Improving politics… without talking politics


This is an essay about politics.

But it’s not.

I will explain. Let’s meander along the path of the not part first.

There are no names here. No candidates. No insults. No screaming or cheers.

There are no Democrats and no Republicans. No political parties at all. No Conservatives or Liberals. No us or them. No them or us.

There is nothing complicated involved. Nothing deeply detailed or requiring a massive investment of time.

This is not politics to explain what you should or shouldn’t believe. This is not politics to tell you how to feel. This is not politics to tell you right from wrong.

We are not getting into specifics in any of those ways.

Instead, it’s politics for those of you that think we deserve better. It’s politics for those of you that think our government needs to change. It’s politics only from the concept of taking a first step or two.

We’re going to do it with three easy ideas. But first… a question.

Why now?

(Good question.)

The next major national election day will be November 6, 2018. And you in case you didn’t realize it, say because you are still dealing with a politics overdose, we are barely more than 500 days from that event.

The United States will look to vote on the entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate. (And actually, it looks like 2018 is the bonus Senate year, with thirty-four of the one hundred seats being contested. Just over a third.)

A vast majority of states will select their Governors. With “vast amount” meaning just shy of eighty percent.

So again… why now? Because if we don’t start now, by the time we do it once again will be too late. If you want more… if you want improvements… if you want something with a difference… now is the time.

None of this is swinging for the fences stuff. I’m not going tell you anything is broken (or not broken). I’m not looking at overhauling the system.

Just basics.

First steps.


Step number one – Pay attention

Who did you vote for in 2016?

No… no… not for President, Senator, or Representative.

I’m asking about judges, school boards, ballot measures and more. And I’m, not asking to actually get any names or specifics. (Remember… politics without politics.)

I’m asking about all of the names and all of the issues you were asked to vote on when you stepped into a booth or were handed a sheet. Were you prepared to make your selections? For everything? I’m asking because I wonder if at some moment you looked at the choices and options and possibly thought to yourself: “Didn’t know I’d be voting for a judge. I suppose I should pick one. I just hope I don’t choose a jackass.”

In some states, candidates are listed multiple times as the representative for different parties. (That’s a fun one to sort out if you actually care about not only the candidate, but which part they are representing.)

So many people go in ready to vote for President and national leadership, and yet it’s the state and local offices that can have a more immediate impact upon a voter’s daily life. And yet, ha ha, many voters have zero clue about some of the people and positions on the ballot.

Ok. Fine. Let’s step back from the idea of understanding all of the items on a ballot. Here’s an attempt to streamline the idea.

Name your Governor. Name the two U.S. Senators from your state. Do you know where you live? (And for that, when the local news station is scrolling results along the bottom of your television screen: Will you recognize your voting district?)

If an issue came up and the action required was “I need to call my Congressman”, would you know the name of the person you were going to call without having to make your first action an attempt to find out who your Congressman is?

I don’t need the answers. That part doesn’t matter to me. You’ll know whether or not you could provide the correct information. But if you don’t know the name of your Mayor and Governor and so on, that’s a fairly good indicator of your awareness of the political landscape.

Step number two – Do a little homework

The two major words in politics should be accountability and responsibility. For the actions of candidates in office… and, yes, for the voters electing them.

If you don’t know the candidates on the ballot… if you don’t know an answer when you are being asked how the state should invest significant amounts of money… then follow that through to the end result.

Supposedly, an individual gets elected and becomes responsible for representing you and the interests of those around you. Might be nice to know who that is.

Whatever might be important to you—medical coverage, national security, cost of living, the postal service—find out where the candidates stand on specific issues. Quite honestly, no candidate is perfect. Not one. But if (1) Candidate A says they will have to raise taxes, (2) you don’t want your taxes raised, and (3) you vote for Candidate A, then long before you get upset that your taxes are being raised there should have been a reason or two you ignored the warning signs when casting your vote.

Yup. You’re going to need to invest some time. Sorry. But it’s really not a tremendous amount of time. And if you are going to put a blindfold on before throwing your darts instead, you shouldn’t be surprised to take your blindfold off and see the darts all missed the board and damaged the wall.

Step number three – Vote

As a rough statement, forty percent of eligible voters don’t vote.

It changes depending on a variety of circumstances, the candidates, the type of election (Presidential year, etc.), and so on. But for the most part, two out of five voters stay away.

Most places allow voting for a fairly wide range of hours, and obtaining an absentee ballot is far from an impossible task. The point being: while for a few people it is possible that professional or personal obligations may take on a priority and prevent a person from voting, it’s kind of hard to believe that ninety million voters end up working overtime on a Tuesday every four years.

Ok… know what you’re voting on, know what matters to you, and vote. VERY simple and straightforward. Perhaps, just perhaps, too simple and straightforward. But something is troubling me…

The accountability and responsibility I mentioned begins with us. We have the right to vote, and it’s up to each of us to use that right. A step beyond that is the idea that an informed and prepared voter is likely to make stronger decisions.

My argument is that we need easy places to begin, we need to make the first moves, and these three are not unrealistic in any way.

Whether or not anyone actually moves forward and tries them remains to be seen. But I guarantee you that we are closing in on what will yet again be labeled the biggest election in our history, with candidates none of us could possibly have expected to be seemingly such poor options, playing election games that no one believes could really work the way they do.

Could it be better? Yes. Better is what we all deserve. All you need to do is get started.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at