Thoughts and Prayers, 4/15

Happy Monday, April 15th, 2019. I’m feeling a more rambling post today, so here we go. Let’s touch on a bunch of things.

  • Easter weekend is one week away. At one time in my life, this was one of the busiest weekends of my year. There was a time when I never missed church. In fact, at one point in my life I was an altar boy. Now my elder relatives basically implore me to attend my church. That would be the same church that used to have three masses every weekend, and the 9am mass had well north of 100 people every week. Now there’s just a Sunday, 8am mass with 15 people. I blame the church (Catholicism at large) for many of it’s own problems, but I also find the situation kind of sad. Many of the lessons I took from church were good things that society could use. Unfortunately the shame and disappointment in the church’s failings win out.
  • I slept through a tornado warning last night. Yes, one seems to have touched down in Scranton, but apparently all of Eastern Pennsylvania was under a warning. I’ve lived in Iowa a few times, where tornadoes have been known to be deadly. I guess I didn’t learn much.
  • Thursday was Wawa’s 55th birthday. What a glorious day for anyone in the Philadelphia “sphere of influence.” I did get my free coffee, at the Mt. Pocono Wawa on 115, and made sure to post it on social media. Whether I’m in the Tampa area, the Jersey Shore, center city Philadelphia, or College Hill in Easton, I love me some Wawa.
  • Pope Benedict was already my least favorite Pope in my lifetime, but that angry old man’s letter blaming homosexuality for pedophilia in the church only cemented my dislike for him. To be clear, homosexuality and pedophilia are not the same thing, or even loosely related, or frankly related at all. The priests that molested children didn’t do so because they liked men or women, they did so because they are sick individuals. His argument that the “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s is to blame for this disgrace on the church is little more than an attempt to pass the buck. Women and homosexuals living openly sexually is not to blame for the men of the church abusing their power and harming children. Full stop.
  • I know a lot of my fellow Hillary alums and fans are not going to want to hear this, but Democrats need to cast a wider net for votes in 2020 than she did, and no, that doesn’t just mean we do that with people who didn’t vote. There are a lot of people in the Democratic Party who would like to believe that Barack Obama was elected through “the rising electorate,” and therefore that the future pathway forward is “demographic destiny,” but they are not correct. It is worth noting that both in 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama ran incredibly strong in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, winning them all by fairly substantial margins both times. The demographics of those states didn’t change much, and yet Hillary Clinton lost all of them but Minnesota, which she very narrowly won. The excuse of many Hillary loyalists is to simply say they are all racists, and that the way forward is to turn out more of the base. That won’t work. So much of that “rising electorate” is confined to “blue” districts in “blue” states that they won’t tip enough states. Hillary did fine holding the line in Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico, despite some drop off among base turnout in 2016. We’ve found Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona as all possible, but tough nuts to crack so far. The reality is that Texas and Georgia stayed red, even in a great cycle like 2018. We’re going to have to appeal to some of the Obama-Trump voters, or at least non-voters that are not absolute locks to always vote Democrat if they vote. We did this well in 2018. We mostly rejected far leftist candidates in swing districts of the Rust Belt, and instead ran on things like health care, education, housing, and infrastructure, with practical plans to improve on the status quo. A grounded strategy of appealing to the public’s needs in swing states is the only way to beat Trump.
  • I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about the younger me. Namely, how I interacted with people who I actually liked in my younger years. People who are different than me. I’ll probably expand on this in another post, but I wish I had been more aware as a teenager. I wish I had been more aware of how life must have felt for them. I probably could have been a better friend.
  • The Phillies are 9-5, first in the NL East, after a week that felt disappointing. They went just 3-3, got destroyed twice, and gave away a big lead in a game. Odubel failed to run a ball out, Gabe tried closing a game with Edubray Ramos, Nola gave away a lead, and Eflin got shelled by the Marlins. You know what though? I’ll take it, first is first. Sure beats the last several seasons.
  • I posted an article to my Facebook about how Democrats are more likely to unfriend someone for differing political views. A lot of people took this as a positive thing- it is not. At the point where politics is all consuming, and you can’t co-exist with people of different viewpoints, politics has failed you. If every Democrat is an anti-American socialist, and every Republican a racist, we’re pretty much dead as a country.
  • Sixers-Nets game two tonight. Joel gave his team a nice lift, and Jimmy Butler was awesome, unfortunately no one else really played in game one. Let’s hope Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris are present tonight, and maybe J.J. Redick is a little helpful. Otherwise, this series will be shockingly done.
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The Crisis at the Border? It’s Who’s There.

