The power of a vote

Since the 2016 election, there’s been increasing talk about the voting power of the states being disproportional to state population — both through the electoral college electing the president (proportional + 2) and in the Senate (2 votes each). This system was created when there were 16 states, 5 of which (VA, PA, MA, NY, NC) comprised 58% of the country’s population. The system prevents the larger states from drowning out the voice of the smaller states.

Fast forward to 2018. Should this still apply? We now have 50 states. Taking approximately the same proportion (16 states – CA, TX, FL, NY, PA, IL, OH, GA, NC, MI, NJ, VA, WA, AZ, MA, TN), the population of this “top third” now comprises 68% of the population, so we’ve gotten more concentrated as a nation.

So, if we still want the protection of the little state, the system makes sense. The chances of changing it are nearly impossible, because it would take a constitutional amendment that would require the vote of the bottom 2/3 to pass.

We’re stuck with this folks, so it’s likely time to stop complaining about it and figure out how to work within the system. The Republicans have their strategy — focus on the presidency and the Senate. Dems? Well, it looks like they need to rebuild a base in states like PA and MI to flip the imbalance of power in their favor.

Changing attitudes

We are the largest experiment in multiethnic democracy the world has ever seen — just approaching 250 years old. We’re 150 years removed from a civil war whose wounds still bleed. The Civil Rights Act — banning discrimination in professional and public life — was passed 54 years ago. Great public movements, many that have required protest and civil disobedience, have resulted in progressive legislation that has defined and made us a better nation.

But laws aren’t always successful in changing attitudes and beliefs of individuals. They often result in retrenchment of the very ideas they aim to codify out of society.

Individuals and attitudes change as a result of real human interaction. When we get to know our neighbor whose culture is different than ours. When our kids play on the same soccer team. When we take a moment to listen to our colleagues who come from different backgrounds. When we get fresh air outside of our echo chambers.

Elections, policy, and legislation are still critical, but we can’t stop there. We need to do the hard work every day, in our own hearts and minds, and in our daily interactions with others. If we want a truly inclusive, progressive nation, it’s much more than politics. It’s the hard work of engaging people, day in and day out, to create opportunities for understanding.

Voter #1

45480445_10157028423833203_2003307355424423936_n

I wanted to be first in line at my polling place this morning. There was something symbolic in that notion. I arrived 25 minutes early to a parking lot devoid of activity, the only cars those of the poll workers inside. Some news story captured my attention and when I looked up, there was a person standing first in line at the doors. My plan up in smoke. As I approached, I saw it was a young African-American woman and smiled. I thought to myself, that’s what it’s all about. I don’t have to be first, I just have to be a part of the solution. I was proud to stand behind her as she approached the table as Voter #1.

Vote for hope over fear

Ten years ago today, we elected the first person of color as our president — but what mattered more than the color of his skin was the way he made so many of us feel … hopeful. No matter where you stand on the political continuum today, there doesn’t seem to be much hope.

This afternoon, I attended a lecture by an entrepreneur alumnus whose family came to the US as asylum seekers from Uzbekistan when he was eight. He’s created thousands of jobs in the US economy. Then I read this story about an immigrant couple whose community is taking care of them in a time of need. This is who we are America, not the fearmongering racism of the president’s rallies and TV ads.

When you vote tomorrow, let’s see if we can find some of that hope and rekindle the American Dream for all of our citizens, and, yes, the world. Let’s find a way back to being that beacon of hope.

When you vote, remember who we are and aspire to be. Your vote does matter. It always matters.

Finding the way out of no man’s land

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now. It’s been swirling in my brain, heart, and gut for quite a while, but every time I feel like I’m close to putting fingers to keyboard, I shy away, worried of the reaction from all sides.

It’s a sensitive topic, you see. A white guy writing to other white guys about being a white guy in today’s society and culture.

Read More

Presenting a better alternative

While talking to scouts last night about respecting the American flag, some of their questions led to a great discussion about our American right to free speech — specifically how the government can’t prevent any citizen from expressing his or her ideas even when those ideas make us feel extremely uncomfortable or unwelcome. As long as the expression is not a direct threat to personal or public safety or inciting violence, it has as much right to the public square as ours do. The second we start to limit speech, we’ve sacrificed one of the greatest of our founding ideals.

The way to counter ideas we find reprehensible is not squelching or drowning them, but by presenting a better alternative.

Continue to show up

As I flew out of DC today and looked back down our National Mall, I imagined all the young people that would fill the spaces in between the monuments and buildings in the hours to come. I remembered how Marine One darted over my head by the Washington Monument yesterday, carrying the president to a Mar-A-Lago-bound Air Force One. It struck me that those who create a meaningful life are those who SHOW UP. Not just for the main event, but who continue to work, to learn, to improve themselves, and to give, day in and day out.

I applaud and am awed at all the young people who showed up in our capitol and around the country today. You showed up to the big event. Now continue to show up every day. In your classes. In your communities. In the voting booths. In your own hearts. In everything you do.

The perfect white guy

A while back when I was talking to a female friend (who’s an avowed progressive) about the possibility of running for office, she looked at me very seriously and said,

“You’re the perfect white guy.”

What she meant was that I did a reasonably good job of standing up for people that aren’t straight, white, and male while looking very much like I wouldn’t. A donkey in elephant’s clothing, I joked.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this since that day, and have realized that there are a lot of straight, white men just like me. We understand the advantage inherent in who we are. We welcome diversity of culture and opinion into our lives. We intervene when we see overt injustice.

But, yet, in today’s world, we’re also seen as the root of all problems. The oppressors, the 1%, the privileged. That creates an almost untenable conundrum in how to navigate our current progressive political culture.

I don’t intend this as any sort of sob fest for straight, white guys. Far from it. I know exactly how good I (and we) have it. It just makes me wonder how effective it is to amplify the far left’s “white male privilege is the root of all evil” mantra when there are plenty of white men who are standing squarely on the side of justice.

Perhaps it’s time we cool down the rhetoric and ideology and start engaging each other as individuals instead of labels.

Stepping off our ideological icebergs

If we spend too much time watching cable news and Twitter feeds, the world looks like a giant dumpster fire burning out of control.

Hate.

Outrage.

Pain.

Division.

A year ago, that’s all I saw. We were a week into a new presidency that I couldn’t stomach or even fathom, and all I saw was an impending war for the soul of our country. I had my pitchfork out, entrenched and ready to strike. I’ve read the Facebook posts I made a year ago, and many of them are filled with the same things I saw in the world. Hate. Outrage. Pain. Division. 

Read More