Thinkin’ About The Future

In August of 2002 I came back to my dorm from cross-country practice and saw a flier on my building door looking for interns for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign. I never expected to still be doing campaigns for the 2020 Presidential campaign. Hell, I’m not sure I expected to be alive in 2019, so there’s that.

I’ve seen quite a bit in my political day. I’ve worked for a President, in fact the first black President, something that was just a line in a rap song when I was a kid. I’ve worked for five U.S. Senators (six if I count internships), a Secretary of State, and the first woman nominated for President, twice. I worked for New Jersey’s first African-American Congresswoman and a Bosnian War refugee. My travels have taken me to Waterloo (Iowa, twice), Charlotte (NC), New Brunswick (NJ), Washington (DC), Harrisburg (PA), Nyack (NY), Columbus (OH), Trenton (NJ), the Outer Banks (NC), Philadelphia (PA), Myrtle Beach (SC), Woodbridge (NJ), Pensacola (FL), Mason City (IA), Elizabeth City (NC), Hazleton (PA), Wilkes-Barre (PA), Queens (NY), Stroudsburg (PA), Grinnell (IA), and of course, right here at home in the Lehigh Valley. From electing women as statewide judges to electing friends as my own County Executive, it’s all been fun.

Campaigns are exhausting though, particularly these days. You’re on the road, a lot. Having a “normal” life is impossible. You deal with a lot of overly self-assured jackasses that know everything, and sometimes you can’t do anything about them. I’ve been blessed with mostly great candidates, but sometimes they’re politically incompetent, but still expect you to answer to them, rather than advise them. Dealing with employees can be exhausting. In recent years I’ve mostly kept to myself socially during campaigns. I’ve had lots of fun, amazing stories, but I’m getting a bit older.

I planned on getting out of campaigns after the 2016 election, but it didn’t quite end according to plan. With 2020 fast approaching, I’m seeing another light at the end of the tunnel. This time is probably win or lose though. Running campaigns full time is simply something that I’m aging out of. I won’t exit politics altogether- I could see myself on Capitol Hill, in an Administration, working in a state capitol or local government, consulting full time, running for local office, or working on a specific issue or cause after 2020. I also could see myself working in some other capacity, as a writer, in real estate, financial advising, as a professor, or something I haven’t thought of yet, and doing politics as a part-time thing. I see a transition ahead though. It’s a bit scary. It’s something I just have to do to avoid burning out, and for financial purposes.

Between now and then though is a full cycle. Another shot at Trump is invigorating enough to wake me up everyday. I won’t be able to get out for 2021, both of my local county executives will be up for re-election (I do work on their races). The light’s still pretty far down the tunnel for me. I’m not even totally sure what’s next yet for me in 2019. I do know though that I’m doing a lot of thinking about where my life is going now.

Advertisements

Remembering my Grandfather

Today would have been my grandfather’s 89th birthday. He left us 13 years ago this February 1st, just 100 days before I graduated college. It doesn’t feel that long ago, and yet its approaching the point of literally being a lifetime ago. Every time I think about him, I definitely miss him.

Richard Thomas Wilkins Sr., born and raised in Phillipsburg, NJ, was one of the best influences on my life. I spent a lot of time with him as a child- when my parents worked, some weekend nights, and almost every Sunday. A lot of our time together was doing simple things, like Friday night football games at his beloved Phillipsburg Stateliners, Saturday nights going out to dinner (many times at KFC, where we got hot wings), or listening to Polkas after church Sunday morning. He taught me a lot about serving others too, whether it was his time in Korea with the U.S. Navy, his more than 40 years on the Pohatcong Township Planning Commission, or just his being the usher in church. Perhaps the most important lesson I learned was watching him appreciate his 50th wedding anniversary, even as he battled terminal cancer. Or perhaps it was that style with cancer that did the most to change me as a person.

I don’t mean to hold him up as perfect, he wasn’t, but it felt like a good day to remember him today. Even as the years go by, he remains on my mind.

So This is Christmas…

Merry Christmas to you all. As a believer, raised Byzantine Catholic, I am of the belief that a little over 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem of the Holy Land, a child was born, sent from God. Maybe you believe he was sent to preach the word of God, and to sacrifice himself to free us from sin. Maybe you don’t, and this is a holiday of nice gifts, good basketball games, and some good Chinese food. To each their own, I love y’all anyway.

Last week was probably the first time in my life that I started to believe that maybe life is just too hard for human kind. With all of the chaos, division, and crisis in our world, maybe we just can’t handle it. It’s not that division is new, for America or the world, but it is pretty crippling right now. We’ve always comforted ourselves with the idea that “we all want the same things,” or “we’re in this together,” or “we’re all Americans,” but none of that stuff is actually true. We don’t want the same things, which is why the government is partially shut down over $5 billion (a decimal point of our budget) for a wall on our Southern border that is at best symbolic. We’re fully freaking out over pulling our troops out of Syria, something the left would normally cheer, because we realize the damage to our credibility when the Kurds are left to die at the hands of our enemies, or our allies in Turkey. The market is tanking, despite the controversial tax cuts for wealthy people last year. Republicans are fleeing the very administration of the man they stood by and vouched for two years ago. There’s so much more going on right now too. Frankly, I think it all gets to be a bit overwhelming for the average person. We spend all day screaming and yelling at each other over each individual controversy. We do this because we’re not in this together, because we want very different things.

