Who are you voting for?

I don’t care who you are voting for, but thought it was a catchy title for this post. It’s election season after all. I do care about your why though. Have you thought about the reasons you vote for a specific candidate?

We are less than a month away from our general election. I can’t wait for that day. Social media will be lit up with pictures of “I Voted 2020” stickers plastered front and center on t-shirts. I’m trying really hard not to go down a rabbit hole on discussing why so many feel compelled to tell the world they voted. Moving on.

So why do you vote the way you do? It may be very simple. You identify as a Democrat, so you vote Democrat. You believe the Democratic party shares your beliefs as it relates to policy issues. The assumption here is that you understand what the party believes in and the individuals elected will continue to push those policies forward.

It could be far more complex though. Maybe your values don’t align closely enough with a single party. What do you do then? It seems like most Americans would fall into this camp. We certainly have a strong tendency in this country to align with a tribe, but I find it hard to believe that most of us can find a tribe with something as complex as politics. Politics span the idea continuum – from the economy to healthcare to foreign policy and everything in between. I certainly fall into the camp of neither party aligning closely enough with the majority of the policies I believe in. That feels ok to me, it feels right. It feels right because most things in life are grey, so why would something as complex as politics be different? There is very little that is truly black and white. I’d argue that if you think something is black and white then you haven’t thought hard enough on it.

I’m sorry, but this post isn’t going to enlighten you or help you make any political decisions. This post is meant to shed light (again) on the environment we live in that makes gathering information and making educated decisions very difficult. This post is meant to drive you to want to gather as much information as possible before you vote. To think critically about why you are choosing candidate A versus candidate B.

Election season is in full go mode. We witnessed an amazing debate last week (yes that is sarcasm). I think it is intellectually dishonest to call these things debates anyway. Even when they are under control, they are not structured in a way where we can actually learn anything about what a candidate thinks. They are meant to provide sound bites for the various news outlets.

We are being flooded with information in every way imaginable. We get text messages and phone calls. We see political yard signs and billboards. Seemingly every website you go to will have a political ad. TV ads are never ending. And the direct mail, all that mail that I feel obligated to glance at out of respect for the dead trees. These two old parties (not Trump and Biden, but the Republicans and Democrats) are relentless. I think it is important to take a step back and realize what is really behind these presidential candidates, as well as everyone else running.

I am oversimplifying this, but at the end of the day these two parties are nothing more than two large businesses. They have significant revenues, significant expenses, and hundreds of people working for them.

The Democrats and Republicans each have three major party committees. Each committee is designed to focus on a specific a specific office – President, Senate and House. These parties have raised a combined $1.586 billion dollars during the 2020 election cycle (per ballotpedia.org). Let’s say that again, $1.586 billion dollars raised in about 20 months. By all measures, these organizations are mid-size businesses at a minimum. Businesses have a mission and in this case the mission is to influence or win your vote – by all means necessary.

Ultimately these organizations are nothing more than large media companies – pushing an agenda. They don’t do it with meaningful information. They do it with catching taglines, very loose uses of the “truth”, and anything else they can think of that will catch your attention. Their incentives are simple – to gain power. What is more important than power? That is certainly a meaningful motivator.

If you aren’t affiliated with a party or you are an uninformed voter, you must be aware of their motivations. If you aren’t aware, you can easily get sucked into meaningless information that is barely at the level of gossip. If you are affiliated with a party, then this information will always hit the mark with you.

I know it is an uphill battle. Educating yourself in today’s environment is a ton of work. Everyone is seemingly against us. The political parties, social media company’s algorithms, untrustworthy news organizations, and on and on and on.

You must take this on though. Do the work, put in the effort. Not just on the candidates, but on yourself as well. Decide what topics and policies are critical to you and focus on those, vote on those.

Freedom comes with great responsibility. Many say voting is one of those responsibilities, I say being an educated vote is the real responsibility. I’ll leave you with a quote. I think we have strayed very far from it and need to find the path again – quickly!

Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weigh, this is a frightening prospect.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Can we fix this?

My early morning cardio sessions are always accompanied by a documentary of some kind. I’ve been making my way through “No Direction Home” on Netflix, which is mostly about Bob Dylan. I have always liked his music – I’m a sucker for meaningful lyrics. A seemingly random 30 seconds of the documentary caught my attention and I ended up watching it several times over.

