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We need far more candidates like this one locally…

Andrew Wilcox: How they win, how they lose

Political season ranks right behind football and baseball season as my favorite time of year. I can do without the robocalls from former presidents and candidate’s spouses or moms. Even the littering of signs is a bit much. I just admire how people will stand outside for hours waving signs in 100+ degree heat for a candidate that they believe in.

In 2008, I happened to be in Nashua, NH during primary season and if anyone wants to see the real beauty of politics, they need to go to NH. Like spring training for Cubs fans, hope springs eternal and everyone is still in it. It is common for a presidential candidate to have coffee with a group of 3-5 voters in a living room everyday. I volunteered to a candidate that I supported and was amazed at the people that came from all over the country on their own dime to make hundreds of calls a day, wave signs in the snow, and go without sleep for weeks just because they believe their candidate can make a difference. It really is the best of America.

So here we go again and in the spirit of a pregame breakdown of two teams I detail how Republicans and Democrats win or lose in November.

How the Democrats win:

  • The economy, job and housing markets and news improves.
  • Run like a winner. If their agenda is the best way for America then run on the record. Run on health care, financial reform, stimulus, everything. Not personal attacks, run on an agenda.
  • The Republicans don’t get out of their own way or fail to provide a roadmap. They will pick up seats but not take over.
  • Listening. One thing that Republicans lost on a few years ago was just listening. They became so wrapped up in their power that they forgot that they represented people.
  • Do what they say, say what they mean. Don’t say that PAYGO rules and discretionary spending is frozen and then pass billions in extended unemployment without having a way to pay for it. Don’t say that earmarks will be cut “with a scalpel” then pass billions in earmarks. People arent stupid, stop treating them as they were.

How the Democrats lose:

  • Unemployment the same, stock market falling, consumer spending stalls, lack of good news. John McCain actually led after 8 years of Bush until Lehman happened. Dems can say anything that they want, but people are awake and listening and hard to believe numbers that require a PhD in economics and a magic 8 ball.
  • Running against George Bush. Politics is about the future. You cant own congress for 4 years and not claim any responsibility for bad decisions that happen on your watch. It’s foolish and worse it implies that people that vote for them are foolish.

How the Republicans win:

  • Define the narrative and create a roadmap beyond tax cuts. A new Contract with America that shows a unified movement and plan.
  • Seek to understand peoples issues then attempt to be understood. This is a center-right country, but arrogance and lack of understanding is where they started to falter before.
  • Be principled. Be simple. Be courageous. I’m not talking about reducing to slogans but define who you are and that the path forward will require some pain, but it allows people to see beyond the next election cycle. We need a 15-20 year executable plan on sustainable energy, social security, budget, etc. and that may not include that elected official being there to take a victory lap but show the courage to say no to some things need to go.

How the Republicans lose:

  • They assume victory. Bad things happen to people and parties that arent exhausted from outworking and outthinking their competition.
  • George Bush somehow gets on the ticket by association. If after 2 years of motivation and anger this happens, as a Republican I will dip myself in honey and roll around in fire ant piles. Then join an obscure 5th tier party that secures 12 votes during a presidential election.
  • President Obama finds his voice again and it resonates. People are desperate for a transformative leader and are ready to sacrifice. In 20 years he can either be remembered as a Reagan or Kennedy or Carter. He needs to find it.

Prediction: Republicans pick up a healthy number in both but don’t take over leadership. Worst thing that can happen to Democrats because they still have the keys to power but have to have Republicans votes for anything. Gridlock may actually lift markets and lead some of the money on the sidelines back into the market. Obama’s numbers go a bit higher and set up a great next race.

Is it 2012 yet?

(Photo credit.)


Andrew is married and a father of two daughters. Owner of Wilcox and Hackett, LLC a legal recruiting and client development consulting firm. A conservative who likes healthy debate. Enjoys reading, writing, working out, sports, and BBQ cooking.

On election day in my neighborhood

Before all of our events, we plaster the town with posters so people know what we’re up to. That includes grocery stores, public bulletin boards, churches and your living room if you’re willing. We get all sorts of responses to the plastering, from warm welcomes to recitations of no-poster policies.

