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.


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?



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.

On The Open Seas

Once upon a time, there was a large group of passengers all living in a ship.

Things worked out okay, mainly because everybody had their own stateroom. People could decorate, be clean or dirty, and generally live their life how they wanted.

Over time, some of the passengers—perhaps eager to upgrade their environment—began to drill holes into the metal skeleton of the vessel. They had good intentions: putting up shelves, hanging art, or adding a porthole.

And at first, this went well. Sure, there was the occasional dispute between neighboring compartments. But those issues could be worked out.

But then, calamity struck. Someone began to cut holes into the floor. They drilled downward into the hull of the ship, and water began gushing in.

Everyone began to debate what to do next. “It’s his room,” a few said. “Let him do what he wants.” Others warned that a leak could spread, but the counterpoint was made that this had not happened, at least not yet.

And so, the ship began to take on water. The moisture spread as it was tracked throughout the decks. The salt corroded metals. Stores of dry goods were damaged. And the whole vessel began to smell faintly of mold.

It wasn’t catastrophic. Most of the passengers barely noticed. But there was damage to the hull, frustration on the occasional panic, and water everywhere.

If anything changed, it was the refrain. People began to say, “We’re all in this boat together.”

And some of them even believed it.

As parables go, this one is straightforward. But I do think there’s a lesson to be learned.

Sometimes the holes we make might help us. Sometimes they create problems between neighbors.

But once in a while there’s a hole in the bottom of the boat. And while it might only be in one stateroom, a hole in the bottom of the boat is everyone’s problem.

It is sometimes hard to tell which issue is which. But it’s important to try and find out.

Because some aspects of our life on board are nobody else’s business, and some are.

But we are, in fact, all on this boat together.

What did we care about again?

As a kid growing up, there was a Billy Joel song that fascinated me:

We didn’t start the fire

It was always burning, since the world’s been turning

We didn’t start the fire

No, we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it

The song goes on to list, by year, a bunch of major political and social events between 1948 and 1989. Now, I consider myself to be a bit of a history buff. But when reviewing the lyrics as an adult, I have to admit I didn’t recognize a bunch of them.

Some of this is because Billy Joel is probably motivated more by what rhymes rather than by historical significance. But mostly it’s that many things which seem important in the moment aren’t actually that important in context.

Exactly thirty days ago we were talking about the mass stabbing in Germany, the Tigray War, and the sentencing of Derek Chauvin.

Exactly sixty days ago we were talking about a round of mortar exchanges between Israel and Palestine, and NomadLand winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

Exactly six months ago we were talking about the second impeachment trial, the mass shooting at the FedEx facility here in Indianapolis, and the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as the first female Treasury Secretary.

Obviously each event is important, but there are too many events for any of us to keep up with. That’s why some of these you probably don’t remember (or didn’t catch.) And in any case, most “current events” are one of these: the first time something happened, or the fact that this kind of thing keeps happening…and nobody seems to know what to do.

As your representative in Congress, I want you to trust me. I really mean that. I want you to feel that you don’t have to follow the news in detail every single day, because you know that I am, and that I am reacting in a way that is honorable, consistent, and principled.

Billy Joel is right. We didn’t start the fire. But somebody has to tend to it. And the people who do, the leaders of our world, ought be people you trust.

People who fight fires. That’s me, for you.