Evergreen Statement- Donald Trump is going to argue a false case tonight. There is absolutely no crisis at the Southern border. Illegal entry at the Southern border has been going down for the better part of a decade. There aren’t terrorists walking across the border. People applying for asylum is not a new thing. Most people in the United States with an illegal immigration status over stayed visas. Almost all the “terrorists” stopped at the “border” are people stopped at airports who have names that match someone on the no-fly list.

Donald Trump knows there is no crisis at the border. It’s why he let the first 22 months of his Presidency, with a fully Republican House and Senate, go by without pushing for his border wall. It’s why he turned down $20 billion for his border wall in exchange for DACA when Senate Dems Leader Chuck Schumer offered him it. It’s why he pulled back the troops he deployed to the border right before the election last year. Donald Trump knows there is no crisis at the Southern border. When his 2020 campaign kicks into high gear, I’d even venture a guess that he’ll praise himself for “less traffic at our Southern border.”

Let’s not kid ourselves into believing Trump thinks there is a real “crisis” at the border- the issue is that Trump’s base feels there is a “crisis” because of who is coming to that border and where they are from. If this was genuinely a debate about real fears at the border, Trump would take fencing and technology, and probably even more manpower at the border. He’s not though. This argument over a wall, which won’t work. It’s about deporting the DACA kids, because it’s cruel. It’s about putting children in cages and separating them from their family, because it does send the desired image and message to Central America.

Xenophobia has a history in America. The Irish and Italians were once treated as undesirable immigrants. When Eastern Europe, and worse yet Asians were coming here for work, Ellis Island was closed, and quotas were established. We turned away many Jewish asylum seekers both before and during Hitler’s Holocaust and World War II. So much of Trump’s base seem to have forgotten the plight of their ancestors. They now want to slam shut the doors to the “Land of Opportunity” in no small part because of who those seeking refuge here are. They don’t want kids from Honduras in this country, because they think they will change the nation’s identity- away from them. Their fear is that these immigrants coming here, seeking asylum, might not agree with their retro world view. This is all nothing more than white identity politics.

That’s the actual crisis here.

A Bold New World View, Part 3- the Revolutionaries are Idiots

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

It’s not usually that hard to see what’s wrong. That’s usually in front of your eyes. Diagnosing the problems within our political system, from money in our campaigns to hyper partisanship, isn’t hard. Seeing a problem is not solving a problem though. When it comes to solutions, that usually is far more complicated than calling them out in the first place.

We all know that money in politics is a bad thing. We all hate it. Why not just ban it? Well, the Supreme Court is one blockade. Even if you went the route of a constitutional amendment to ban money, you still don’t solve the major problem of campaign money- campaigns are expensive. If you take the money out of politics, how does anyone but self-funding candidates get themselves known? You run into these roadblocks on issues all over the political spectrum. How do you actually finance a “Medicare for All” plan that requires as much additional funding as the entire current Federal budget? We know we need to get away from fossil fuels, but how do we survive in the short term if we do that? Big problems require big solutions, and that’s hard. It doesn’t mean solutions are impossible. It means you should be skeptical of anyone with simple solutions and talking points as their solution.

Unfortunately, our current political climate isn’t short on unserious people. Some of them think we can simply spend money forever, without any thoughts of deficits or taxes. Some think that cutting taxes on rich people and corporations will both create jobs and not blow a hole in the deficit. Rather than coming up with serious solutions, they cling to fairy tales and nonsense.

Unfortunately, in the era of Trump this is made even worse by our divisions. People of little substance, peddling fairy tales that meet the desires of the foaming mouthed masses emerge and build massive followings. Whether they are “deplorables” or “resisters,” there are hucksters, grifters, and con-artists infiltrating our politics and poisoning the public. They do so by baiting our biases, by telling us what they want to hear.

If someone offers “perfect,” or “simple” solutions to complex problems, you shouldn’t believe them. If someone tells you they can solve the problems of our political system by force of personality, or through “political revolution,” run away. If they tell you all the opponents are “corrupt,” question them. If they tell you that we “just need to try harder,” know they are wrong. If they tell you the “establishment” or “mainstream” oppose any solution, question them.

There has not been a problem worth solving yet in our history that was solved perfectly, all at once. Solutions require imperfection, because they require compromises. Anyone who says you can have it all has no plan at all. When someone seems to have all the right ideas, you’ll probably see a person who lacks legislative achievements or life successes, or someone who has bankrupt a casino.