A couple of years ago we took a poster for Faith & The Founding Fathers to a large conservative church in town. I thought that was a safe topic and – as always – we want to invite as wide a diversity of opinion as we can to the table. Staff there said, as churches and some businesses usually do, that they have to get the OK of the pastor. A couple days later I got a call that it wasn’t approved and that I could come by to pick up my poster. I thought it was particularly kind and respectful of them to bother to call me back to get my poster (and wasn’t likely easy). (more…)

Ground zero community center: Mark Halperin on why we need to strive for a better conversation

We’ve started a “We the Wiki” page on the facts on the Ground Zero Community Center & Mosque. We’ll throw some info in, but it’s yours to build. Find resources that offer good, nonpartisan information to help clarify. You’ll have to register to edit the page.

“Get in your car and drive around and listen to some talk radio. The language is bad. From the minute this started my worry from the beginning was that this would be treated like we treat every other political debate in this country: Polarized, where the winners are the ones who engage in the most extreme rhetoric. This is an issue that has international implications and a national security implication where we would hope that wouldn’t happen. There are no boundaries in our political discourse anymore even when there should be. That’s why I wrote in Time magazine this week and I still believe that the former presidents need to speak out in a bipartisan way. They are the only ones with the standing to treat this with the gravity that is required…” –Mark Halperin on Morning Joe

Mary Ann Lindley: Will Purple trump the “mouthy gatekeepers”? Tuesday’s election results may tell…

In case you were otherwise engaged Sunday, as I was, today’s a good day to take a look at Mary Ann Lindley’s Sunday column:

The big unknown on Tuesday — and again in November — will be whether wild-animal politics, tooth-and-claw wars of words do work.

Will we be invigorated, gullible or ticked off enough to support the blunt candidates who play politics as a blood sport? Will they win — and then be expected to put aside latent bitterness and rivalries and work for all people, including those who supported their opponents?

My hunch is that the shouters and exaggerators will win in a few cases because it’s appealing to have someone tell us with great clarity what to think in a few choice, simplistic words.

Not simple, nor spare and nuanced explanations, but simplistic ones that feel therapeutic, save us time and are really an extension of the on-line world of fear and loathing.

In today’s culture of over-stimulation and given the infinity of information that bombards us, these mouthy gatekeepers show us an easy path.

They tell us how to neatly frame complex issues. They don’t ask much of me (“No, no.” I promise. “No taxes!”). They tell me who my enemies are. And they let me get back to my life.

It can all be quite seductive. And political experts insist it’s the only way to win.

And then there’s the Purple:

Last week, The Village Square, our local organization devoted to, as our mothers said, “keeping a civil tongue in your mouth,” was visited by author and former U.S. News & World Report journalist John Marks.

Marks wrote “Purple State of Mind: Finding Middle Ground in a Divided Culture,” and his theme is that relentlessly demonizing the opponent doesn’t really enchant most Americans and that, rather than being rigidly red states or blue states, we ought to consider purple.

It’s still a passionate color; loyalty to principles need not be neutralized.

This other John Marks (not our mayor) isn’t calling for a beige state of mind, but a blending the best of both Democratic and Republican thought: compassion and self-sufficiency.

(But there are plenty of people trying to get to the front of the parade…)

“I want just one leader to stand up. One leader who has something to lose.” –Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe (He was talking both sides of the aisle… mosque, entitlements, the whole enchilada.)

The Village Square hosts Purple State of Mind’s John Marks


August 15, 2010

Media Contact: Liz Joyner
Executive Director
To The Village Square, Inc.


WHO: The Village Square nonprofit, featuring community leaders Representative Alan Williams, Florida League of Cities Mike Sittig, Leadership Florida’s Wendy Abberger and Tallahassee Democrat’s Mary Ann Lindley in conversation with journalist John Marks.

WHAT: Dinner at the Square: “Purple State of Mind: Finding Middle Ground in a Divided Culture,” a preview of the season “The Divided States of America: How we got there and how we get back.”

