Bill Weld would not be an awful President.

I had no intention of doing any research on the Republican primary challengers to the sitting President, but my cousin asked me to – and former Massachusetts Governor Weld happened to do one of those WMUR town halls that I enjoy. So here goes.

Pro-Choice, Small Government, Fiscal Conservative. Decent Guy.

Bill Weld is pro-choice and seems to be in favor of some very modest gun control measures. He appears to be pretty reasonable on immigration, understanding that reform is necessary, ports should be the focus of control, and a wall is ridiculous. He also talks a decent game when it comes to criminal justice reform, acknowledging that our criminal justice system is racist–particularly our drug policy. As far as agreeing on policy, that’s probably where he and I part ways.

However, personal qualities are important to me, too – and he seems to be genuine, admitting when he hasn’t considered a particular topic or idea, or when he just isn’t enough of an expert to provide a reasoned opinion. He openly admitted to reconsidering some of the decisions he made while with the Justice Department. That kind of honestly and self-awareness go a long way with me. He does talk like an old man, and that’s not a shot at his age so much as his phrasing and vocabulary. While I honestly believe that he is and has been on the right side of history on things like LGBT and racial disparity issues, he doesn’t have the modern language of the social justice movements at his fingertips. That’s okay – but it is kind of a liability.

I oppose the fundamental conservative approach, but I respect him.

Weld is a traditional small government, states rights, fiscal conservative, which is basically anathema to my own view on federal government. For example, Weld believes in school choice, expansion of home schooling, and abolishing the federal Department of Education, in favor of making education a state’s responsibility. I strongly disagree, and think that the coming automation revolution makes a strong federal education policy even more critical than ever, and that public schools need more funding, not less.

At the end of the day, Weld is a traditional Republican and I would vote against him in the general election. However, he’s a respectable man with a solid moral compass who has reasoned, intelligent arguments for his point of view. If he were elected President, I would do everything in my power to convince people that he’s wrong on small government – but I would do it with respect and pride.

I wish I believed there was even a chance that he could get the nomination. But alas…

Marianne Williamson – Nope.

I have thought of a million ways to start this blog post about the candidacy of Marianne Williamson, and none of them are keeping with the tone of dignity and civility that I’m aiming for here. So…

I think her primary policy idea is prayer?

Ms. Williamson is not without an impressive resume of good work done in the world – from the founding of Project Angel Food to feed HIV positive and AIDS victims in the 80s to her work advocating for peace in various forms. Good on her.

However, listening to her is like listening to a self-help book on tape, when you know that most of what you are hearing is meaningless, but maybe there’s a nugget of something you can learn.

What I found particularly interesting is that of all of the candidates that I’ve listened to so far, Williamson is the most defensive about her candidacy. When challenged by an audience member who suggested that her message was “abstract”, she became heated and insisted that she has more specific policies than any other candidate. (She doesn’t.) It was weird, uncomfortable, and poorly handled.

Williamson is all about God, and that’s okay. For her. It’s not okay that she seems to indicate that the rest of us need to be all about God/god, too.

I’m trying to decide if it is deal-breaker for me that she doesn’t have a college degree. I know a lot of incredibly smart people who do not have college degrees, and I know that it is possible to seek and receive a well-balanced education outside of the traditional college setting. I also know that a college degree – even advanced degrees – don’t make you an intelligent, reasoned person. But…

For so very many reasons, nope. Nope. Nope-edy-nope.

I primarily focused my research on this series of interviews from WMUR in New Hampshire. (WMUR interviews are still fantastic – and am finding that the questions asked are incredibly well thought out, range across many topics, and somewhat consistent between candidates. Great source to learn more!)

Is anyone taking her candidacy seriously? Can someone reassure me that you’ve read this, so that I didn’t lose two hours of my life listening to YouTube videos of interviews with her today for no good reason. Link me to any articles, videos or just let me know what you are thinking in the comments.

John Delaney – Worth a Listen

I was really prepared to not like or care about this guy at all. As it turns out, I don’t dislike him, he seems to have some pretty good ideas, and I still don’t care all that much.

Solution-Oriented, Bi-Partisan Problem Solver

Delaney’s core “message” is that he is a solutions-oriented guy who can work across party lines to get things done. Sounds reasonable, but also like something pretty much every candidate says. Unlike some other candidates, Delaney does have some really specific ideas on policies and programs, he’s really well-spoken and articulate about those ideas, and he’s enough of the centrist and pragmatist to actually work across party lines.

I’ll continue to listen to Delaney- but I’m not inspired.

I’m going to continue to pay attention to Delaney, mostly because he does have some solid ideas and he isn’t uncomfortably painful to listen to when he articulates them. But I’m not at all inspired by him. He talks about every issue he’s asked about as a “priority” and “the number one issue facing…”, and I don’t feel like it is really genuine. I don’t think he’s dishonest, but I think he’s not comfortable saying, “I haven’t actually considered that idea or that topic.”

Also, at the risk of falling into the trap of identity politics, he’s a middle-aged, white guy from the Mid-Atlantic states. It’s not a reason to write him off, but it’s also not an advantage in this race.

I primarily focused my research on this series of interviews from WMUR in New Hampshire. (WMUR interviews are fantastic sources of information, btw.)

Is anyone a big Delaney supporter? I’m particularly interested in anyone who has been following his career for a long time. Link me to any articles, videos or just let me know what you are thinking in the comments.

Andrew Yang – Tech Geek, Single Issue Candidate

I don’t think Andrew Yang wants to be President of the United States. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself in order to understand his candidacy. Yang has an urgent message about the impact of automation on the workforce in the next 5 – 10 years — specifically the loss of jobs in trucking, customer service, and retail. He seems to be using the 2020 Democratic primary as a way to get that message out. It’s a worthy message – but it’s his only message, and it isn’t enough to put him on my list of potential candidates.

Universal Basic Income

Yang has some good ideas, including the idea of universal basic income – which might not be the right answer, but it is an idea worth discussing. As the overall economy of the United States is actually growing, income inequality is increasing and the vast majority of the people are not seeing the benefit of that growth. The benefits of automation translates into corporate profits, but there is no motivation to use that profit to create additional human jobs. Keep automating to minimize the cost of human labor, and you keep growing profit. Yang’s solution is to provide a “dividend check” on that growth (funded by taxes on corporate profit) to all Americans. I don’t hate the idea. I don’t love the idea. That’s an entire series of blog posts in itself.

Yang is a No from me.

While he’s clearly smart, Yang is a single issue, single focus candidate. He’s not terribly articulate about anything other than automation and universal basic income, although he admirably tries to bring every issue back around to this point. I also think he’s very wrong on the Supreme Court, where he strongly believes that setting term limits.

My sources were primarily this interview at Georgetown University from February, and this series of interview from WMUR in New Hampshire from February.

Do you disagree? Is there something about Yang that I’m missing? Link me to any articles, videos or just let me know what you are thinking in the comments.

My Current 2020 Democratic Candidate Ranking

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As I do my own research into the candidates, I’m going to keep a ranking for my own purposes of where candidates fall. The ranking won’t be totally accurate or fair, because a.) I’m still learning about many of the candidates, and b.) at some point in the list, they all just become the same level of “no”.

Updated 04/14/19

Celebrating the love she leaves behind.

(Eulogy for my grandmother – delivered December 12, 2018.)

IMG_0573When we were kids, there was almost nothing that Mommom wouldn’t let us do.  Jump on the bed?  She’d lead us in a rousing game of “Chop Chop Timber”.  Play in the mud?  She’d draw a bath and make sure our clothes were clean before we went home.  Drink Pepsi for breakfast?  “Just don’t tell your mother.”  If we broke something, she’d just shrug and say, “No one got hurt.”  And if we did get hurt, she pull out the band-aids and assure us that we’d be better before we were married.  I didn’t even know that she knew how to be angry until that one time I used her sewing scissors to cut paper.  (One time.)

Her patience with us as children was indicative of her patience with everyone.  She accepted that people made mistakes, and she forgave easily.  Where others held grudges or distanced themselves from people in their lives, my grandmother would forgive and find the good.  She didn’t always understand the decisions other people made, but she didn’t have to understand someone to love them.  She accepted that everyone was flawed, and she loved them anyway.

She opened her home to anyone who needed a place to stay – for a night or for a year.  There was nothing that she had that couldn’t be borrowed, and nothing that she owned that was more important than the people in her life.  Mommom was embarrassed by nothing and allowed herself to enjoy life without worrying about what others might think.  She literally danced as if no one was watching and sang as if no one was listening.

If you didn’t know her well, you might begin to see the picture of a woman without flaws – but most of us know better.  And the things that I loved about her the most were those perfect imperfections that made her who she was.

She was stubborn.  She didn’t think that she was always right, but right or wrong, she was going to do things her way.  She was a selective hoarder – of buttons, scraps of fabric, jars of jelly far past their expiration date, and 10 year old poinsettias that looked like barren collections of twigs but still produced a flower every once in awhile.

While it was my Mommom Amond who had the vocabulary of a sailor, it was Mommom Burd who taught me to curse creatively – taking every day words and infusing them with the spirit of profanity.

IMG_0560 2She believed – above everything else – in living her life, rather than striving for perfection.  She appreciated what she had, and she never wanted anything more.

Her legacy will continue to impact the world for many generations to come.  She shaped and helped to raise four strong-willed and independent granddaughters, and two great-granddaughters coming up behind. My dad has her goofy sense of humor and her inability to be embarrassed by much of anything – and her ability to accept the imperfections of others.  And it is my aunt who has inherited her endless generosity and caring, her compassion, and her heart.

As you leave here today, we ask you to reflect on and celebrate the impact that she had on you.  Maybe it is as simple as a favorite recipe that she shared. Maybe she helped to care for your family when someone was sick.  Maybe she gave you a place to stay, a loan, or just the gift of her time.  Or maybe she taught you to forgive easily, forget quickly, laugh often, play without embarrassment, and love without conditions.

Live your truth. Tell your story.

I have been feeling a bit lost for the past few months, and I’ve struggled with the things that typically feed my soul.

I stepped away from political conversations for a little while. I couldn’t reconcile the commonly held belief that the time for civility and compromise had passed with my own need to engage, understand, and find the common ground we all know exists.

I felt like my footing in the social justice movements was shaky; I was uncertain how to speak from a place of privilege without drowning out the marginalized voices that deserve to be heard.

I came dangerously close to giving up on my dream. I became overwhelmed with the effort and sacrifice required to get there, and I forgot about the purpose and passion that made it all worth the climb.

Needing, Seeking, and Finding Inspiration

I had lost my way and many of my former sources of inspiration had become sources of confusion and stress.  It was time to find inspiration in unexpected places.

The “Comedy” Special that will bring you to tears

If you have not yet taken the time to watch Hannah Gadsby’s entire Netflix special, you need to make time.  Make time.  Don’t put it on the in background while you are doing something else.  Sit.  Listen.  Laugh. Really listen. Cry. Laugh again.  I dare you to come away uninspired.

The Six-Hour 12-Hour YouTube Black Hole that Hasn’t Actually Ended Yet

I fell into a YouTube hole that I have not quite emerged from after discovering a speech delivered by writer/producer/director Dustin Lance Black. If you aren’t familiar with him, Lance won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Milk, and his recent TV mini-series When We Rise is definitely worth 8 hours of your time.

But beyond his work in Hollywood, he’s an activist and an advocate. Lance doesn’t just write scripts about the critical history of social justice movements, he makes history in those movements.

The common theme that resonated so strongly for me across both Hannah and Lance’s messages was the need to tell your story.  YOUR story.  YOUR truth.  From privilege, from oppression, with laughter, with tears… your story has value.

live your truth. tell your story. tattoo.Ironically, this message that I needed to hear is a message that I had tattooed on my arm earlier this year.  This is a message so important to me that I literally had it embedded into my skin.  I see it every day.  And yet I forgot the essential truth:

read. listen. engage. do good. do right. cry. laugh. dream. accept. love. live your truth.

tell your story.