicans that’s downright disturbing. These are actual quotes, seen online or heard in person.

“Our country is ruined. We’ll all be communists now.”

“I’m not hiring any more employees. No one can force me to give them health insurance.”

“My family’s wealth helped stimulate this economy. Why doesn’t my vote count more than the vote of some loser who doesn’t even have a job?”

“The President would never have won if all those sluts hadn’t voted with their vaginas.”

“I refuse to tip anyone ever again. I know all those people voted for the President.”

“It’s your fault that China is going to own our country now, because you voted for that guy who isn’t even an American.”

Putting aside the ignorance of these statements, the unabashed hatred and divisiveness is painful to witness. As the President has said time and time again, we aren’t always going to agree but we have to work together if we’re going to move forward.

Do these angry citizens who want to inflict more suffering on the middle class or hurl insults at others, including the President, think they’re doing our country a favor? Can’t they see that they are making the problem worse?

It's time to get to work - togetherI will fight to the bitter end to help our President achieve the goal of bipartisanship in Washington, to reach across the aisle and find ways to compromise that are fair for everyone.

Most of us want exactly the same things. Freedom. Happiness. Security. Good health and strong communities. But when ideology becomes more important than our shared humanity, we begin to lose the chance of ever finding solutions that make it possible for everyone to have these things — provided they’re willing to work for them and do their fair share.

If you’re one of the people who still wants to place blame or is still hating your neighbor who voted the other way or is still gloating over victory, it’s time to stop. Because you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Now is the time to come together as a nation, put country before party and get to work.

It’s what I plan to do. I hope you’ll join me.

 

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Speaking your mind

A lot of people have been asking me about messaging lately. I don’t mean at work — that’s nothing new. I’m talking about people who want to know how to have conversations with the people in their lives about politics and issues they care about.

Most of these people are Democrats who are frustrated by trying to respond to right-wing talking points. Although I’m not a fan of talking points as a replacement for meaningful communication, they have their place. But talking points should be an appetizer, not a main course.

Speaking your mind

That said, the reality is that we live in a world where talking points are a steady diet for many people — politicians, pundits, reporters and citizens. People swallow these morsels and think it’s the whole truth.

Of course, it’s not.

To be fair, I know many Republicans who want to have meaningful, rational conversations about the issues. I’m dating one of them, and I promise there are others. When you get to have a civilized debate with one, make the most of it.

But when that’s not the case, how can smart, motivated Democrats articulate complex issues in a world of oversimplification? How can they be heard above the din of shouting and nasty rhetoric that is so often hurled at them by people who don’t share their views?

Whether the conversation is over the dinner table, over the phone or on social media, here’s a three-step strategy for personal messaging.

1. Know Your Stuff

Speaking your mind

Many Democrats do this already, but it bears repeating. Be as well-informed as possible — and make sure your knowledge is well-rounded. Don’t just listen to the reporters you agree with and don’t just follow people on Twitter who share your views. Get your news from a variety of sources and know the key facts. For those who are eager to support the President, there’s some excellent information to be found here and here. As credible as those resources are, think for yourself. Read, watch and listen to everything you can. I know it’s time-consuming, but the more you know, the better you can concisely convey your thoughts with confidence. Facts are facts. Yes, people will give you their own set of facts — and be willing to accept that, sometimes, they may have a point. Find out where you went wrong or learn from the experience. But if you’ve done your homework, chances are much higher that you’ll be speaking the truth.

2. Keep Your Cool

A shouting match never ends well. You only succeed in alienating people. In fact, many GOP pundits are starting to turn voters off with their nasty rhetoric. Go ahead and let them. Every day, I try to live by the words of Leo McGarry: “We’re going to raise the level of public debate in this country, and let that be our legacy.” Plus, nothing stops bullies faster than seeing their tactics aren’t upsetting you. Take away their overblown sense of superiority and you’ve already made a powerful point. You don’t have to shout to be heard. Plus, you might actually get them to have a rational conversation. If not, at least you tried.

3. Make It Personal

Find a way to humanize the point you’re making. For example, the President wants to put more teachers, cops and firefighters back to work. Mitt Romney thinks we need fewer teachers, cops and firefighters. Start with facts: The President wants to create jobs, Romney wants to take away jobs. Romney said that by hiring less public sector workers he plans to put more Americans back to work. But he has yet to say how he’d do that. In fact, I have yet to hear him say specifically how he’d create any jobs. After you state the facts, personalize it. Tell the story of your brother the firefighter who lost his job or your friend the teacher who is frustrated by how large her class size has grown, making it nearly impossible to give students the individual attention they need and deserve. If the story is one of your own, so much the better. But even a hypothetical story can underscore your point.

