2016

Why Do Kids Practice Sports And Not Politics?

Enjoy the CTE, son!

Humans often fail to understand that what we consider as “normal” is highly subjective. Our minds are crippled by the chains of circumstance and these bonds constrain us from analyzing the consequential assumptions we all make about our lives.

Immanuel Kant once wrote:

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another.

He was warning us that to live better we must not fall prey to assumptions made by others.

So in honor of independent thinking, here’s a dearly held reality that I believe has handicapped America’s potential: we do not come close to preparing our citizens to be active participants in democracy. Said in another way, Americans live in a politically empty society.

Just look at how we (subjectively) educate our youngest citizens. American parents prioritize practicing sports over practicing politics in a way that is peculiar. “Sports are embedded in American schools in a way they are not almost anywhere else.” That quote is from an excellent piece by Amanda Ripley titled, “The Case Against High-School Sports.” She found:

When I surveyed about 200 former exchange students last year, in cooperation with an international exchange organization called AFS, nine out of 10 foreign students who had lived in the U.S. said that kids here cared more about sports than their peers back home did. A majority of Americans who’d studied abroad agreed.

Face it: we live in a society where it is normal (even laudable) to train a child for basketball five times a week and abnormal (even puzzling) to train a child to be an active political citizen. This seems like an odd calculation to make. Culturally absurd, even.

After all, the odds your kid turns out to be a professional athlete are very bloody low. But the odds your kid becomes a citizen that has to vote on complex issues? Very bloody high.*

So why are we emphasizing one and not the other?

The US Department of Education released a booklet in 1993 called, “Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen and in it, they made the following observation:

Just as children must be taught to tie their shoes, read and write, solve math problems, and understand science concepts and events in history, so must they be guided in developing the qualities of character that are valued by their families and by the communities in which they live.

We are not teaching our citizenry how to participate in a democracy. Imagine, if you will, if Americans “transferred our obsessive intensity about high-school sports” to educating teenagers about politics. I dare say that our nation would not have voted for Donald Trump, an assumption that seems to be backed up by data.

Noam Chomsky has noted, quite astutely, the effect of our nation’s obsession with sports instead of politics:

When I’m driving, I sometimes turn on the radio and I find very often that what I’m listening to is a discussion of sports…People call in and have long and intricate discussions and it’s plain that quite a high degree of thought and analysis is going into that. People know a tremendous amount…On the other hand, when I hear people talk about, say, international affairs or domestic problems, it’s at a level of superficiality that’s beyond belief.

Before you dismiss Chomsky as an elitist prick, read further (emphasis mine):

In part, this reaction may be due to my own areas of interest, but I think it’s quite accurate basically. And I think that this concentration on such topics as sports makes a certain degree of sense. The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway, without a degree of organization that’s far beyond anything that exists now, to influence the real world. They might as well live in a fantasy world, and that’s in fact what they do.

Americans’ lack of practice towards living the political life has consequences. Due to the democratization of our primary elections (they were once controlled by “insider-dominated processes“), we now have a system that is driven by voter participation. Which is good.

But this also means that “primary races now tend to be dominated by highly motivated extremists and interest groups, with the perverse result of leaving moderates and broader, less well-organized constituencies underrepresented.” Pew Research shows that 17 percent of eligible voters participated in the Republican primaries and 12 percent in the Democratic primaries. That is stunning. And that lack of involvement has to be systemic. It has to be “learned”.

Pericles, the father of Athenian Democracy, had a lovely quip on this topic that has aged pretty well and applies here: “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

Americans assume otherwise. And it’s because we are immersed in a society where it is normal to dismiss politics as a peripheral concern. If we are to recover any respect for truth and political engagement, we must recognize that America is not properly prioritizing politics in a variety of forms. The good news is, we have the power to change that.

*Before you retort, “Well the point of sports isn’t to be a professional athlete, it’s to stay fit, make friends, and learn leadership skills” — I agree. Could that not be achieved though in a more balanced approach, however?

The Journey to the White House Does Not Begin with Baby Steps

Your move, Democrats.

Your move, Democrats.

During the Democratic primary, I was very much influenced by the thoughts and arguments of Robert Cruickshank—a senior campaign manager at Democracy for America. Cruickshank was a Bernie supporter, while I backed Clinton, yet we both agreed that the Democratic Party must advance bold and dramatic policies that helped all Americans in order to be successful electorally.

I supported Hillary Clinton because I thought she had the best chance to win. That said, I was very concerned with her penchant for gradual progressivism; particularly her inability to view higher education as a fundamental right and not a market commodity.

I worried that Clinton’s messaging was too narrow and specialized. Instead of altering the narrative behind why key policy choices should be pursued, Clinton was busy coming up with complex ideas that were viewed as bipartisan. It seemed as if she was petrified of rocking the boat in a moment where the boat was taking on water.