WHEN: Tomorrow night, Monday August 16, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: St. John’s Episcopal Church, 211 North Monroe, Downtown Tallahassee, Alfriend Hall just inside Calhoun Street entrance

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – August 15, 2010 – The Village Square will host a community conversation on America’s political divide and how it is affecting our city and state tomorrow night, featuring community leaders in conversation with Purple State of Mind’s John Marks, former 60 Minutes producer and U.S. News and World Report’s Berlin Bureau Chief.

Community leaders participating in the conversation are Representative Alan Williams, Mike Sittig the Executive Director of the Florida League of Cities, Wendy Abberger President of Leadership Florida and Mary Ann Lindley the Editorial Editor of The Tallahassee Democrat.

The event is $5 and includes a pizza dinner, but participants may also call 264-8785 to request a scholarship ticket. More information is available online here: http://www.tothevillagesquare.org/divided/purple.

Good Village Square-ish discussion on economic policy and the Great Depression

Sadly, this is still relevant today. If you’re like me, the competing partisan versions of what caused (and what pulled us out of) the depression are mind boggling. Like everything else, it’s as if we’ve been living in entirely different versions of reality. Here Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter and Council of Foreign Relations’ Amity Shlaes have a real conversation. Shlaes was just on Glenn Beck Friday where they didn’t have a real conversation.

This is a particularly interesting video because it took place just before our current economic nosedive.

Dehumanizing comments like these are canaries in the coal mine of our civic life.

Two New Hampshire Democrats – one elected, one running for election – are in deep kimchi over their posted comments while discussing the death of former Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens in a place crash:

“Well a dead Palin wd be even more dangerous than a live one…she is all about her myth & if she was dead she cldn’t commit any more gaffes,” Horrigan wrote.

Horrigan was commenting on another post by a Democrat running for the state house, party activist Keith David Halloran, who found himself in hot water Wednesday after writing about the crash: “Just wish Sarah and Levy [sic] were on board.”

Any Democrats who think all the incivility flows right to left should reconsider. When you can no longer see people through the lens of humanity, you’re a bridge too far.

Constitutional Amendments: Help for Floridians at Collins Center & The Village Square

If just the words "constitutional amendments" make you squirm, this post is for you.

This year Florida voters will face a host of important choices on their ballot in November, and that doesn't even include the candidates. There may be as many as nine amendments on the ballot (several have been removed and are on appeal).

The bad news: We haven’t always informed ourselves adequately before voting for or against amendments. There have been consequences from our failure to do so.

The good news: There are more tools available to you, as a voter, than in the past if you want to inform yourself. For starters: Collins Center is doing great work that is a must-see. And The Village Square’s We the Wiki will be at your service if you want to roll up your sleeves and participate. Find the page we’ve started on Florida’s amendments HERE. All pages are fully editable by YOU once you sign up and log in.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t miss our October Constitutional Amendments 101 Take-out Tuesday series from 5:30 to 7 PM every Tuesday in October. Bring your favorite take-out dinner (or just yourself) for a squirm-free study session. Can’t be there? Watch the programs livestream at home in your slippers.

Who knew citizenship could be so interesting or easy?

So if you do Village Square, you’re civil and brilliant

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. ”

—F. Scott Fitzgerald
(1896-1940); author

(Thanks to Queen of the Internet, Lea)

Chris Timmons: A Campaign Season of Ambition

The Village Square does not take positions on either candidates or referendums on the ballot. However, featured blog posts (like this one) may be submitted with your opinions, which we will post if there is real substance to it and it is executed with civility. You may also write your own op-ed on We the Wiki under whatever topic you please. Click on the Wiki square (just to the right) when you see it to go to related content on our Wiki. Coming soon to the Wiki: A candidates on the ballot section…

I deserve a pat on the back. If you see me somewhere around town, feel free to do so.

Only with this caveat should you congratulate me: I’m no darn do-good-er, no net-worker —just a normal citizen with a few ideas and a point of view.

