Hope in the dark

The election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence is horrifying in so many ways, and it will take days, weeks, years to process and understand the implications for our country, and for my own life and community. I have renewed fear for the health and safety of the many people who Trump has attacked, denigrated and vilified in his life and campaign, especially women. I am deeply concerned about the damage that could be done in the years ahead.

But we also know that this outcome is not an accident. It is the very predictable result of living in a world where consideration of the facts and what is true has become inessential to public life. It is the expected product of a political system that exists to feed the beast of insecurity, consumption, fear and disempowerment. It is what happens when we fight our way through crucial conversations instead of listening to each other, when we focus on what we are against instead of what we are for. It is a natural -- if significant and very unwelcome -- stop-over on a path that we have been on for a very long time.

Where do we go from here? Where do I go from here?

  • Grieve.
  • Locally, work to protect the people and communities who are at risk of further harm from a Trump presidency.
  • Regionally and nationally, work to minimize the damage that can be done.
  • Replace "clicktivism" with real movements and real strategies.
  • Get clear on where our personal tipping points are for taking real action.

As someone who has long held the belief that words of truth have the power to facilitate the changing of minds in significant ways, I personally also need to wrestle more with what this election outcome means for the relevance of language in shaping national events.

Continue reading Hope in the dark

The Trump we asked for

As an Indiana resident and voter, it's tempting to be embarrassed at the headlines of "Trump wins Indiana" blanketing the national news today. Indeed, I find almost everything about his candidacy, personality and public statements to be deeply problematic on numerous levels. But Mr. Trump's success in the primary and his win here in Indiana are just more symptoms of a brokenness in U.S. politics that goes far beyond this state or this election year.

When I was growing up, a career in politics mostly seemed like something boring, unglamorous and yet perhaps ultimately noble that certain kinds of people would necessarily take on in service of their town, state or country. Many kids wanted "to be President some day," but most would redirect their attention to other more practical and personally rewarding pursuits when they realized the amount of mundane policy details they'd have to immerse themselves in, or the long road of statespersonship that only just began with a law degree or military service. In this way the bar was set somewhat high for entering a life in politics, and while somewhat contrary to the promise that anyone with a good idea can make a difference in a government of the people, maybe in some ways it was a good thing.

As the lapel pin-wearing political class has emerged, the idea of just anyone being able to make a difference in politics seems more myth than anything. In a country of hundreds of millions of people, the same small circles of people are held up as the only realistic candidates. If you're not willing to amass gobs of money (or friends with gobs they can share), compromise your values and public persona to fit with the room you're in, make promises you can't keep and bow to the primacy of the so-called military-industrial complex, it's unlikely that you can succeed as a politician. Those of us who have in the past held out hope for a candidateperson who can transcend those constraints to restore a principled, dignified approach to government leadership have now mostly learned to know better.

So if we can't relate to or become a part of the political class, we at least expect them to entertain us. Between the 24-hour cable network rehashing of Every Little Unimportant Detail, tell-all insider memoirs, the salacious political affairs and scandals of the last two decades and the fear-mongering around U.S. national security, our appetite for political theater that distracts us from any substantive discussion of issues or outcomes has grown each year. Congressional gridlock, court decisions around corporations as people and money as free speech, and a media generally unwilling or unable to do anything other than chase the story of the day means the founding structures of U.S. government that once required a boring but otherwise accountable and productive national conversation have been all but undone.

Continue reading The Trump we asked for

Political transparency and Bing Welch's health

PosingToday's Palladium-Item editorial "Politics cheats citizens" calls out the ways in which local political maneuvering can do a disservice to voters, in this case with the less-than-transparent approach that was taken to handling the unfortunate health issues affecting Richmond City Council's District 5 representative, Bing Welch, during the recent election campaign:

Whether it is the 2009 Christmas Eve Senate passage of a huge, and hugely controversial, health care reform measure by Democrats narrowly controlling the U.S. Senate or, closer to home, Republicans and Democrats waiting until after a general election to craft their respective political handiwork, this is the stuff that alienates and isolates the public from those who have sworn to represent their best interests.