All of this division and anger can be pretty jarring, because it literally reminds us that we might not agree with the person next door. It’s important that we remind ourselves this isn’t peculiar, it’s normal. Americans were not a monolith when debating whether we should declare our very independence, or during the Civil War, or whether or not to enter World War II, or on the virtues of Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, or in our present divisions. Israelis and Palestinians live in neighborhoods near each other and disagree over the legitimacy of their government. Koreans don’t all agree on reunifying some day. Almost two in five French people voted for a Neo-Nazi, while the Brits are narrowly divided on whether they should be part of Europe. Puerto Ricans divide closely on statehood, independence, or remaining a territory. Brazil elected a man who wants to destroy their rain forests. It’s only been a few years since Canadians in Quebec almost voted for independence. Division is as human as breathing. It is something we do, uncomfortably, because we all have the sovereign individuality to do so. It is inescapable, even as it cripples our ability to function.

I am worried though. Our problems are fundamental right now. Our world view is in question, and we’re further apart than ever before. Western pluralism, the diversity that we have lived off of, allows us to grow ever more divided, as we welcome more different strains of thought. I’ve always been proud that my great-grandmother came here to Ellis Island from Czechoslovakia, but I’ve often glossed over the fact that we closed off Ellis Island just months after she got here. We did that then largely because of Asian migration to the United States. Today, migration to this country is more global than ever. The diversity of races, religions, languages, and cultures has caused many “traditional” Americans to seek more inward, ignorant solutions. They deny science, diversity, societal change, and basic progress to “maintain” what they think we’ve been. Are they right? I think not. Are they wrong? In the sense that many of their basic experiences have not improved, that they are not feeling the successes of our nation’s prosperity, it’s hard to blame them for feeling forgotten, left behind, and lost in a changing world that they can’t understand.

I know this though- despair brings about hate, and hate makes people do awful things. Surely people who are partaking in the success of humanity don’t join the Ku Klux Klan, Hamas, ISIS, or any other hateful group. Surely people taking part in the prosperity of nations do not vote to “expel the other,” and exasperate division. The failure of the state to both distribute success among both labor and capital, or to show the successes of a global, diverse community have lead the people to accept crackpot regimes, extreme radical parties, and a permanent “war state,” both militarily and in our society.

My only hope this Christmas season is exactly in the thing that I denied exists above- our shared humanity. We are not hard-wired to hate in our every day life, and if we just interact more, we’ll realize it. I had a beer tonight and talked to my Republican bartender friend as a person, not some horrifying other. When we live our every day lives, and talk to each other, we suddenly don’t have the time, desire, or ability to hate each other. While living on social media may make us feel more partisan, more divided, and more distant from each other, it also gives us the opportunity to connect globally, to see things we may not have otherwise, and to access other points of view we may not have otherwise. Connecting with the world has allowed me to discuss politics, theology, popular culture, economics, and war with friends from Tehran to Taiwan, from Moscow to New York, from Berlin to Montreal. Just getting out and talking to my friends here in Easton has allowed me the opportunity to see other perspectives. One of my best friends here is currently in Afghanistan, serving as a U.S. Marine, and our views on the world are very different- but listening to him tell me his experiences has given me a great, different perspective on life and the world.

We do not share the same hopes, dreams, and goals in this world, our ruggedly different outlooks on the world, our individuality, prevents that. It is impossible to have a globally shared vision, and for that reason I am very afraid this Christmas. Our challenges are great, and the pathways to solve them are different. That is inescapable. My hope is simply in the billions of interactions that every day people have every day. Maybe, just maybe, our desire to not live in constant chaos, constant contradiction, and constant conflict with each other will save us. Maybe getting to know people different than us will save us. Maybe the every day compromises we make with each other will win out as the example. Maybe not though. Maybe we’re doomed to argue ourselves to death on Facebook over our differences. Maybe the despair of our own lives will eat us alive. I don’t know right now. I can only hope not. Maybe our divisions do define us, but maybe our desire to live peacefully in our own way define us too. Only time will tell.

The political scientist in me forecasts doom and gloom this Christmas. The faithful believer in me hopes we can find a better way. The world is a contradictory place, and sometimes all we can put our faith in is exactly the things we swear to be impossible. To my family, to the friends I’ve made along the way, Merry Christmas, and I love you all. To those of you reading me, peace be with you, Merry Christmas to you too. May we all leave the world better than we received it.

Thankful

I’d like to think I’m a thankful person, but the truth is that I take a lot of things in my life for granted. I’ve been blessed with many great things in life, whether it be my family, a comfortable middle-class life, intellectual and athletic abilities, decent health, a solid education, friends, second (and third) chances, or even just the chance to be alive. When you live every day in relative peace and tranquility, it becomes your norm, and you take it for granted. It’s not to say I haven’t had trials and tribulations, it’s to say I’ve lived my life free of oppression and despair. I should be thankful for that, every day.

This Christmas though, I am happy for my career in politics. Since I was 19, I’ve lived around political campaigns, and the people in them. Many, many of those people are not like me. I’m not calling them better or worse, but they’re there for very different reasons and motivations, and their different perspectives have enriched my understanding of life. Learning from their experiences, I think I’ve grown to be a better man than I might have grown up to be, as I was as a 19 year old intern on my first campaign.

I’ve had so many wonderful opportunities, and some not wonderful ones, to see the world through different eyes. I’ve worked with people who had undocumented relatives they desperately wanted to save from deportation. I’ve worked with people struggling to speak their own truth, and come out as who they are. I’ve worked with war refugees, who’s entire families were on “kill lists,” forcing them to leave their countries and seek asylum here. I’ve worked with people who grew up in poverty in southeast Washington, New Jersey, Appalachia, and Philadelphia. I’ve worked with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. I’ve worked with a Latin American member of his nation’s Congress who was assassinated when he went home. I’ve worked under some of the most accomplished members of our Congress in my lifetime. I’ve worked for career teachers. I’ve worked for Muslims, Catholics, Jews, and Protestant Christians. I’ve worked for Midwesterners, Northeasterners, and Southerners. I worked for the first African-American Congresswoman in New Jersey history. I’ve worked for prosecutors, and alongside ex-felons. I’ve worked for Latinos, African-Americans, and white people. I’ve worked for winners and losers. I’ve worked for incompetent people, evil people who left their jobs in shame, and some of the finest people I’ve ever met. I’ve worked for Senators, Governors, Congress people, cabinet secretaries, state legislators, local officials, unions, and even a President. I’ve probably worked for or on a lot of cool things I’m forgetting right now.

Politics hasn’t made me rich, God knows that, but I’d like to think it’s enriched me as a person ten fold. I’d like to think the people I’ve met professionally, in addition to the people in my personal and private life, have all left an impression on me in some way. I’d like to believe the pathway I’ve chosen in life has made me better than perhaps I would have been otherwise. Lord knows I’m not a perfect person, that my vices and flaws would leave me unacceptable to some. Nevertheless, I’d like to think those of you who have gifted me with your presence have made me a better person than I would have been, and that this better person has helped make the world a better place than it would have been otherwise. We’ll all die, and we’ll all make mistakes on the way there, I’m not really worried about that. I’m just thankful that my pathway has forced me to take stock of different positions in life than my own, and maybe changed my view of the world for the better.

I think my time out in the field will come to an end soon. Probably after 2020. I’m on the old end of the pool at this point, so I need to be in an office or headquarters, and maybe have a little life stability. At 35, that’s not too much to ask.

Thank you to you all. Merry Christmas.

One Month of Christmas, Day 2

Good day and Happy Monday, November 26th, 2018. Today is 29 days until Christmas. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

************

Our Immigration System Has Been Broken for a Century Plus, but Trump is Creating a National Disgrace

What’s happening at our Southern Border Right Now is a disgrace. Trump sent several thousand troops to the border in a basic political stunt, to pretend he’s getting tough on illegal immigration. The reality? It was a publicity stunt. Now he’s violating American and international law by not allowing asylum seekers to enter our country while their claims are investigated and decided. This is not supposed to be something up for discussion- it’s long-standing law. To make matters worse, he’s literally having us tear-gas people on the Mexican side of the border, for some unknown, indefensible reason. In the ultimate sign that their isn’t intelligent decision making going on here, he might just close some border points altogether, making things inconvenient for Americans who cross the border on the regular.

I’m reminded throughout this mess that we are a nation of immigrants, and that my family has immigrant roots too. My great-grandfather Joseph, from my father’s paternal side of the family, came to the United States with his brother from Poland, immigrants who would not become citizens for years after their arrival. My great-grandmother Julia and her husband, from my father’s maternal side of the family, came to Ellis Island from Czechoslovakia, and also took years of working here and raising a family before getting citizenship. None of these relatives were high-skilled “desirable” workers, in fact some of the family members who came here had been gassed in World War I and were what I would call insane. They were all welcomed here to work though, and they built a life a world away from places in Europe where they no longer felt okay with staying. It’s the best side of America that they were allowed in.

In 1892, Ellis Island began processing immigrants as a port of entry. In 1924, just months after my Great-Grandmother Julia Kravchak arrived from her village of Udol, in present day Slovakia, the Immigration Act of 1924 shut down Ellis Island as an immigration entry processing center, and turned it into a detention center for undocumented immigrants in our country. That law created quotas for immigration, largely racist quotas that favored immigrants from white nations over people from non-white nations (at that time, largely aimed at Asian nations). While the law has been amended since then, these same quota systems have largely survived in American law. They have caused much of the backlog of those waiting for entry from Mexico, Central America, and South America, while making it easier to come from “more desirable” places. Our asylum system, our system of refugees, and our educational visa system have all worked fairly decently though, and have been good for our society and economy. Or, at least they were. Now Donald Trump’s border policy has become to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at families trying to flee violence and oppression. There is nothing to be proud of here. This is our Immigration Act of 1924, except that this time we’re actually being violent.

I’m not arguing that we should have an open border, because I don’t think we should. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t deport criminals, because I think we usually should. I’m arguing we should be a humane people, because I think we always should.

************

The Eagles Still Suck

Yes, they won a football game yesterday. Yes, they’re 5-6, and one game out of first place. Yes, three of their final five games are against the two teams in front of them, so they just need to win games to win the division. Yes, someone has to win the division, host a playoff game, and then has the same shot as everyone else in the NFC. With all of that said, the Eagles stink. They have guys literally coming in off the street playing in the defensive secondary. They have no deep threat, aren’t committed to the run, and have a quarterback who still seems just a little bit off this year. Oh, and they’re not as good in the trenches on either side of the ball. And the coaching is worse. 