I just submitted my application to be a community catalyst for the Knight Creative Communities Initiative. If you know me, this is a big deal. I’ve tried my hand at volunteering before with little success.

It takes a lot of stamina and a high tolerance for non-sense to volunteer in groups and on boards.

It also takes a belief in the good intentions of others and your ability to change things for the better. None of which I’ve had in a high degree. Like Garrison Keiler, who in many things I’m so unlike, I run away from committees of the well-meaning.

I don’t gainsay humanity or human will and possibility but have a measured respect for the bull-headedness of fate. So, this is a small concession to a rare tender-heartedness, an open mind. And my ego.

Since I’ve taken a stab at written things for a reading public, I’ve gained a real confidence in my opinions —though I really only have few, and my ability to express them. Some readers —okay, most will regret that I’d put such faith in that ability. But forgive me the vanity trip.

This is about improving this community for which all of us are obligated to pursue in our own way —by being wonderful neighbors a scout leader or cub manager, picking up trash, dining or buying locally, heading to B-Sharp, taking a trip to the Tallahassee Little Theatre or enjoying Lake Ella on a warm day with the sun set over orange clouds in the evening.

What got my me thinking along these lines is the noise of this campaign season. All these candidates grasping for the power of these complexity-filled public offices.

It’s getting nasty and mean —which sometimes, I’ll admit is fun and delightful —but between candidates for a certain city commission seat enough is enough.

Scandalous is an understatement for the rough attacks being administered by one candidate. Often enough such attacks can be an education to voters, highlight a policy difference, or shake a campaign from its complacency. But that’s not the case here.

He has been relentless in his prying and critiques of his opponent and the current City Commission but inexpressive about his own ideas.

From his campaign, we’d learned more about his opponent’s personal failings than we’d learn in a less competitive race because of his doggedness and inability to concede to decency. This harping on issues, some over 30 years ago in his opponent’s life, is wearying and beside the point. Obviously, there’s no substance behind this campaign.

A few of these candidates are in it mostly for ego and ambition —which is fine in proportion —but when its overweening it can damage public perceptions about politics which are already too low. Which brings me to another candidate.

There’s the sharp-looking, nicely built, and self-possessed young man but his commitment to this community is not exactly self-evident. It’s not good, if true, that this candidate hasn’t voted in any major election. Even for Barack Obama. I understand political disenchantment but this is an astonishing lack of interest in politics that can’t be explained away.

To which, I’d like to address one more race. This race is an example of power being sought for the right reasons —I can quibble about the ideology and results, and will, but this candidate has an authentic purpose. This candidate is tough, resilient, knowledgeable and has an obvious love of public policy (I once saw her in a public meeting with a novel on the environment) but the party apparatchiks are against her.

She’s compromised with Republicans on energy and environmental issues in order to squeeze her priorities in.

As far as I can tell, she’s as Democratic as they come, but her overwhelming preference for accomplishing things over the inactivity of floor speeches and amendment posturing is a signal to her party that she’s unreliable. Will Democrats learn?

To make a broader point: This is the problem with public service today. No acceptance of adult compromise or an adult way of being principled. No wonder we’re experiencing disillusionment and discontent from the citizenry.

In spite of the sad state of public affairs, anyone can make a difference, though it may be a bit more modest, in the various community organizations around town. Some of the candidates have done that in an exemplary way.

Although there’s not much remuneration in non-profit volunteerism, I’d take it any day over political office. First, because its modest. Second, because you meet an immediate demand and there’s more flexibility. Third, because you get the see the results sooner. In public service, this not always the case.

So, I’m happy to be making my small contribution. And hope others make theirs.

I’m a little sad, though, for our local candidates, whose greatest impact may not be in public office. But they’ll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars this year trying to get there.

Where’s the common sense? Somewhere hidden behind the ego, no doubt.

Chris Timmons shares his insights and conservative sensibilities in a featured blog for The Village Square.

Our new season: The Divided State of America

Just sent our new Dinner at the Square program off to the printer (Find season info HERE). Here’s your sneak peak: