Michael R. Rochford / AP
Huh? HUH? Get it? Get it?
I'll be here all week, ladies and gentlemen.
Seriously, though, we need to do something about the goddam pythons.
Okay, look: Romney's won Florida. Gingrich has vowed to carry this thing to the Convention (August 27, right here in the Tampa Bay area, I'd remind you). Rick Santorum appears to be fading, leaving Ron Paul who has indicated he may stick it out for a long haul as well.
You can read varying analyses on this entire scenario pretty much anywhere on the Internet. Best of luck to you. (As an aside, there are some local issues and names on the ballot as well -- you can go to the Tampa Bay Times article here and see what the deal is in your neck of the woods.)
I was at this training all day yesterday over in Ft. Lauderdale. It was great. Our trainer was talking about messaging (specifically, messaging for evidence-based practices and early childhood investment; it was a work thing), and this (true) idea that many, or even most of us in the human services world do a great job of collecting data and putting together data sets, and aggregating data, and basically just slicing and dicing data without any frame of reference.
Where we don't necessarily do such a hot job is in telling our story, or rather, telling a story which the data supports. Sure, there are 16.4 million American children living in poverty* (many in working families) -- but what does that mean? What's more, who is doing something about this national disgrace?
Isn't there some sort of common national narrative about more than 16 million kids who are less healthy, less likely to graduate from school, more likely to eventually have children of their own in poverty?
The answer is, of course there is. Good, well-meaning people on both sides of the political spectrum work on this issue every single day. We just don't hear about it every single day.
Indeed, it's hard to hear narratives like that sometimes -- and even harder to get a word in, edgewise.
I've had a handful of incidents over the course of the last several weeks which have caused me to look at my own commitment to our political process. Sure, money has flooded the system. The mechanisms by which everyday American can access the political system to address their grievances is corrupted. This hobbled system is abetted by a busted media apparatus which seems only to succeed in amplifying a less and less interesting echo chamber filled with garbled nonsense.
Too often the response to a seemingly impenetrable system is to sort of figuratively throw up your hands and walk away, to sigh and say, that's it? That's all there is? I concede the point to my commenter from a few days ago who described "a slow boat ride with a very frustrated population all the way to the next election cycle."
Frankly, I can't argue with that.
Look, I get it -- I really do. It's easy to forget that our politics has become a kind of club, where only a few get to play, and the lives of everyone else are forgotten. Or so it would seem.
See, I don't happen to believe that is the case. I've worked in government and politics for too long, now, to give up on it. In fact, giving up on it is the worst thing you can do.
If you think of politics as an expression of ourselves -- a form of speech, which is really all it is, after all -- then you'd be doing pretty well to quote Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in the Whitney v. California opinion: "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."
In other words, speak up. Speak up. Speak up and discuss those "falsehoods and fallacies."
Speak up, and avert the evil.
Maybe it's just because I've been in government and the non-profit world my whole life, but I really do think politics can make a difference. When you see a man with Parkinson's disease talk to his own United States Senator about better federal funding for research and a cure, that's worth having done.
Yes, the lobbyists and big corporations have that kind of access and more. Much more. And you don't really want to have some kind of awful disease like Parkinson's to get you into the Hart or Dirksen Senate Office Buildings. Those doors should be open wider. They are not. But I refuse to believe the answer is to walk away from the door.
And that Senator didn't get there by magic. And his or her response to their constituent on federal funding for research (and just about anything else) is going to be informed not just by their own politics, but by the road they took to get there: the campaign trail.
I'm a believer in campaigns. I think everyone in America should experience it, at least one It's like nothing else. Good people do run for office. Sometimes they win. Too often they lose (again: fucked up system). There's a worn old adage out there that says if you don't vote, you can't complain. I say you can't complain if you don't work for a solution.
Your Senator not funding federal research for diseases to your liking? Work for a candidate who will. Or run against him yourself.
Running for the United States Senate aside, it's hard to know where to start or what to do because the system is so profoundly broken. Trying to make a difference in our system is a frightening prospect, to be sure.
Some folks may tell you that politics (and government) aren't scary at all. Those people are lying to you. People are powerful. Money is powerful. Ideas are more powerful, and campaigns are little more than people expressing their ideas. The fuel of that expression is money. If you're not just a little bit intimidated when you mix the campaign cocktail of people, money, and ideas, then you're not doing it right.
Our country is worth it, though, and I believe campaigns remain a worthwhile endeavor. Frightening, sure, but worthwhile.
But then again, "it is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears." Just ask Justice Brandeis.
*This is not an indictment of the good people at the Children's Defense Fund -- they just have their hands on a lot of data, and that particular snapshot certainly illustrated my point.