This blog is about political conversation, with emphasis on how-to.
Since we were young, we’ve been taught that self-government is the sacred legacy of our forefathers. We’ve also been taught not to talk politics.
One of those lessons has got to go. We cannot self-govern without discussing politics with each other.
If we don’t talk politics among ourselves, America’s political discussion will be conducted entirely by those who can purchase it.
We limit our conversation to weather and sports, while modern-day oligarchs buy hours of political ads; millions of political phone calls; and reams of political mailers. Heck, they buy entire think tanks and media conglomerates.
Every one of us has had bad experiences with political conversation. We were never taught how to talk politics–only not to. So we don’t have much practice. We don’t see many skilled peers. Television and radio provide horrible role models with their forced controversy, designed to boost ratings.
It won’t be easy to break bad habits and develop new skills. But look at it this way: We all admire the young Americans who volunteer for military service even though they know they might have to risk their very lives. If they can do that, certainly you and I can risk starting an argument or even losing a friend, in defense of democracy.
I’ve got to believe there’s some expertise to be found. Marketing professionals have written libraries about persuasion. Lawyers know how to gather and present evidence. Marriage counselors, I hope, know a thing or two about restoring productive conversation where hostility and disrespect have taken root. Mediators, negotiators, peace workers, missionaries, human resource managers. There’s surely a science out there, and I aim to find it, practice it, and blog about it.
This blog is not written to benefit or promote any one political or partisan point of view. It is written for all citizens who cherish our right to participatory self-government, regardless of political perspective. I’d be delighted if people who do not share my specific political views get something useful from this blog.
About me. Like anyone else, my political beliefs are shaped by my values. I value community, cooperation, and the public good more than I value the opportunity to accumulate great private or corporate wealth. So my politics are typically labeled ‘progressive.’ But that word means something different to you than it does to me, so I don’t like to use or wear labels.
No joke: my family of origin was so thoroughly American apple pie that Norman Rockwell used them as models. You know that picture where the doctor is holding his stethoscope to the chest of a little girl’s doll? That doctor is my Great-uncle Eli Harvey, who was a friend of Rockwell’s. The little girl looks like my mother in 1929, the year it was painted. Aunt Edith is in other pictures.
I had the good luck to be born into an economically secure, happy, and well-educated family. While I was growing up, my dad’s job took us to Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh, Peters Township, and Fox Chapel); Florida (Pensacola and Jacksonville); Virginia (Newport News and Lynchburg); and Idaho Falls, Idaho, where I graduated from high school. My wandering didn’t stop when I left home; I lived in Moose, Wyoming; Chicago; Alexandria, Virginia; and Cleveland and Yellow Springs, Ohio. I earned my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and live in Wisconsin now.
With a degree in public administration, I worked for 30 years in state government: in the executive branch (Medicaid quality assurance), legislative branch (oversight investigations), judicial branch (courts administration) before retiring in early 2011.
After retirement, I wanted to start a second career in freelance writing, but got distracted when a municipal clerk friend told me about unnecessary risks we are taking with our voting machines. I got deeply involved in efforts to improve elections administration. (Did you know that our elected officials are sworn into office on the basis of completely raw, unaudited computer output? That the computerized cash register at the corner convenience store gets checked more reliably at the end of the business day than your voting machine?)
My husband, Keith, provides patience and support while I am lost in thought, engrossed in today’s book, or spending hours clicking away at this keyboard. I don’t know how I got so lucky.
One important note: Like all nonfiction writers, I occasionally use the behavior of the people around me in both the flattering and unflattering events that I recount. If I don’t write truthfully about reality, I won’t be able to write anything at all. I will always strive to write with compassion, but will offer my apologies ahead of time if I unintentionally embarrass anyone.