Who are they really going to beat though? New Orleans? The Rams? Kansas City? The Patriots? The Chargers? Please let me know, because I don’t see a contender they can beat, right now. As a result, my enthusiasm is low.

************

Climate Change, Climate Change, Climate Change, and yes, more Climate Change!

I don’t think we can scream loud enough about the U.S. Government’s report on Black Friday the climate change is an imminent problem that will hurt our society across all demographics and income levels. The report, mandated by law across many agencies not only said climate change is real, or that it is man-made, but also that it is dangerous. Of course the Trump Administration tried to release it on Friday of a holiday weekend.

Democrats, but also really any people who care about Earth’s future, need to scream bloody murder about this. I may think less of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her Pelosi protest stunt than an outdated can of spam, but she is absolutely right to be calling for a “Green New Deal” right now- Democrats need to latch onto this, party wide. First off, in nakedly politically potent terms, jobs. Second off, we have to move towards a more green economy, now, to avoid disaster. The fact is, there’s no sane argument *not* to move towards a green economy.

************

So You Think You’re Smarter Than Your Dog?

This really isn’t a long post here, but let’s dive in here- are you smarter than your dog? Sure, dogs can’t build the intricate society we have, with houses, currency, relationships, and entertainment. On the other hand, who cares? Dogs don’t care about all of that. They like to eat, play a bit, go outside a few times a day, and sleep. In many ways, I envy them.

Today though, I was talking to my dogs and it hit me- when I talk at them, they seem to grasp my language and know what I mean. When they bark at me? I have no idea. So their brains managed to evolve enough to understand another species, but mine didn’t.

Who saved who again?

************

Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid are the Best Sports Entertainment in Philly

No, for real, fight me on this. Jimmy Buckets has been here for like two weeks and has two walk-off baskets. Joel Embiid is throwing himself alley-oops off the glass. Embiid is playing like an MVP, leading the league in 30 pt., 10 reb. games so far this year. I realize maybe Ben Simmons isn’t quite leaping forward as hoped, but he’s your third scoring option now- does he need to? Not in November.

And since I know you’ll bring up Markelle Fultz- relax. He’s 20. He should be in college yet. Yes, it’s possible he has a debilitating nerve injury and is shot. Maybe he’s a head case. Or maybe he’s just young, and has been snake-bit by injuries and an impatient fan base. Why trade him now, at pennies on the dollar? Put him on the bench, get him safe minutes, and hope he turns into 70% of what you hoped in a few years.

But for now, just watch The Process and Jimmy Buckets amaze you.

************

Run DMC’s “Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens” is a Better Christmas Anthem than Mariah’s Song

Hear me out- I don’t hate Mariah Carey. I don’t even hate her over-played “All I Want For Christmas.”

But the reason for the season is “Christmas Time in Hollis, Queens.” It’s getting overplayed, in NBA and car commercials. But it’s just better, more authentic, and didn’t play to the fantasy land Christmas love story narrative of millions of teens in my generation. They just wanted you to know they loved their mom’s cooking.

And I do too.

0- Election Day

I was in an odd place on Election Night of 2002. I was suffering from mono, and had just decided to not try to return to running track and field or cross-country once cleared. I wasn’t playing the drums anymore, and was only about 20 months removed from my last wrestling bout (a 15-0 win), after 11 years in that sport. At that time, I was simply a young political science major, driven mostly by my opposition to the Iraq War and my support for the working class and unionized labor. I had no idea that politics would replace sports and music as the central meaning in my life yet, or the places it would take me. I thought I was majoring in political science at that time as a pathway to law school, not to be heading into 2020 still working on campaigns, but life doesn’t ask permission when moving you in a direction.

What I wouldn’t give to be back on a wrestling mat today, or run down that windy back-stretch on Easton’s track, or jam out on my drum set for a jazz band competition. All of those things once defined me as a person, and their fading from my life is part of why I am where I am this morning- running a regional boiler room, over-seeing the Charlotte area for the Democratic Party. Politics has taken me all over the place, and let me see places and things I never would have expected to see. I’ve managed Congressional, county and State legislative races, been a statewide field director, run a statewide early and absentee vote program, and of course been a regional field director. I’ve worked for members of the progressive caucus in Congress, and downright conservative Democrats. I’ve been exposed to people, places, ideas, and issues that I never would have seen otherwise. Politics has come to re-define who I am, what I am, and how I see the world. It truly filled the voids I previously left.

Father Time is not my friend though. If I want to retire at 65, I need to start moving in that direction sometime soon. Politics, and yes the Democratic Party, have changed a lot since I was a 19 year old intern for the PA Dems coordinated campaign. I don’t honestly know how I feel about it, if I’m honest. It’s not what I signed up for as an anti-war, pro-union youth. At the same time, these values are who I am now, at this point.

I’m not sure how many of today’s I have left. Let’s hope this is enjoyable.

***********

GOTV is not a place or time for intellectual thought- you just do it. You do your job, as instructed, and just hope it works out. Freelancers who try to do their own thing and be heroes usually end up doing more harm than good. It’s a place for people who are orderly and follow directions. I find that Democrats aren’t so hot at that.

***********

By 11pm tonight, one of two narratives will take hold:

  1. Democratic passion and enthusiasm, buoyed by anti-Trump fever, swept the nation up in a Blue Wave that at a minimum flipped the House, and maybe more. I also imagine that inside of this narrative will be a sub-story on whether “Berniecrat” lefties or mainstream, establishment figures lead the way, which will shape the opening salvos and days of the 2020 Election.
  2. Donald Trump’s stark rhetoric, his barnstorming schedule, and the awakening of the right-wing over Brett Kavanaugh’s “treatment” by Democrats stoked Republican enthusiasm to perform better than expected. Trump’s tough talk on immigration and Republican tough rhetoric against Democratic candidates in Georgia, Florida, and more saved the day. While many races were tight, Republicans held on in Republican seats. Donald Trump looks nearly impossible to beat.

For what it’s worth, be careful to not over buy on either story. The Democratic “Resistance” of these past two years may or may not work in a mid-term, in which Donald Trump is not actually on the ballot. Either way, that doesn’t mean you should conclude the same for 2020, when the Democrats will have to pick an actual person to run against him.

***********

Just to make things clear, on no other level has the national political environment helped Democrats as much as the U.S. Senate. We are not talking much today about normally swing state seats like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Virginia. If Hillary had won in 2016, all would be in serious danger today. Even so, the road to winning a majority is brutally hard tonight. Democrats must:

  • Win tough races they currently lead in West Virginia, Indiana, and Montana.
  • Win at least one, if not two of Florida, Missouri, and North Dakota, all of which are within a point leads or much worse.
  • Pick up at least three of Nevada, Arizona, Tennessee, and Texas, all of which are razor close.
  • Get Mississippi to a run-off and hope Republicans pick a nut, if they fall short on any of the above.

To be clear, it’s possible that Republicans pick up like five seats, and Democrats get none of their pick-ups. A 56-44 GOP Senate could happen. By the same token, so could a 53-47 Democratic Senate. Neither seems likely. I still would expect the GOP to hold the Senate with 50-53 seats after this election. That, by the way, is not a bad outcome for the Democrats, relative to where they started the cycle.

**************

I don’t want to start 2020 before it needs to, but it’s worth noting- not many of the Democratic leading candidates are being invited into swing districts to close. You see some Barack Obama. You see some Joe Biden. You do see some Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, the occasional Elizabeth Warren, and a few others in blue areas to try and bump turnout, but you don’t see them going much to PA-10, NC-9, or any other moderate district we need to win the House. For the most part, this tells me that our field doesn’t have a broad enough audience to win the electoral college in 2020. A majority party that wins elections can win electorates that aren’t fully ideologically aligned with them, especially against a polarizing figure like Donald Trump.

Just saying.

**********

If Democrats win back the House tonight as expected, it’s important to remember all the points on the road to this victory, beginning with Donald Trump’s victory speech in the early hours of November 9th, 2016 in New York. There was the GOP’s decision to try and repeal the Affordable Care Act, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court striking down their Congressional map and putting their own fair map in place, the GOP pushing through two conservative judges after blocking Judge Garland, Charlottesville, Parkland, many Trump statements, Connor Lamb’s victory, and of course the tax cuts, to name a few moments.

When you watch tonight though, there are some key areas of the country to watch. The Philadelphia, Miami, and San Diego media markets look ripe for big Democratic gains. California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, and Florida all look like states where major gains are happening.

What are some districts that Democrats have to win? PA-5, 6, 7, 17, CA-49, NJ-2, 11, AZ-2, CO-6, FL-27, IA-1, IL-6, KS-3, MI-11, MN-2, 3, VA-10, WA-8. These 18 seats are prime pick-ups.

What are the toss-ups that Democrats need to win some of to win back the House? CA-10, 25, 39, 45, 48, FL-15, 26, GA-6, IA-3, IL-14, KS-2, KY-6, ME-2, MI-8, NC-9, 13, NJ-3, 7, NM-2, NY-19, 22, OH-12, PA-1, 10, TX-7, 32, UT-4, VA-2, 7. These 29 seats are where Democrats would tip the House and build their margin.

What seats would signal a huge Democratic wave? There are actually 56 additional GOP seats in their likely or leaning camps, which the Cook political report is still tracking. I can tell you for a fact that at least a couple of these seats are firmly in play after early voting. All told 103 Republicans are waking up in danger today. 80 of them could win, and they would still possibly lose the House. Remember, the Democrats are flat out favored to take 18 of these seats.

***********

Down here in Charlotte this cycle, things have been eventful. My region has five state House races, all pick-up opportunities. It has two State Senate seats, also pick-ups. We also are doing GOTV for NC-9 on the Congressional level, a pick-up opportunity. It’s nice playing all offense, for a change. I expect us to pick up a State House seat or two, a State Senate seat, and possibly a Congressional seat tonight (though that will be tight). If things go well though, we could easily pick up much more than that. If you’re watching at home, you should keep an eye on HD’s 68, 98, 103, 104, and 105, SD’s 39 and 41, and CD 9.

Back up home, the only work I did for the general was PA HD-121. I have more than a passing interest in PA-115 (did work there last cycle) and 137 (my home district, I tried to push some personal capital with national organizations in there for our nominee). I did some Summer field work on PA’s CD-10 before it was targeted too. I am hoping for a Blue Wave to sweep them all into office.