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.

One Month of Christmas, Day 9

Happy Monday, December 3rd, 2018. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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In DC

I’m in DC- it was a lovely night being an Eagles fan in enemy territory. The Eagles and Redskins are playing on Monday Night Football. I must say- nobody gave me an issue. A few beers and some food later, all’s well.

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Compassion for the Homeless? Not Here…

I just walked past a group of homeless people sleeping on Pennsylvania Avenue. They’re just laying on the sidewalk. I’m walking to the Capitol to see a President’s farewell and these people aren’t even treated as people.

Who are we?

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You Have to Cheer for Ewing

I went to see the Georgetown Hoyas beat the Liberty Flames tonight. The Capitol One Arena is nice, and the Hoyas need to start filling it. That will mean tournament wins, Final Fours, and yes, a title. Georgetown expects to win, not just games against Liberty, but big games too. Tonight was an expectation for the Hoyas.

I’m not a fan of the Hoyas, but I’m pulling for Ewing. How many Hall-of-Famers go coach their alma mater? The risk of fraying the relationship is too much for most. That he’s taking it on is enough for me to pull for him.

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May Jean be the First

Jean Segura is coming to Philadelphia. The two-time All-Star will be the Phillies shortstop in 2019. Juan Nicasio and James Pazos will join the Phillies as well.

I’m in a minority that is sorry to see J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana gone, but don’t mistake me as opposing the trade. I think Crawford will blossom, and Santana is still a positive player. I think Segura is good now. If you want to win now, you need players like him.

If you want to sign Bryce and Manny, you do this.

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Paying my Respects to 41

As I said above, I’m going to see George H.W. Bush’s body lie in state at the Capitol- in fact, I’m in line now. It’s not bad, slightly cold, but the line is moving. I’m signing off for tonight to do this.

God speed, sir: God speed.

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

4

I’ve been going through life, making foolish plans. Now my world is in your hands. Send in the congregation. Open your eyes, step in the lies. The jukebox generation. Just as you were…

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Tonight’s GOTV playlist:

  1. Foo Fighters- Congregation
  2. Eminem- My Name Is
  3. The Rolling Stones- Jumping Jack Flash
  4. Kanye West- Never Let Me Down
  5. The Dropkick Murphys- Shipping Up to Boston

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Tonight’s candidate of the night is Christy Clark, the Democratic nominee here in North Carolina House District 98, North Mecklenburg County. Christy is fighting for quality education, affordable health care, jobs, clean drinking water, stopping gun violence, and voting rights. Endorsed by Emily’s List, Christy has put an entrenched incumbent, in a traditionally red seat in play.

Christy is one of a group of candidates I’ve been down here in the Charlotte area trying to elect. You can donate to her here. You can come down and volunteer by clicking here.

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New York friends- I’ll be in town the 16th and 17th. Come out and join me.

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Tonight’s final GOTV story of time’s past- 2016. It was the worst of times, and the worst of times. I was here in North Carolina, but in the northeastern most 15 counties. The saving grace- waking up some mornings on the bayside of the Outer Banks, or other mornings in an Elizabeth City hotel room, hung over. I built up a lot of character in that election, but all I got to show for it was that I’m back here to get Governor Cooper a better legislature now.

It wasn’t just losing the state for Hillary, or losing the national election, but it was as much the ugly under current I saw here (and across the nation) around that election. Open white nationalism, sexism, and bigotry of all kinds was prevalent. I never had so many organizers and volunteers express fear and anxiety over voter contact.

But other than that, it was a beautiful place, and I saw some amazing sights.

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So the Senate seems pretty straight forward to me: Democrats have to win Nevada for anything to matter, and Republicans are almost certainly winning North Dakota. That probably means the Senate rides on Missouri, Florida, Arizona, and Tennessee. The Democrats probably need to sweep them to win the Senate, or they need a win in Texas, of which I’m still skeptical of (I’m not saying he won’t win, just that I’m a doubter.) Republicans are still hoping to win in Montana, Indiana, and West Virginia, but I don’t see them as likely to do that.

If I were betting today, I’m seeing a 50-50 Senate. Republicans will win North Dakota and Missouri, but lose Nevada, Arizona, and Tennessee. The Senate probably rides on Texas, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, and Arizona this Tuesday.