Speaking your mindMaking it personal is key.You start with the facts and then take them out of the abstract and place them squarely in people’s real lives. The mother who can’t take her child to the doctor because they don’t have health insurance. The recent college graduate so buried in student debt that he has to work three jobs to make ends meet and pay off his loan. Think about it: The plight of a multi-millionaire or corporation having to pay higher taxes, or a factory having to install safety equipment because of regulations will never be as compelling as the family who pays their mortgage on time but still can’t afford to stay in their home, or the man who died because his workplace wasn’t safe.

While many Republicans spend their time pointing fingers and hurling insults, let’s stay focused on the messages that matter. Let’s do a better job of communicating than the other guys do. Let’s have conversations every day that help raise the level, that help amplify the President’s accomplishments and clearly outlined proposals for moving this country forward.

Chances are, we can’t outspend the other side. But I am confident we can outsmart them.

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Time to get serious

Politics are funny. They just are. But there’s a time for joking around and a time to get serious. And right now it’s time to get serious already.

Look, I’ll laugh at politics all day long. I don’t care which side of the aisle is pulling political pratfalls, I’ll poke fun. I usually avoid the obvious but, sure, I made jokes about Anthony Weiner. I’ve made jokes about John Boehner. (Those jokes all kind of come from the same grab-bag, don’t they?) And most of the GOP candidates are perpetual punchlines. Um … sorry. Oops.

Laughing about it is fine and healthy, especially if you work in politics. It also helps our economy by keeping more comedians working.

Time to Get Serious

We're funny, right?

But seriously? What’s going on in Washington, D.C., just isn’t funny anymore. Millions of Americans need jobs, or better incomes, or help with a thousand other things we simply aren’t helping them with as much as we could be. That’s nothing to laugh about.

The President has proposed The American Jobs Act (AJA) to get things moving. Yet the Republican party flat-out refuses to discuss the AJA. Won’t even talk about it, other than to say they won’t talk about it. I’ve asked plenty of people: “Why won’t they talk about it?” The only answer I’ve heard was a quote I read from John Boehner, saying the GOP is against the jobs bill because it’s “paid for with tax hikes which ‘will hurt [the] economy and put Americans out of work.’ ”

Aside from the fact that Speaker Boehner’s comment is misleading — because the tax increase would only be on the most wealthy Americans and the AJA would also be paid for with spending cuts — that simply isn’t a good enough reason to not even spend time talking about it in the House. I desperately want to write a comedy sketch where Speaker Boehner says to House Republicans, “Should we debate the American Jobs Act and tell Democrats what our concerns about it are? Nah, let’s just reaffirm our country’s motto as ‘In God We Trust’ instead.”

Sure, if I pitched that sketch it might make it on a comedy show. It’s funny. But when you realize that the House actually did put the motto before jobs in real life, it’s no laughing matter.

Neither is some of the other legislation that’s been prioritized before any discussion of the AJA. Limiting or eliminating women’s access to healthcare and birth control. Rolling back regulations that protect people and our environment. Or how about spending time meeting with Herman Cain during the first week of his alleged sex scandal instead of being on the House floor? And, to be fair, the Senate isn’t much better. For the most part, they basically keep voting on what I like to pretend they call the “We Have Our Fingers In Our Ears And Just Don’t Want To Hear About The AJA” rule.  [Update: After this was posted, the Senate and House voted in favor of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, which the President signed into law on November 21. It’s one small part of the AJA, with tweaks. A step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.]

Time to Get Serious

Haha! No, wait. Cut it out!

There’s a fine line between funny and frustrating.

Clearly, voters in the November 2011 elections were serious about making their voices heard: They are not amused.

Still, there’s much, much more to be done. It’s time to stop playing games and get to work. The President is taking every possible step. But what did the Republicans do when he introduced his legitimate “We Can’t Wait” approach to taking action? They turned it into an attack. Reince Priebus actually tweeted “#WeCantWait to make [this] a one-term president.”

I guess we should thank Priebus for making the Republican agenda clear. (And for giving us such a great name to mock.) I’m sure he thought he was being clever and funny in his tweet, but he wasn’t. It wasn’t just the President he disrespected. It was also the millions of Americans who need the help of the officials they elected.

Is everything the President and the Democrats do perfect? No, of course not. Is everything the Republicans do wrong? No, of course not. There’s both good and bad in every group and everyone. Our elected representatives are all human and imperfect, something they have in common with every one of their constituents.

But when it comes to job creation and getting the economy back on track, it’s time to stop fooling around. It’s time to get serious and get to work. The two parties have got to get together and sort this out already.

Anything else is just a joke. And one that isn’t even remotely funny to the American people.

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