************

My three tiers of potential Democratic Gubernatorial pick-ups tonight:

  • Likely- Maine, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico
  • Leaning- Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada
  • Possible- Georgia, South Dakota, Kansas, New Hampshire
  • Giant Blue Wave- Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, Arizona

************

There’s less good forecasts out there for state legislatures than any other major level of government. Fortunately, the Washington Post recently published an article on this, and named the following chambers as “in play”:

  • Michigan House and Senate
  • North Carolina Senate
  • Maine Senate
  • New York Senate
  • Arizona House and Senate
  • Colorado Senate
  • New Hampshire House and Senate
  • West Virginia House

For what it’s worth, people in North Carolina think the House is at least as much in play. Carl Klarner did the forecasts for the Post, and you should check him out here.

No, Pennsylvania is not on here. Expect solid gains though tonight. I suspect the Democrats will end up with between 92 and 95 House seats, and 20 Senate seats. This puts both chambers at least marginally back in play moving forward.

*************

Go vote. No, really, do it. Your country needs you, whoever you are. While I have interesting stuff to write here, none of it matters like you doing your civic duty. I have friends who are overseas right now representing our country, the least you can do is go vote.

Decisions…

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Ain’t that the truth. You know, after the 2012 Election, I turned all of my attention towards electing Hillary Clinton as the 45th, and first female President. I worked for a Clinton White House veteran on a 2013 County Executive race, partially because he’s a great person and ally, and also because it enhanced my brand. I went to Iowa in 2014, partially for a great friend and candidate, and also for a good career move. I raised money for Ready for Hillary, and later HFA. I was a 2008 alum of the first Hillary Presidential run. But my call didn’t come. I got a call or two about jobs I was never going to take, but was mostly left disappointed through the primary process.

But my phone did eventually ring, and my services were needed in North Carolina, the new mother of swing states. I went down there and gave it my all to help pull back together the situation on the ground in my region. I worked with great people, I gave it a great effort, and I thought we would win. I was over confident. I contacted a friend that was going to be in the administration about a week before the election, just to let him know I wanted to go in. He told me he’d get me in touch with the transition right after the election, and that everything would be just fine. Of course, as we all know, it wasn’t.

And so my 2017 happened. Two County Executives in my hometown, and two statewide appellate judges elected later, I was on a professional high, putting together a transition team. When the Congressional race came up, I decided to support and work for my good friend, a 27 year elected District Attorney who was the front-runner. It was admittedly a difficult assignment. My candidate was more moderate than the voters. He strongly preferred not running the standard, modern Congressional campaign. He wanted to be a maverick on some hot-button issues. There are plenty of areas on which he and I didn’t agree. It was a tough assignment, but I don’t regret it a bit. I believe in him, and think he would have generally represented the Lehigh Valley as we actually are. I also had decided that going to Capitol Hill was something that interested me at this point in my career. The outside money came in though, and the baggage came out. Friends and enemies alike in the local political scene took their shots at me, as though I could have possibly done much with all the outside money trashing my candidate. When election night came though, the results weren’t good. We lost the Congressional race, and I was swept off the state committee (the two aren’t really related, that race was geography mostly, but it was simultaneous). I guess we’re going to see how this new group of Democratic “leaders” can do leading the party now. Some are good people, some aren’t. I firmly believe some people are going to fall flat on their faces, and I am going to be amused. Some of these folks, new and old, with their pure ideological politics, are not representative or in touch with the regular voters of the Lehigh Valley, and they will eventually either be pushed aside as irrelevant by the elected officials (already happening at this time) or will simply fail to elect people themselves. Either way, they’ll have their clubhouses and meetings, but they’ll make the party further irrelevant here.

I thought about quitting politics for a bit this Summer. I don’t need it. I’ve long had thoughts of other things. Going back for a grad degree, teaching some college courses, becoming a teacher, coaching, writing professionally, maybe even law school. I pretty much did everything I set out to do in politics when I entered it in 2002. I’m not in love with the current Democratic Party, and it would have been a logical time to walk away. I couldn’t do it though. For one thing, I think the republic is in real danger right now, thanks to the current Republican Party and Donald Trump. Equally as important, while I think some loons have gotten loose in the Democratic Party, we’re also running some outstanding candidates for office. I want to be a part of that. I have 16 years of experience, at every level from intern to manager, and I need to do my part. We all do, if we want to preserve our country. There are fundamental changes in the Democratic Party happening, but they’re changes I always supported. I worked for President Obama, Secretary Clinton, the first African-American Congresswoman in New Jersey history, a Bosnian, Muslim war refugee, Latino and African-American Senators, people of the Jewish faith, and all of the rich diversity of the Democratic Party. I needed to be a part of this election. My adult life’s work is at stake.

As I have in recent election cycles, I do some work for a pair of Pennsylvania State Representative incumbents, so if you live in Northeastern PA and want to get involved, let me know. I’m going to be heading to Charlotte also this week, to help flip North Carolina blue. The unfinished business of 2016, the chance to work with a young, hungry, exciting team, and the chance to work on the cutting edge of the future of progressive politics is too much to pass up. I’m excited about all the work I’m doing this Fall, and looking forward to the future.

I’m done making plans. In a business where incompetence isn’t a vice, where self-promoters do well, where unserious carnival barkers excite the mildly informed, and so much that happens is beyond your control, you can’t make plans. All you can do is put in the work where you want to do it. I had three of the best offers I’ve ever had to work this Fall, in three major swing states. The races I’ve chosen to put my time into things that I think are worth my time. I’ll make the same kinds of choices about who to donate to this Fall too.

Decisions, decisions.

Random Stuff About Me

People seemed to like my last “about me” piece, so I figured I would do another. I’m terrible at humanizing myself in real life, but I’m a little better here.

So here we go:

  • Your “Hall of Fame” of Bars- College Hill Tavern in Easton, Russia House in DC, Jameson’s in Waterloo, OBT in Bethlehem, 1818 in Palmer Township, Crest Tavern in Wildwood Crest.
  • How do you feel about being a Millennial?- Terrible. I’m not a millennial in any way but for when I was born.
  • What do you order at diners?- Salad bar. It’s my go to. I eat two to three salads and two cups of soup. It’s immaculate.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?- Washington, DC or New York City. Maybe a beach, but that’s probably later.
  • Why do you hate suits?- First off, I’m not trying to impress you. Give me jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball hat. If you’re not impressed by our interactions, I’d rather be forgettable to you. Me wearing a suit requires a high bar. When I met President Bill Clinton last back in 2013, I told him he’s the only person I’d wear a suit for. I try to stick to that rule, but I’d probably violate it for President Obama or Britney Spears now.
  • Favorite Beatle- John Lennon. I appreciate that Kanye made Paul McCartney famous a couple of years ago, but John Lennon best embodies my personal values and beliefs.
  • Why don’t you like Uncle Bernie?- My beef with Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) isn’t so much over beliefs, policies, or values. I didn’t appreciate his lukewarm embrace of Hillary Clinton after the 2016 Primaries, when we were facing a fascist in the general election. I don’t appreciate his career of being a critic of the Democratic Party from the outside. I tactically don’t agree with him on abandoning the Democratic base (to be read “identity politics”). I don’t believe any “political revolution” is coming to a starkly divided America. I view his quarter century in Congress as largely (not to be read as “entirely”) lacking in achievements. I think his proposals, while correct in values, are mostly not thought all the way through or realistic. I think he created a cult of personality in 2016, and has moved the American left into unsustainable territory.
  • It’s 2018 and Cole Hamels is a Cub. What world is this?- Javy Baez wasn’t good enough. Good riddance, hail Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro.
  • Why do you hate guns?- I don’t, I’m just not an ammosexual. Despite being a white guy in Pennsylvania, I’ve never been hunting. It’s cool if you do though. I just think domestic abusers, felons, and the mentally ill shouldn’t have guns. I think you should have to report your lost or stolen hand gun. I think hollow tip bullets shouldn’t be available. I think all guns should have serial numbers and be sold in a traceable way. I think you should be licensed and trained in keeping a gun safely. None of this stuff is extreme, and most gun owners would agree with most of it.
  • Lobster or Steak?- This is like picking between children. My answer is both. If you make me pick one, I’ll take the other off your plate.
  • Counting Crows or Live?- Another impossible answer. The two 90’s bands are doing a 25th anniversary tour right now. I love both, but I’ll pick Live only because they’re from York, PA.
  • The best rapper on Death Row Records was…?- Everybody and their mother says Tupac. The dude is an all-time legend. I get it. I feel like Snoop Dogg doesn’t get enough love though. He came up earlier in their rise, he’s like rap’s Beatles or Stones at this point. His career has lasted forever. He scared the $#*% our of suburbia. I’ll go Snoop.
  • Favorite New York Met?- Tom Glavine. I remember him more as a Braves legend, but he was a Met, too. He signed a ball for me at Veteran’s Stadium as a kid. He also imploded to help the Phillies win the division on the final day of 2007. He seemed like a genuinely good guy though, I like him.
  • Describe you at 15- Fast, tie-dye wearing, thin, bleach-blond, bad, unaware, sheltered, arrogant.
  • Al Gore or Joe Biden?- Everybody likes Joe more, right? He’s more personable. I think Gore is more politically in tune with me though. I loved him in my college years for his opposition to the Iraq War and putting climate change on the national map. He probably wasn’t my cup of tea of opposing explicit rap lyrics, or many other cultural issues in his Senate years, but what he became later was more me.
  • Why do you hate Socialism?- Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, China, the USSR… should I go on? Socialism takes on different forms in different countries, but it either always fails or morphs into capitalism or oligarchy. I recognize the need for socialist ideas and programs, like Medicare or Social Security. We live in a mixed capitalist nation, and removing all the socialism would be really bad. I fundamentally reject the idea of seizing the means of production and going full Karl Marx though too. The accumulation of capital and wealth is not our enemy though, and it’s only bad if our government fails to regulate and enforce rules (which it does fail to do, often).
  • Most amazing thing you heard this week?- My grandmother’s electric bill for last month was $14.40.
  • Favorite ice cream flavor- Vanilla. I’m boring.
  • Tacos?- Beef. Give me like ten. I’ll eat them all day.
  • Something You Like?- Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA. It starts tonight. It’s the best ten days in the Valley all year. I walk around with a mug full of beer and listen to free music. And eat.
  • What are you doing this weekend?- Musikfest and Lebanese Heritage Days in Easton. I’m going to eat like a G-d damn king.
  • Celebrity fight you want to see?- Donald Trump Jr. vs. Lavar Ball. Hell-in-a-cell, please.
  • Coolest thing you heard this week?- Dave Grohl hangs out in Rehoboth Beach during the Summer. Can we make Dave our national king?
  • Favorite late night comic?- Recently I’m watching Trevor Noah and Stephen Colbert. I liked Letterman the best though.
  • You would rather: a Phillies World Series or another Eagles Super Bowl?- I’m a Phillies-first guy. I want both though.
  • Thing that bothered you this week?- Hey, NFL fans- support the players, not the owners, in contract disputes. The players put their body on the line for your entertainment. The owners and not the players are guaranteed their money each season. The owners are the rich billionaires. Stop complaining about what the players make. It’s a tiny percentage of what wealth they produce for everyone involved in the game. Get your priorities right.
  • That’s it for today.
  • Bethlehem, My Thinking Town

    Everyone has their place they go to think. It’s a place of comfort, a place to decompress your thoughts, a place where you can make sense of everything in life. For me, that place is a whole city- Bethlehem, PA. I “grew up” in Bethlehem, which is to say that I went to college here. I’m at peace when I’m back on campus at Moravian. I’m at peace when I go up to Lookout Mountain. Lately though, I’ve been doing most of my work over coffee in South Side Bethlehem. There’s a couple of really good spots, and I can mostly be left to myself there.

    I’ve had so many important moments in Bethlehem, some fun and some not. The annual Musikfest (which begins Saturday) is one of my favorite weeks of the whole year. Main Street is a great place to eat or have a drink. I would not mind eventually living in Bethlehem.

    I’m in Bethlehem right now having a coffee. Rest assured I’m thinking over some major decisions.

    I Love Being Asked, “What Do You Do???”

    I chose an interesting path in life, one I may exit off of in the future, but one I still enjoy for now. I don’t have a 9-5 schedule, I move around a lot, and security is not a part of my vocabulary. On the other hand, I had a Barack Obama dot com email, worked for Hillary Clinton twice, for five U.S. Senators, a Bosnian War Refugee, the first African-American Congresswoman in New Jersey history, and worked for a couple of state Democratic parties, to name some things on my resume. I’ve been around the block a bit.

    I’ve gone on the record in interviews with reporters from some of the nation’s biggest news outlets, and had bonfires in Cedar Falls, Iowa with local party leaders. I’ve run 15 counties for Presidential candidates and gone to State Senators summer picnics, where I ate some wonderful potato salad. I’ve worked for PCCC endorsed candidates, and moderate to conservative Democrats who had no support from local activists. I’ve worked out of union halls and a candidate’s living room. I’ve worked for a Muslim candidate, Jewish candidates, and a preacher’s wife. I’ve lived several months in an Extended Stay Inn on the Waterloo-Cedar Falls border, and in a beachside gated community in the Outer Banks. It’s fair to say I’ve done it all.

    So what do I do? Fundraising, on-the-record communications, targeting, field management, petition drives, and of course, campaign management and senior advising. If you’re not political, that means nothing to you. If you’ve followed my life over the last month, you’d be correct in assuming I’ve mostly stayed out of the political realm. I’ve done lots of baseball games, urban hiked out onto the Brooklyn Bridge, and spent some time with my non-political folks. There is a certain sting to losing an election, and it makes you step back and think a bit. I didn’t rush in and push for any specific next job, though I poked at some. I took my time to survey the future. The plan I had, to go to Capitol Hill, was somewhat busted by the results in PA-7 on May 15th’s primary. On the other hand, new opportunities have arisen from the ash left behind. I think our politics are as disgusting and insane as they have been at any time in my life, and as liberal guy I have felt isolated, but I have decided to re-focus and press on. I still enjoy politics too much to go away.

    So what is the future? What are my goals? I’ve made a few, some short term and some long term. I’ve found in the past that having goals can leave you disappointed when the plan doesn’t work out, but it also gives you direction, and forces you to make a plan. May I be so fortunate as to formulate a new plan (side note: I’ll probably never share the plan on here, like I am the goals, so you’ll have to ask for that.).

    So here we go:

    • I want to work the 2020 Presidential race, both the primaries and the general election. Given my immense antipathy towards the President, let me unequivocally say I’m doing this for Democrats.
    • I want to go work for the next Democratic President, in the Administration. Official side, where the work is for the people. Ideally, this is 2021. This does mean I have one more DC stint in me.
    • Don’t mistake that for meaning I’m abandoning home. I would like to serve in some non-elected capacities, on some boards and commissions. Given my relationship to both County Executives in the Lehigh Valley, I hope to be appointed to some boards and commissions. Home will always be home, and I hope to make life better there.
    • I’d like to add a degree or two to my resume. I’m taking recommendations on an MPA vs. MPP/what school/masters vs. JD.
    • I’d like to make money. I’d like to buy a house. I’d like to have a family. I say these things, first and foremost, because they were never goals of mine. Second, I think this part gets understated. Campaigns are jobs. They’re hard jobs. They take up an extraordinary portion of your life. If this isn’t a part of your plan, you should say so- for the sake of other people. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do well, or wanting some stability. I want both, though that was never the thought process before.
    • I’d like to represent my community in Harrisburg, or maybe even Washington, someday. Consider this not short time. Or be the Mayor of Easton- someday.
    • I’d like to do a foreign election. No strong preference. Maybe the UK? Idk.
    • I’ll go back out and do 2018. And maybe even Capitol Hill, if I must. We’ll see.

    I think that’s as clear cut of future plans, and as broad of them as I get. I could quite obviously call an audible on the behalf of any of them, as I get the potential change factor. Even so, my life is in re-think mode, and I’m open to whatever.