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Speaking of Missouri, for as much as has changed, that state will still come down to McCaskill winning the pro-life Democrats and suburbanites in St. Louis County (not the city proper). The problem, of course, is that this cycle has seen so much discussion of social issues that I’m just not sure that holds up. Yes, Claire seems to win the close ones. This still feels like the wrong cycle for her.

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Easton won their playoff football game back home tonight, 39-19 over Easton. I saw them play in week two and was impressed. I look forward to seeing them on Thanksgiving.

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Tomorrow will be a busy day, overseeing over 500 canvass shifts from my boiler room. This is the time of year political operatives live for though. All of this Democratic energy from the last two years means nothing if we don’t turn it into seats in Congress and state capitols.

25

Today is October 12th, 2018, 25 days before the midterm election. It’s a beautiful, Southern Fall day- sunny and in the 70’s during the day, down into the 50’s and 60’s at night. Beautiful weather isn’t a rule though. Yesterday Hurricane Matthew rolled through Charlotte yesterday and knocked out power, dropped buckets of rain, and generally left debris everywhere. It was not really scary, but it definitely made me a bit anxious- what if a tree falls on my new car?

Fortunately, the storm came and went, and my car is in one piece. Small victories.

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Data runs the world. “Moneyball” has taken over baseball, despite the fact that Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s have not played a World Series game during his tenure. The value of moving runners and bunting has been replaced by launch angles, exit velocities, and WAR. Advanced metrics, and formerly obscure stats, now tell us who has the most value in baseball.

Politics, and particularly the campaigns, are going the same way. Data is driving everything from GOTV targets to what precincts get walked each day. An algorithm in Brooklyn picked where Hillary Clinton scheduled visits. The Russian troll farms picked targets and bought Facebook ads based on data they got by hacking (and stealing from) the DNC. Big data runs everything now, and to be fair, it does give us a way better view of where to go and what to do in order to get votes. Data definitely belongs at the table.

Political campaigns cannot run on an algorithm though, especially coalition driven, Democratic campaigns. There is a certain level of human driven, political savvy, common sense decision making that needs to be made on a well run campaign. Much as “moneyball” has failed in baseball, algorithm driven politics produced Hillary Clinton’s campaign against Donald Trump. An algorithm said visit Philadelphia a 23rd time, instead of visiting Bethlehem or Wilkes-Barre a first. An algorithm said that it was more important to do the extra visits in Miami and Chapel Hill, while not going out to Elizabeth City or some of the exurbs of Tampa. Published reports say that Bill Clinton was laughed at and brushed off as old-fashioned inside the campaign for saying the campaign needed to spend some time in Pennsylvania’s smaller cities, or in rural, Eastern North Carolina. I’d say the record says Bill was right.

Inside campaigns, data has dramatically changed how field operations run. Organizers are now there to produce the highest numbers possible, more so than to community organize. Regional field directors are more so managers for the organizers, and less so there to deal with regional political issues. GOTV Directors are largely logistical captains, and less involved as far as putting together or managing the operation. Basically, big data is increasingly driving the bus, and human capital is less crucial.

I’m not sure if that’s got a lot of positive value.

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With the NLCS and ALCS starting, I figured I’d make some predictions.

I’ve got the Astros over the Red Sox in six. Both teams will steam roll the NL Champion, but the Astros are looking to me like a next level, dynasty team.

I’m struggling with the NL. While the Dodgers don’t impress me, my head says they win. My gut says the Brewers feel like the team of destiny to me though. I’ll go Brewers in seven, stocking with instinct.

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My Eagles won big last night, and they needed it. Write this down- they will get it together and win the division in the end. They’re next level.

Saquon Barkley scored my fantasy team over 30 points last night. Saquon didn’t beat my Eagles though. I’m really happy with that outcome. Let’s see that for a while.

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Today’s candidate of the day is my Governor, Tom Wolf. Governor Wolf was elected four years ago, against the worst Governor human-being in the Commonwealth’s history, Tom Corbett. That would be the same former Governor who cut education funding, taxed natural gas producers at a lower rate than Texas or Alaska, and completely botched the Sandusky/Penn State scandal every which way imaginable.

The problem Governor Wolf has faced though is that Corbett’s 2010 legislature has remained in place for the last four years, making life difficult for the Governor. Even so, he’s managed to restore funding to education, better fund our human services, and protect our natural resources. He’s signed legislation to expand expungement for reformed offenders and protected women’s health care services. He’s done this in spite of the Republican legislature. He’s done a good job.