“If everybody really listened to his own conscience and really acted upon what he thought was right and wrong rather than being so hopelessly passive, which I think every, just about everybody is. I think it’s probably the main disease, the passivity where we’ll listen to whatever anybody else says. It’s daddy, mommy, and schoolteacher, and Sunday schoolteacher, and president.” Joan Baez said it. I had no idea who she was before watching this documentary and honestly it doesn’t really matter who said it. It was the words that struck me.

She said those words 60 years ago and they are as true today as they probably were then. She calls into question our willingness to think critically about the issues of the day. She puts the blame squarely on the individual, essentially calling those unwilling to think for themselves lazy. It’s hard to argue with her sentiment, isn’t it?

It’s easy to blame people. It’s also very difficult. I don’t think we are actively trying to avoid thinking. I think it has become the defining characteristic of our culture today. We have gone out of our way to create enough distractions to ensure we never have a spare moment to think.

Most of us have turned ourselves into robots. We feel nothing as we spend our days taking in massive amounts of information in real time. Others have visceral reactions to every clip and to every tweet. Every clip, every tweet, every comment is life and death. The information comes to us so efficiently, so effortlessly.

In both cases it is clear there isn’t time to think. There isn’t time to question the validity of what is put in front of us. There isn’t time to question if you have looked at the story from all angles. And there certainly isn’t time to question why we think the way we do.

The point in all of this that I have been stuck on and have been stuck on at various times in my life is the idea of independent thinking. This idea can easily be expanded to a conversation about free will, but I think it is best not to go there yet.

It’s hard for me to conclude that most of us aren’t sheep, following the herd this way and that. Never taking the time to question our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. To fix what may be the most significant problem we have in this country begins with a simple question, are the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs you hold dear even your own? You are responsible for them to be certain, but are they your own?

Over the years, this idea about what you believe and are these beliefs your own has driven me to be turned off by important ideas/groups. Specifically, religion and politics, but also something as simple as sports in this country. If mom and dad are Catholic, then I am a Catholic and my way of life is the right one. If mom and dad are Republicans, then I am a Republican and my view of politics is the right one. If mom and dad love the Tigers, Lions and Pistons, then I love them to. How can I not, I live in Michigan after all.

Allowing myself to simply ignore very important topics like religion and politics because I was turned off by how people come to believe this or that was the wrong decision. It was lazy. That decision allowed me to become disengaged and not pursue my own thoughts on very important issues. Issues that plague our country and our communities today.

We must have the courage to think critically about our beliefs and what we are willing to stand for. What really matters to you? What are you willing to expose to the world because it means that much to you? Your religion? Abortion, immigration, the environment, guns? Have you thought deeply about these things that matter so much to you? Are you willing to listen to others that may disagree with you? These are the first steps in rebuilding our country.

It is true that we live in a free country and we can do whatever we want or more likely not do anything at all. It’s also true that everything we do, or not do, has consequences and these consequences will have long lasting effects. Our actions and inactions will be passed on to the next generation. They will use what we did and didn’t do as a playbook for how they should live their lives. I wonder if we will be proud? I won’t be. I desperately want the next generation to think deeply, to find ways to a common ground on topics that are so polarizing today. It’s starts with us and it starts now.


Yesterday was National Voter Registration Day, not like I must tell you. I am sure your social media apps were covered with messages reminding you to vote. Celebrities championing the message, doing what they can to get people registered to vote.

The message is a good one. The next message will be to. Get out and vote! Make your voice heard! And so on. They are great messages. Voting is one of the key things that make our country great.

The issue I have is those messages are only part of the message that should be pushed on every single American citizen. The missing part of the message is education. Why don’t I see and hear celebrities blasting the message, “educate yourself, the election is almost here”. What about a call for people to do some deep thinking? Shouldn’t people know what issues they care about the most and where candidates stand on those issues? Is it ok to simply vote on party lines – ever?

I am all for registering as many as possible to vote. I am all for all registered voters getting to the polls.

I am completely against pushing those two messages though without another message that focuses solely on education. It’s not clear to me that people that don’t know the candidates and don’t know the policies and ideas that define them should vote at all.

The troubling part of all of this is it takes more work than ever to truly know what the candidates stand for and even then, the winds could change. We have a responsibility to do our best to understand the men and women we put in office.

We must not forget these individuals are no better and no smarter than anyone else. They are there to do one job, serve the people and they must be held accountability to that. Oh, and those celebrities. They are just people too. No better and no smarter than anyone else. And they come with their own biases and agendas. Think for yourself. Be accountable to yourself!