In May, I warned against such tactics:

By resting on their incrementalist laurels…Democrats could make an electoral mistake. If they preach gradual progressivism, then they could give Republicans an opening to become the party which offers the American people a transformative vision. Just today, the New York Times editorial board warned that Democrats must address how they have “strayed at times from [their] more aspirational path.” Merely throwing lean bones to the dramatic-change camp will not cut it for Democrats going forward. Eventually they will have to address the “broad vein of discontent” that pulses through America today and calls for an overhaul.

The American people wanted an overhaul and the Democrats gave them maintenance.

It is easy to see why Hillary Clinton’s campaign took comfort in doing so. They analyzed the success of the 2012 Obama campaign which regressed from “hope” and “change” to “hold the line.” Barack and co were victorious in the end because 1) the Republican nominee wasn’t a change-heavy candidate and 2) we were only four years removed from the financial crisis, so people cut Obama a little bit of slack.

Those two conditions completely switched in 2016—this time around the Republicans nominated a dramatic-change candidate and the Democrats had a more difficult time blaming the financial crisis for the lack of economic progress. Moreover, it forced Clinton into a defensive posture, or what Matt Carp calls “fortress liberalism” which “rallies around that leader’s personal qualifications, while defending past achievement and stressing the value of party loyalty.”

At some point, Democrats are going to have to learn that they can’t win back-to-back presidencies by stressing incremental progress. Perhaps this hypothesis borders on oversimplification, but I think recent history backs up the claim:

1992: Bill Clinton wins (change candidate) against George HW Bush (incrementalist candidate)

1996: Bill Clinton wins (incrementalist candidate) against Bob Dole (incrementalist candidate)

2000: George W Bush wins (change candidate) against Al Gore (incrementalist candidate)

2004: George W Bush (incrementalist candidate) wins against John Kerry (incrementalist candidate)

2008: Barack Obama wins (change candidate) against John McCain (incrementalist candidate)

2012: Barack Obama wins (incrementalist candidate) against Mitt Romney (incrementalist candidate)

2016: Donald Trump wins (change candidate) against Hillary Clinton (incrementalist candidate)

In my lifetime, no party has been able to win two elections in a row by arguing for piecemeal development. That is essentially what Hillary Clinton attempted to do in 2016. Viewed from this vantage point (which I did not have access to during the actual election—bloody hindsight), it becomes a little clearer as to why Clinton’s messaging felt sort of…off.

It’s also important to note that incrementalist candidates, from either party, only ever won when they were the incumbent and weren’t facing a change candidate.

Therefore, if Democrats are to win in 2020 it will be imperative that we choose a candidate who doesn’t concern themselves or their messaging with the nitty gritty details of policy, but who advances broader questions that challenge long-held American assumptions about health care, university, financial systems, and labor rights.

Will Donald Trump still be in the change camp come 2020 or will he be stuck arguing for the status quo? If recent history is any guide, the latter seems more plausible—though who can say for sure with Donald Trump? Such a reality means he will be susceptible to a candidate who produces political force “by multiplying mass and acceleration.” Otherwise, we could be looking at another four years of President Trump.

A time for questions

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The day before the election, the Seattle Review of Books published a piece of mine which examined Against Democracy—a contrarian treatise written by Jason Brennan. The author’s arguments essentially boiled down to two deficiencies related to collective rule:

1) people are susceptible to supporting positions and politicians that do not serve their best interests

and

2) public discourse tends to the lowest common denominator of society.

Where myself and Brennan disagreed was whether or not these two very real issues were insurmountable. He ultimately views democratic citizens as irredeemable, while I consider my fellow citizens as reformable.

As the reality of Hillary Clinton’s loss began to sink in last Tuesday night, I turned to Paul Constant (the co-founder of the Seattle Review of Books) and asked him if I could add an addendum to my piece: “Ignore all of the arguments I have hitherto made. Democracy is a terrible form of government.”

In all seriousness, Americans should take the result of November 8th, 2016 as an opportunity to reflect on our responsibilities as civic participants. Is our government structured in the best way possible? If not, how could we improve it? Will building the wall help give identity to our people? Will registering Muslims make us safer?

Now is a time for questions, not answers.

What Happened With The Spanish Translation Of This Voters’ Guide?

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History demonstrates that democracy is better when more people are included as voters. As we’ve opened the polls to people who were Constitutionally banned from the vote—women, African-Americans, members of Native tribes—America has become a stronger, smarter, more prosperous, and more humane nation. We know that everyone does better when we embrace policies that ensure more people get the vote—and that it should be government’s role to ensure that every adult over the age of 18 makes their voice heard at the ballot box.

Here in Washington, that sacred trust falls to the office of Secretary of State. This means that our current SoS, Kim Wyman, should fight for the voting rights of every last eligible Washington adult.

Today Wyman’s challenger, former Seattle City Councilmember Tina Podlodowski, published a blistering press release accusing Wyman’s office of obfuscating the law in the Spanish-language edition of the state’s 2016 voting rights pamphlet. Here’s the relevant passage:

The English version of the voter’s pamphlet on eligibility reads, “You must be 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, a resident of Washington State and not under Department of Corrections supervision for a Washington State felony conviction.”