One of the big road blocks in Harrisburg, one of the least productive members of the State Senate, up to his resignation earlier this Summer, was Scott Wagner. That would be Scott Wagner who said today that he will “stomp all over” Governor Wolf’s “face, with golf spikes.” You can’t make this up. Does this guy seem like he has the temperament to lead, to you?

Governor Wolf needs your help. Donate to him here. Volunteer with the PA Dems coordinated campaign here.

9/11

Time comes and goes without prejudice, and the seasons change for us all. I was once a senior at Easton Area High School, sitting in second period Latin one, as airplanes flew into the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and a hillside in Shanksville, PA. A younger girl named Tarin was sitting next to me, and I immediately remember telling her “it’s Bin Laden.” I clearly consumed too much news for my age.

That morning was beautiful. I’m talking a perfect blue sky, the slightest twinge of Fall in the air, the music bumping in my car on the way to school. Gas was under a dollar at the gas station down the hill, and my friends were in the car with me on the way to school. It was a cross-country meet day, a race we would not run that day. I was excited though. I was most mornings that year when I went to school.

I remember the crazy rumors that day, of planes heading towards Philadelphia, the White House, and the Empire State Building. I remember being sent back to home room in the band wing, then being at lunch in the senior cafeteria, sitting with a group of athletes, listening to our principal, Dean Jones explain to us what happened, and helping us make sense. It finally made sense, just how big of a world event we were watching.

I remember the days and weeks after too. I remember watching funerals right here in our communities, just over an hour from New York City. I remember going to the Monday Night Football game between the Eagles and Giants in the Meadowlands, just weeks later. I remember going past the crash site in Shanksville, PA just weeks later on the long, winding trip to Pittsburgh to visit Pitt. I remember going to Washington, DC and looking at the Pentagon from across the highway, in horror. I remember being tested for anthrax after a trip to the Capitol, days later, because another girl (her name was Carrie) I was there with got sick after we were exposed. I remember how long the Q-tip was they stuck up my nose to test me, too (it was scary and funny at once). I remember going back into Manhattan for the first time that Fall. I remember when the first friend of mine came home from Afghanistan that Winter, critically injured.

I remember the years that would follow, too. I remember falling in love with New York after that, for the first time in my life (even after years of disliking my parents former home). I remember the respect I suddenly found for people there, watching them recover. The events of 9/11 made me realize what a great, big, important deal Washington was too. I remember how the events of 9/11 actually lead me to oppose the Iraq War, and how that galvanized me to go into politics. I remember years later living in Washington, and how I celebrated with total strangers on my first night there, because America had killed Osama Bin Laden. Just months later, I went into Manhattan on 9/11/11, ten years after the attacks, simply as a point of national pride. The sound of the bagpipes, and of the toasts in Lower Manhattan to fallen cops and firefighters shook me up.

I am not naive to the events of 9/11/01, or how they happened. I am not a conspiracy theorist either. I understand the role the United States had in training Osama Bin Laden and the Mujahideen through the CIA, and in creating the Taliban, and how the aftermath of the first Gulf War helped create the conditions for al Qaeda. I understand the follies of the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, and much of the War on Terror. I fully understand that 9/11 wasn’t some inside job, but that our government, and particularly our White House, missed the signs. We made mistakes before 9/11. We made mistakes after, too. We shouldn’t view 9/11 through purely red, white, and blue glasses.

Seventeen years have gone by, and much has changed. Tarin who sat next to me in Latin one, she’s married and lives up by New York. Principal Jones is long retired. One of my friends who rode to school with me that day, she died in a plane accident in Colorado. That Marine that grew up in my town and was the first person I knew to come back from Afghanistan injured, is married, has kids, and is in a television commercial. One of the girls with me in the anthrax scare, a classmate of mine at Easton, Meghan, is in politics too. I’m definitely not running a cross-country race today either. I still love New York. I’ve fallen back in love with DC.

Time passes everything by. Seventeen years is not a significant milestone in the time since 9/11/01, but yet I remember it more vividly today than I have in some times past. It means different things to me now. I miss those two big buildings. I felt weird walking past the memorial at the Pentagon when I lived in Arlington, but I also felt peaceful. I spent this 17th anniversary at home in Easton, listening to Bruce Springsteen. I have “Atlantic City” stuck in my head. I think it fits my feelings today perfectly.

Seventeen years after I was an 18 year old boy, making sense of the most world altering event of my life, all I can do is think. Time truly passes. I pondered today if America could be that united today, if we squandered that unity on the wrong things, if we have the leaders and political will to even unite now. Then I reminded myself, this time too, shall pass.