Through any such conversation we must of course be sensitive to Mr. Welch's experience along the way.  I certainly wish him the best in recovering his health, and appreciate the years of time and service he has given to the Richmond community and the residents of District 5.  It's not easy to be a political figure in the public spotlight even when you're healthy, and so we know that it must have been particularly hard on Bing and his family to have health concerns and questions about his ability to serve in that role all mixed in together.

Continue reading Political transparency and Bing Welch's health

Chris's campaign concludes, work continues

This entry is part 20 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

In today's election, the citizens of Richmond made a choice about who they want to help shape the future of this community in the coming years. While I am of course disappointed that I was not elected to City Council, I am grateful for the votes I did receive and for the amazing support I've had along the way.

Some highlights from the unofficial results [PDF]:

  • 5,945 voters voted
  • 2,717 of those voted for me to be one of the three members of City Council At-Large, 201 votes short of a win

This has been my first foray into politics, and it's been an incredibly rewarding journey. As I've walked through neighborhoods in Richmond, I've had a chance to hear from residents here what issues matter most to them. As I've sat down with community leaders and decision-makers, I've learned about the complexities of building a thriving city in tough economic times. As I've talked with supporters and members of the media, I've enjoyed being challenged to communicate my hopes and views concisely and authentically. In these last nine plus months I've come to appreciate how much important work there is to do in this great town, and how many opportunities we have to make it better.

I congratulate the winners of today's election, and wish them the very best as they take office or continue in their existing roles. I ask each of them to stay true to the promises they've made during this election, and to hold themselves accountable to the ideas and vision that they set forth in their campaigns.

My campaign would not have been possible without the gracious support and enthusiasm of those who have lent their time and talents in many forms:

Continue reading Chris's campaign concludes, work continues

Back into campaign and election season

In the Spring, I mentioned here that I was running for political office as a candidate for Richmond City Council here in Richmond, Indiana - my first real venture into politics.  I never did post an update on this blog that I won the Primary Election held in May (YAY!), and so now I'm on the ballot for consideration in the November general election.

Despite having lots of overlap in subject matter between my political efforts and my writings here, I will generally continue to keep my campaign-related news and updates on my ChrisOnCouncil.com website (BOOKMARK IT), and on my campaign Facebook page (LIKE IT) and Twitter account (FOLLOW IT).  But, I thought I'd give you a taste of some of the material my campaign is creating as we get back into that season.

You can watch a YouTube video interview with me:

Continue reading Back into campaign and election season

Chris wins in the primary!

This entry is part 8 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

In today's primary election, the citizens of Richmond made a choice about who they want to help shape the future of this community in the coming years. I'm grateful that in that process, voters have chosen me to continue on to the general election in the Fall as a candidate for City Council At-Large!

Some highlights from the unofficial results:

  • 14.46% of Richmond's registered voters voted
  • 54.92% of those voting chose a Democratic ballot over a Republican ballot
  • 791 of those voted for me to be one of the three Democratic candidates for City Council At-Large in the fall general election

This has been my first foray into politics, and it's been an incredibly rewarding journey so far. As I've walked through neighborhoods in Richmond, I've had a chance to hear from residents here what issues matter most to them. As I've sat down with community leaders and decision-makers, I've learned about the complexities of building a thriving city in tough economic times. As I've talked with supporters and members of the media, I've enjoyed being challenged to communicate my hopes and views concisely and authentically. In these last few months I've come to appreciate how much important work there is to do in this great town, and how many opportunities we have to make it better.

Today's win would not have been possible without the gracious support and enthusiasm of those who have lent their time and talents to my campaign in many forms.

Continue reading Chris wins in the primary!

Scenes from Primary Season

This entry is part 6 of 20 in the series 2011 City Council Campaign

Scraps of paper floating around my car with addresses scrawled on them for delivering yard signs and brochures.

Notes and programs from "must attend" (for a candidate, anyway) governmental and organizational meetings that seem to happen daily now, scattered across my desk.

People giving me warm "congratulations!" and me still not being sure if it's because I'm running for office or getting married or hired a new staff member at work or because I just did a nice parking job.  "Thank you, I'm very excited!" is a genuine initial response for all four cases, and context clues help from there.

Surreal experiences of driving down random streets and seeing my name on a sign up ahead, still a bit jolting each time, I hope it always will be.

Continue reading Scenes from Primary Season