The Spanish version reads, “no estar bajo la supervisión del Departamento Correccional a causa de una condena por un delito del estado de Washington”

The literal translation of the Spanish text is “not under the supervision of the Department of Corrections by reason of conviction for an offense in the state of Washington.”

There is a big difference between a conviction for an offense and conviction of a felony.  Washington’s long-standing legal translation of “felony” in Spanish is “delito grave.” The lesser offense of “misdemeanor” is rendered as “delito menor.”

In other words, anyone reading the Spanish-language pamphlet with a misdemeanor on their record could interpret it to mean they don’t get to vote. In fact, this Twitter user says the removal of the word “grave” after “delito” means it could be interpreted as “any misdemeanor or parking ticket” (emphasis mine.)

With this translation Secretary Wyman’s office appears to be doing exactly the opposite of what she’s supposed to do: Rather than creating more opportunities for voters, Wyman’s office might potentially misinform Washington state citizens about their rights as voters.

Even more interesting: the 2014 edition of the pamphlet (PDF) seems to have the correct information. Note the use of “delito grave” in the below screenshot:

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-4-19-11-pm

Google Translate turns that text into this:

You have to have at least 18 years of age, be a US citizen, a resident of the State of Washington, and not under the supervision of the Department of Corrections for a felony in Washington.

Which sure seems correct to me. The million-dollar question, of course, is why, if the language was correct in 2014, would Secretary Wyman’s office introduce an error into the text this time around? Isn’t that exactly what the Secretary of State’s office shouldn’t do?

More troubling: this is the latest in a series of problems that have happened under Wyman’s watch. Just today, Washington State Democrats threatened to sue over Pierce County ballots urging voters to mail their ballots by November 4th when the actual deadline is four days later, on November 8th. And at the beginning of this month, Wyman was accused of violating campaign finance laws “by failing to file disclosure reports on time.” All together these three issues, which Wyman’s supporters could singly wave away as minor mistakes, appear to form a more distressing pattern. What’s happening in Kim Wyman’s office? And how long has it been going on? The fact that these three issues came to light when the heat of a campaign is on Wyman leaves me wondering what else might come to light in the last days of the campaign.

Stop Reading the News Right Now: Why the Final Two Weeks Before a Presidential Election Is Always a Media Black Hole

The best feeling in the world!


When you run a presidential campaign that makes it through the primaries, you spend two years building a giant machine with many moving parts: messaging, policy, communications, field agents, transition. The last two weeks before Election Day, that machine finally lurches fully into motion and you find out exactly what you’ve built. We are right now living in that two-week window, the period where all the hard work of building a campaign is either paying off or blowing up.

What this means is that the campaigns shake off all the glitz and wheel-spinning and get down to the business of actually campaigning in swing states. The candidates mostly stick to their stump speeches, surrogates try to keep to their strengths, and the parties roll out their time-tested local teams. It’s very difficult to change a narrative at this point in a campaign—especially given that early voting has already started in quite a few states. So for high-level campaign staff, you rely on momentum and planning to carry you through, and you supervise how everything’s going, and you wait to see what America decides.

So, yeah. These final two weeks before a presidential election are always strange. I’ve lived through these periods both as an ardent political spectator and as a journalist. And I hope you believe me when I tell you a little secret: the media has no idea what to do with itself during this time. There’s rarely any proper “news” during the last two weeks of a campaign*: candidates are disciplined, messages are honed down to a sharp edge, and campaign staffers are unlikely to try anything especially crazy.

My point in all this is to tell you that your instincts right now are telling you to keep an eye on the news all the time. Ignore your instincts. All we’re getting right now are pedantic stories about the meaning of the word “landslide” and stories about celebrities and meta-stories about the media. This is because the media knows that nobody is interested in reading about anything other than politics, but they don’t have any news to report, so they’re spinning their tires and desperate for clicks. Virtually nothing published in this two-week dead zone is worth reading. All keeping a close eye on the news will do for you right now is ramp up your anxiety.

Instead, you should consider extreme measures. Stop endlessly refreshing the news in your browser. Maybe you should even consider deleting Twitter or Facebook or your other preferred news-gathering app from your phone entirely. You can always re-download the app on Election Day. Turn off cable news**. Try getting your news from a physical newspaper for two weeks; you might even find that you don’t miss the continual updates about nothing.

So say you follow my advice and mute the news for the next couple weeks. What should you do with all that time? Luckily, I have some advice for you:

  1. Take care of yourself. This is important. Go to bed early. Take a long bath. Prepare and eat a nice homemade meal. Go see a movie. Try to remember what your life was like before the name “Trump” was a daily occurrence.
  2. Vote early. Trust me: I always love to vote, but voting has never felt as wonderful as it did this year. Knowing that your vote has already been counted is one of the best feelings this wretched year has to offer.
  3. Make sure your family and friends are voting early. Talk about the issues with folks you love. The next time someone says “did you hear about [insert the latest dumb thing Donald Trump just said]?,” you should respond, “no, and I’m good, thanks. But, say—have you voted yet? Do you need any help with your ballot? Do you need a stamp?” