Answering the Questions

If there’s anything politicians are known for, it’s finding a way not to answer the questions they have been asked. The art of spin is coming across as confident, knowledgeable, passionate, and empathetic without ever really giving a straight answer.

That’s got to change. I want to answer questions with precision. I aim to tell you exactly what I think. And that includes when what I think is, frankly, that I don’t know.

That also means getting ahead of the process. As with every election cycle, the newspapers will ask all the candidates to answer a series of standard questions. And incredibly, many of the candidates don’t reply to the requests on time.

For 2020, the Current in Carmel asked a total of eight questions. [1] Let’s start with the first, and probably most important one: Why do you want to run for office?

The best way to answer any question is to do so in waves, each one larger and more impactful than the last.

Why do I want to run for office? I believe that people like me—-non-partisan, open-minded independents—-are the people who have the best chance of doing the most good.

Why do I want to run for office? I believe the fundamental problem is not differences in policy, but that the public does not trust in the individuals and institutions who make up our government. Without trust, we are forever trapped in this endless war of fear and lies. I am running to earn your trust.

Why do I want to run for office? Because of ten words: If not now, then when? If not you, then who? This is where we are as a country and a community. We have to stop lying to each other and about each other, and the time to do so is now.

Why do I want to run for office? I am a helper. I am a listener. I am learning every day and am ready to learn more. I am a person that you can trust to tell you the truth, to ask good, fair questions, and to act and vote honorably.

Why do I want to run for office? To serve.


There are seven more questions the Current asked, which I will cover in posts to come. But I am not done answering this first one. I will be answering the question why do you want to run for Congress until the election is over.

Because if you trust that my why is the truth, then you can trust every word that I say from that point on. And that’s where we have to begin: with trust.


[1] https://www.youarecurrent.com/2020/05/01/may-2020-primary-indiana-5th-congressional-district-candidates-questions/

The Issue Behind the Issue

It’s back-to-school time as I am writing this post. But this year, it’s different, because this year we are 18 months into the pandemic. And that means we’re not entirely sure what kids and teachers and administrators should be doing.

Some are saying that because young people are very unlikely to catch COVID-19, we should be back to business as normal. Others believe we should require vaccinations for anyone who works in schools. Some people are focused on masks: making them mandatory, optional, or even not allowed.

And because of new virus variants, there is another problem. The data we have is from before these mutations. So how much is that data useful?

The issue, I think, is not properly framed. Because instead of focusing almost solely on what about COVID in schools we should devote time to what is it about schools that makes COVID a problem?

Yeah.

COVID is a problem in schools because our model for education is mass colocation. We require hundreds of otherwise unconnected people from all over to commute to the same enclosed space—every weekday, nine months out of the year.

That’s a recipe for rapid transmission of communicable diseases.

Now that we know the fundamental weakness—the issue behind the issue—we can start to explore what to do. Can we create an education system that doesn’t depend on mass colocation?

This is not easy. We all learned last year that with a camera and a screen we could sort of conduct business and sort of stay in touch with friends and family. But ask any parent or teacher: this did not do much good for kids in schools.

And even if we somehow figured out how to teach completely through screens, we have another problem: kids need in-person supervision. And most parents and guardians can’t do that because they have to work.

So the real, true challenge we face isn’t COVID. It’s that the we can’t adapt to problems like new diseases because our systems aren’t set up for this. We can’t spend time apart without nearly collapsing.

I don’t know how to address this for education in the long-term. But we do have to make difficult choices in the here and now. I know it’s frustrating. I know it’s frightening. I know it’s not the childhood we all had. But if you’re going to bring hundreds of otherwise unconnected people into the same space, we have got to choose the safest option: wear a mask, or stay home.

I don’t like this at all. But if we don’t require masks at schools, we are increasing a risk, right now, that we know exists but cannot calculate. And how we will ever make the big changes that we know are needed if we can’t handle a short-term challenge today?

This is what it means to prepare for the future. It’s to do something today that we don’t want to do because we believe it might help us to have more options in the future.

Please help. The future needs us.

Good Ideas Make For Boring News

The headlines in the Indianapolis Star at the moment I’m writing this post are about a record number of bodies in the Indianapolis morgue, a shooting on the near east side, and the story of a child predator in Carmel.

I didn’t include the links to these because you would likely click on them, because all that is hard to ignore. Those stories feel like things you need to know more about. It’s “clickbait” to use the modern term. Or if you like older expressions: “if it bleeds, it leads.”

But good news is far less common in the news. We’re likely to put off a feel-good story because it’s not as urgent. And even harder to find than good news are plain old good ideas.

There’s not anything newsworthy about an idea. In most cases, it’s not news, because it’s not new. And even if it is a good idea, people who have heard of it have often already formed an opinion. That makes it hard to have a discussion, because are already starting on different sides and plus this is nothing new anyway.

Borrrrrriiinnng.

This is at the heart of what we must change. If someone mentions an idea, we have to do something other than say “I’m for it” or “that’s a terrible idea.” We have to learn to say, “I do have an opinion, but I’m open to learning more and maybe changing my view.”

Maybe if we started doing more of that, we’d all make the news.

And maybe our politicians would have to try it as well.

Alan, Betty, and Charlie

I’m going to tell you three quick stories about three real people I have known in my life, except the names have been changed.

Alan is a guy I know who had become estranged from his identical twin brother. They had done everything together as children and even into adulthood, and then opened a small business together. But the project failed and ruined both men financially. They did not speak for nearly two decades. And then they ran into each other at at the funeral of a mutual childhood acquaintance. That’s where Alan and his twin reconnected, forgave each other, and became best friends once again.

Betty is a middle-aged woman I met who had extreme chronic pain. For her, it was debilitating and random. She might be fine for a month, and then have to take an ambulance in the middle of dinner, and be unable to work for weeks. Then, her doctor got her referred to a specialist who put her on new medication. Almost overnight, everything changed, and she has been living for years, pain-free.

Charlie was a dog in a neighborhood where I used to live. His owner kept him chained up much of the time, mostly ignoring the poor creature. Many people called animal welfare services, but the owners were doing just enough to avoid any legal consequences. Finally, the people in the house decided to move out and didn’t want to keep the dog. A neighbor adopted Charlie. Ever since then, that pup was walked, fed, and loved daily, and became a fixture on the block.


These are not meant to be inspirational stories. Not everyone who has had a falling out can rebuild their relationship. Not everyone with severe health issues will find a miracle treatment. Not every long-suffering animal will be adopted into a loving home.

But: dramatic change does happen. It happens every day. And although it may seem like our government and our Congress is doomed to be broken forever, I don’t think it is.

I think things can change. But that means we have to be ready for everything to be different.

Starting right here, with you and me.

Apathy is Reality

Most people don’t care about politics. This is an undeniable fact, but when I talk about this campaign with people who do like politics, they often get a little frustrated with me. They want me to join a political party, move to a different district, or pick their-side-and-not-the-other-side on a bunch of issues that don’t actually have exactly two sides. They want me to get into their way of thinking and doing politics.

But these political types are the exception. Most people don’t care about politics. Most people are apathetic.

The usual plea is that you should be thinking about it because it’s so important and fundamental. That politics is personal, that laws and government are hugely important. The main persuasive argument here is guilt. Or fear.

But I disagree. Politicians have not given you much reason to believe that your involvement in politics actually matters. They have been taking money, doing what the people with the money want, and being less than honest along along the way.

So it makes sense that most people don’t care about politics. And while I would love for you to find it fascinating, we aren’t there yet.

First you have to trust that a politician is actually listening. And so, here we are.

The Plan for the Campaign

This project is a longshot. Elections are usually won by the people you expect to win them: party members with tons of financial backing and good connections. But right now, politics and government feel so broken, breaking all the rules actually feels viable.

In fact, it’s starting to seem like this is the only way we’re going to get anything other than more-of-the-same.

But how? I do intend to be successful in my candidacy for Congress, and I have a three-part plan:

1. Listen, Ask Good Questions, Tell the Truth

I wrote about this once already, but there is more to say. I don’t think most people in government are doing much listening. I say this because once in a while there will be a “town hall meeting” or a “listening tour” and that gets a ton of press, but generally what you hear from elected officials are the same talking points you hear from other officials in their same party.

Nor are the questions all that intelligent. They usually seem to be more of the gotcha variety than the tell-me-more variety.

And I don’t think I need to explain much the need for politicians to actually tell the truth.

2. Talk To Everyone—Especially People Who Are Usually Ignored

Almost everyone that a politician talks to is a person who can write them a check. But that’s not most people. Maybe 1 in 20 Americans have ever donated to a political campaign. [1]

I am most interested in talking to the other nineteen. People who are poor, or who are rich and don’t care about politics. People who have questions and needs and are frankly fed up with the process.

You know, normal people. Like me and you.

3. Seek Trust, Not Money

I have no problem with money. But I do have a problem with money in politics, because the people who are spending the money are the ones writing the laws. [2]

What I really need is a currency which is far more valuable: trust. I need you to trust me. Because if you trust me, you’ll tell your friends about me. And if you and you friends trust me, I have to do something which all the money in the world can’t do.

I have to keep your trust.


That’s my plan. Questions?


[1] https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2020/jan/24/andrew-yang/what-percent-americans-donate-political-candidates/

[2] https://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/asbestos-sharia-law-model-bills-lobbyists-special-interests-influence-state-laws/

Whose Responsible for That?

Your government does lots of things. Builds roads, maintains parks, delivers mail, and inspects produce. The government also provides flood insurance, manages air traffic, funds scientific research, and monitors the weather.

The number of activities is mind boggling. But what makes it even more complicated is the organization. There are levels of government and divisions of government. You probably live in a town or city, which in turn is within a county, which is part of a state. All of the states and territories together form the entire country.

Likewise, your local municipality has departments: police, fire, public works, and so on. There may be city inspectors for electrical work and city planners figuring out where to place the next traffic signal or roundabout. Your state, too, has departments: one focused on statewide commerce, and other on statewide education, another on statewide agriculture, and so on.

And then there is the federal government which is mainly responsible for interactions among the states and with foreign nations. Except also quite a bit more, as the entire United States has a Department of Education, a Department of Transportation, a Department of Veterans Affairs, a Department of Defense, and plenty more.

This is all stuff you may be vaguely aware of, and for which you may have questions or concerns. Because one of the biggest issues with our government is understanding not just what it does, but where in the bureaucracy that work is conducted.

This is a key part of what I think it means to be a member of Congress: navigating the government for you, explaining what it does (and doesn’t do), and working with you to make changes we agree are the best.

Because we have an Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. We have an Office of Information Policy. We have an Administration for Community Living.

Right now, I don’t know much about any of these. But I will learn. I will become an expert on the government that should be working for all of us.

That’s a promise.

What Really Happened on January 6th

It’s extremely hard to turn on a TV or scroll through your news feed without coming across something about the hearings on the events of January 6th. This is the protest that became a riot at the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., and led to the deaths of five people.

You probably know the outline of this story, but I think most sources are leaving out an essential plot point. Here’s what happened:

  1. In the months leading up to the November 2020 election, President Trump repeatedly told supporters that he would “win in a landslide” and if he did not, that would be because of “widespread election fraud.” Millions believed him.
  2. These claims were largely ignored by everyone except for Trump’s supporters.
  3. President Trump was declared the loser of the election by a small margin. He vigorously reasserted his claims of fraud and was joined by the majority of Republicans in Congress.
  4. By law, January 6th following a Presidential election is the day that Congress reviews the certified results from all of the states and officially approves them. Republican members fought to overturn some of these results, while President Trump held a rally nearby urging supporters to take action and to join him in marching on the Capitol building.
  5. About a thousand people from the rally went on the Capitol. They pushed past security (which didn’t anticipate them), vandalized the building, and killed several people. Within a few hours, police and military officials secured the campus and the election was finalized.
  6. Since that time, the majority of Republican voters and officials continue to believe the election was fraudulent, and many are still fighting it. The majority of Democrats continue to ignore this claim (calling it “The Big Lie”) and are focused on investigations and accountability.

Figure out what’s not being talked about? It’s #2: about millions of people believing Trump’s predictions. What went wrong is that most everyone else didn’t take this seriously.

This is the root cause of what happened on January 6, and the cause of so many problems in American politics overall. The playbook says: “if the other side believes something that you think is nonsense, ignore them or mock them.”

But if millions of people believe something, we need to pay attention to it. Not because it’s the truth. But because it makes sense to them, and they are not alone.

