What My Platform Would Be, Were I To Run For Office Today

No, I’m not running for office today. But, I figure now that the US has elected Donald Trump as President, anything is possible. So might as well get prepared, right?

Image courtesy of inspirobot.me

First and foremost, I am calling a truce between Liberals and Conservatives. Not that I have the power to do that (ha!), but I personally am making peace with both. I am going to seek out data and perspectives from all sides of each issue. I am going to engage in civil discourse with whoever has a stake in the outcomes of the decisions I make in my position, even if their discourse with me is not civil. Our society, indeed every society, needs people of both liberal and conservative persuasion. I intend to include perspectives of all orientations in the governing process. I understand, as you are reading this, that you’re thinking “but _____________ don’t use real data and they manipulate the truth!” That’s exactly what they think of your side as well. Effective government needs to address the concerns of all sides, and to do that one must engage. I cannot and will not stand at a distance and say that they aren’t to be trusted. There are legitimate reasons that each side is so animated about their perspectives. Please also remember that when I say I will engage with all sides, that means that I will also engage with yours. I’m sure that my position of being neutral will attract attacks from both sides, we all know that neither side likes what is not their own. I am prepared for that. If one is unwilling to stick by principles when they become difficult and inconvenient, then there is no point in having principles at all.

Education: I think our education system is the most pressing concern in our country today. If you’re reading this and saying “No! It’s the economy!” My view is that the biggest factor in the state of our economy is our broken education system. We, as a country, need to be encouraging innovation in methods throughout our education system, and we need to develop a system to promote the most effective strategies and tactics nationwide. We also need to review what exactly we want to be teaching our children. Is our curriculum current? Is it even relevant? These questions we need answers to – and we need the average person on the street to be engaged in this process, not just educators. The entire country has a stake in our education system, and our entire country needs to understand what is going on inside of it and how it works. We need to look at the structure of the entire school day. We need to consider yearly internships, arranged by the school, starting in the first year of high school. We need a nationwide review of our education system, from the ground up. We should be including the feedback of teachers, students, parents, and community members. We need to commission rigorous tests (aka; scientific studies) of all the fundamental aspects of the school experience to determine their effectiveness. However we also need to trust the voices of educators. We can look to other country’s systems for inspiration. The old system of American education no longer works, it is time for us to do the work to craft a new system. Motivated actors (private schools, charter schools, etc), have their place, and they can be included as much as they participate. But our public schools must be the class of the world.

-Education Funding: Every public school in the US must be funded equally, with adjustments for population and cost of living. We must do everything to ensure that the quality of education one receives at schools in poor inner city neighborhoods and in remote tribal areas is equal to that of the best schools in the country.

-Education for Adults: Let’s be honest, 16-18 year olds in our country today are probably not in the best position to determine what profession or professions they will be working in for the rest of their lives. We need to modify our education system to remove the boundaries for adults with careers, including (and especially) grants and programs to fully support people who are transitioning out of failing companies and industries without totally decimating their life savings and completely disrupting their lives.

Economy: The engine of our economy is the middle class. It is no wonder that the majority of the country has not experienced much of a benefit from the so-called recovery from the 2008 crash: the middle class is assailed on all sides. We must combine policies and practices that protect the middle class and bolster their ability to continue to thrive financially. This includes strengthening and enforcing consumer protections, ensuring that everyone has access to affordable healthcare (even when starting their own business), reducing the cost of higher education, ensuring that the best interests of employees are being watched out for and protected (via unions or other mechanisms), making sure childcare is available and affordable, and ensuring a minimum level of financial literacy nationwide. This also includes testing ways to get people from low-paying jobs into good paying jobs, especially out of low paying jobs that still require people to be on government assistance to get by.

Democracy: We need to strengthen our commitment to democratic practices throughout the country and the world, even if it harms our short term interests. This means ending gerrymandering and registering every citizen to vote. This also means having polls be open 24 hours a day and/or voting day be a national holiday. If we are truly concerned about fake/illegal votes, we need to supply every citizen with a valid ID that proves that they can vote as soon as they are of age to do so – free of cost. We cannot be effectively disenfranchising people who are unable to overcome logistical hurdles to getting their vote counted. It is also time to detach our election process from dependence on two entrenched political parties.

Foreign Policy: Promoting democratic practices also means doing so worldwide. It means that we don’t prop up dictators to access a country’s resources in favor of democratic movements that may not let us use their resources. It means we don’t sell technology to undemocratic regimes that will help them repress their populations. It means favoring policy and strategy that ensures that all voices in a given country are heard, even if we don’t like all of those voices. This is what we must do if we are going to be true to the ideals that our country was founded upon. If we do not continue to honor our shared ideals, then our conflicting self interests will eventually tear us apart.

Iraq & Afghanistan: It’s time to embrace the possibility that to get out of these countries the right way, it could take as much as 40 years. It was certainly a mistake to go into Iraq, and I’m not sure of the wisdom of toppling the government in Afghanistan either. But to exit without either of them becoming despotic hellholes or descending into (more) civil war means that both countries need to have functioning democracies and established institutions. Both of those things take time, a lot of time, to truly put in place. I definitely want to get out of both places as soon as possible, but as soon as possible and responsible may be 40 years from now. That’s a big pill to swallow, we may as well start swallowing it now.

Environment: Well, we gotta talk about global warming if we’re going to talk about the environment. A lot of good scientists have concluded that our planet is warming up because of human activity. However, I’m not going to agree with, let alone advocate for, any legislation around global warming (or the environemnt in general) if I do not understand the science underpinning the legislation, if the science uses sample sizes that are too small, or the experiments have not been duplicated. I’m also going to make a point of understanding whatever critiques their are of the science. I understand that people who perform scientific experiments are prone to ego, bias, statistical & procedural errors and motivated reasoning. I also understand that their detractors are prone to the same things. We must make sure that our planet remains to be a place that we can all live. We must also understand that not protecting the environment can have terrible effects on economic concerns, just as environmental regulations can. We need to work to find a balance between the two in all circumstances.

Gun Control: To buy a gun, a person must be licensed. The licensing process needs to include extensive gun safety training. How to shoot safely, how to clean and maintain a weapon, when guns are appropriate to use and not, an understanding that in most circumstances guns escalate problems instead of resolving them, and safe gun storage. We must emphasize safety and responsibility with all licensed gun owners. Licensed gun owners must be mentally sound and not be violent criminals. I understand that the NRA argues that any gun regulation is a slippery slope to take away everyone’s guns. They are literally just fear-mongering because that is what they are paid to do by the gun industry. There is huge support for reasonable gun control, we need to change our gun legislation to match that support. Oh, and with all gun training we must address the fact that 60% of gun deaths in the US are suicides.

Healthcare: Quality healthcare needs to be accessible and affordable for every US citizen. I view Obamacare as the first step among many between the privatized healthcare/insurance system we used to have and a system that will eventually provide effective healthcare to our country.

Police: We need to set and enforce standards of policing nationwide. That includes ensuring that all police officers get enough support and time off so they do not get burned out and callous towards the people they serve. We must also provide extensive training to every police officer in the art of de-escalation – similar if not exactly the same as the training in the UK where the police do not carry guns. We need to end the war on drugs. Whatever laws are changed in the ending of the war on drugs also need to be retroactive, releasing people convicted of those crimes from prison. We need to end the practice of municipalities using their police forces as a source of revenue. We must also develop and improve the existing program(s) for reintegrating convicted criminals back into society, so that reintegration is relatively smooth and convicts are not released into the same sort of environments that led to their committing crimes in the first place. Police must also receive extensive training on the political, cultural, racial, and economic tensions within their area and how they affect their job as police. Police in our country must also be protectors of our right to freedom of speech – meaning that their only role during any protest is the prevention of direct violence. People who are staging protests must be able to view the police present as peace keepers, not antagonists. The burden is on police departments to modify their behavior to fit that goal.

Immigration: A big reason that the United States has thrived over the past hundred years or so is because we have successfully integrated large numbers of immigrants into our country and our culture at large. Immigration means a larger labor pool, but it also means a larger customer pool. Larger customer pools are good for business. This is a process that must continue. It’s time to create a streamlined worker visa program, one whose application is one page long and takes no more than a month to be reviewed, vetted, and completed. No years long wait lists, no having to come to this country illegally because you can’t wait for your application to be approved to feed your family. You submit your application to come here to work, you are approved or denied in one month, and as soon as you are approved you can enter the country. Once you are here for a few years, you can start the citizenship application process.

Refugees: First off, taking in refugees is a great PR move. Want an entire nation of people to have goodwill towards you? Take in their refugees when they are at war. Obviously we need a way to weed out actual militants, but the system we have in place in this country has already been very effective at that (certain parts of the media disagree… but in this case their ignoring the facts). Also, if we really want to learn how we need to be responding to the situations in these war torn countries, we need to be debreifing these refugees as they come to us. This is a huge source of intelligence that we are actually discouraging from coming here. Don’t expect the US to be terribly effective in these theaters until we make up for that intelligence gap.

Institutional Effectiveness: I have saved this one for last, because it has the most boring name. But it may be the second most important thing on this list behind education (well, third if you count the next entry). Every institution and agency that is organized under our government must be run well. That means staffed accordingly, having clear goals, and clearly knowing when they are meeting their goals or not. It means cutting wait times for the people who are serviced by these agencies, reducing paperwork, reducing red tape, and streamlining processes. It means making sure our employees are satisfied in their work and are compensated accordingly – because employees who consistently meet those two objectives consistently provide excellent customer service. The people who serve our country men and women must be providing good customer service. If we deem that it is too expensive to do what we do well, then maybe it is time to cut some services. But that is not a decision to be rushed into.

Oh, and we must negate the effect of big money on our elections. Easier said than done, I know. I’m open to ideas on this one.

This is a statement of priorities and principles, not how they are going to be acheived. Basically every politician makes promises, then get in office and discover that the realities that they are facing make their promises untenable. I’m not going to run that treadmill. I cannot say that I would attempt to make this all happen at once. These priorities do need to be balanced with fiscal needs and organizational needs wherever I serve.

I would love your feedback

It’s time to put a black dog to sleep

Blogging has opened up a new well of anxiety for me. It’s time I addressed it. I wasn’t originally planning on this blog being personal – but this is what I have to write so I may as well write it.

Let me give you some of the backstory of why this feels the way it does for me.

I have always loved to write. I have been writing my entire life. The sweet spot, as I think of it, of communication in general is when what you’re communicating resonates with the audience and the speaker or writer at the same time – and I love to hit that spot.

During my sophomore year of high school I needed a change. I was really unsatisfied with my high school experience at that point. So when I found the opportunity to take college courses held at Stanford during the summer on things I really cared about (Comparative Politics and Rhetoric, right up my alley), I jumped at the chance.

I loved it. It opened my eyes to a lot, I met a lot of people, and made a life long friend. And, I didn’t do as well on the essays in my courses as I wanted to.

When I came back to school in the fall, I was ready to take on the world. I signed up for Honors English (because I wanted to improve my writing) and AP History. I became an editor for the school paper. I tried out for the school play. I volunteered for student government.

I did well at it all… except Honors English. I could not get good grades on the essays. In fact, I was getting the worst grades of my life. Worst of all, was I didn’t know why. Nothing my teacher said about the grades I was getting made sense to me.

I failed Honors English that first semester, while getting straight A’s in all my other classes. While co-editing the student paper and writing a bunch of articles for it, performing in the school play, and volunteering for the bond campaign to raise money to upgrade the school facilities. I failed the next semester too. I never understood why my teacher gave me the grades he did. I never understood what was missing from my writing.

It was he first time, maybe the only time, that I wanted to improve something about myself and wasn’t able to do it. I had failed plenty of times at plenty of things, but before I had always learned something from the failure. This time I learned nothing. It has haunted me ever since. It didn’t matter that I later had a regular column in the local newspaper, or that I had a handful of poems published each year in the school poetry publication. Or that people told me my whole life that I was a good writer. I always felt that there was something missing. I could never shake the feeling that there was just something that I didn’t get.

Now, whenever I go to write for my blog, I feel this feeling again. Time has not healed this wound. I found myself today in a milieu of emotions. I have so much to write – I’m not even close to writing all the blogs I wanted to write before I started this blog, yet alone the ones I’ve thought of after – yet I found myself questioning stuff I’m very clear I want to say. I found myself doubting my ability to write anything well. I found myself… wanting to give up.

Now you can see what I do when I have a feeling that I can’t resolve myself. This is how I confront it, let it wash over me, and move past it. By writing about it. This is why I must keep writing.

That, and I have a lot to say. Thank you all for reading.