This, perhaps more than anything else, is why we’re so divided. We’ve got to stop demonizing and dismissing. Instead, we have to listen, ask questions, and patiently respond.

No matter how crazy they seem. Because I guarantee you, they think you are crazy too. And if that’s the way we keep going, we’re never going to learn to work together.

Our Biggest Problem

What’s wrong in America right now? If we had one national priority more than anything else, what should it be?

I really like this question. Because while any of us can have a lot of areas of focus, at any given point one of them is in the lead. That is, you might be a parent, a spouse, a youth soccer coach, and an employee—but at each minute of each day, you are living out one of those roles more than all the rest.

What about for the country? What is our biggest problem? There are some good contenders. National defense is one. Can’t really have a country if we aren’t protecting it. Or maybe the economy, because if we all have good jobs we can do anything.

Immigration is a hot topic. As is the environment. Or maybe topics related to social equality. Or perhaps crime. And definitely, education.

All of these choices feel attractive, I think, because they fit the formula:

Of all the issues we face, _____________ is the most fundamental, because everything else depends on it.

Which makes me wonder if any of these traditional, most-important-problems-of-our-time are genuinely the most essential.

Because maybe the thing which is really weighing us down is not the questions, but the answers. Sometimes it feels like everybody already has the solutions! Spend more (or less) money, start (or stop) doing this one thing. Make this rule more strict (or more lenient.)

In short: Ban this, and allow that.

So many of us are utterly convinced that if a few simple changes were made, everything would get better.

But that is just not how the world works. Even in our personal lives, complexity is the reality.

Which is why I think the greatest problem we face is our collective lack of humility. We tend to spout off as if we have the answers, rather than stopping to figure out if we are even asking good questions.

We are in a crisis as a nation. It’s that so many of us have decided that we know best what to do in every situation.

And the answer to this destructive trend doesn’t require additional taxes, a new federal agency, or repealing a bunch of existing laws. All we have to do is one of the hardest things of all:

Stop speaking out of ignorance. And start saying more often, “I don’t know.”

Politicians, especially.

A Little Bit of Tuesday Drama

Years ago, an old girlfriend of mine went to visit her bestie, who was recovering in the hospital. “I’m going to get her a bunch of celebrity gossip magazines,” she told me. “She’s going to LOVE IT!!”

The invalid, it turns out, was not especially interested in this topic. But she appreciated the gesture and devoured the glossy rags. Because, when you’re hurting and trying to avoid reality, it is fun.

I think we all enjoy a bit of drama when it’s happening to other people and it doesn’t matter all that much. But drama in politics, well, that does come with a cost. The price is our tax dollars. And if the drama becomes sufficiently extreme, we will begin to lose our democracy.

By “drama,” of course, I mean the machinations that are designed to create controversy instead of progress. Which makes for great reality TV or those magazines you see in the checkout aisle. But not so much for good government.

Today, Tuesday July 27, is Another Dumb Day in Drama. Down in Arizona, we’ve got some juicy trash talking on the 2020 election. You know, the one from November of last year? The one the former President conceded back in January? A couple members of the State Senate have issued a new subpoena. This was following an epic nastygram [1] from the local election board they’ve been targeting (which is mostly Republicans by the way.)

In national news, the Democrats are just starting the “United States House Select Committee on the January 6th Attack.” (Fightin’ words!) There are spots for six Republicans on the panel, but so far most of those seats are empty. That’s because the Democratic leader rejected all of the proposed candidates the Republican leader suggested, and the Republican leader is refusing to appoint any if he doesn’t get all of his choices.

Better than a sweeps week episode of Survivor, amiright?

We could go on with more examples of people from both major parties being petty, but who needs that? This isn’t Us Weekly. And to be fair, these aren’t pure drama. There are legitimate questions if you dig deep enough.

But I think we’re are a little tired of the show. It was okay for the first few seasons, but this one needs to go off the air.

It’s time for something which doesn’t make our eyes widen and our heads shake in disapproval. It’s time for progress. Normal, boring, progress.

As your member of Congress, I don’t promise to be entertaining. What I will do is get things done. And you can watch, if you want. But don’t expect drama.

The time for that bullshit is long gone.


[1] Get yourself some tea for this one.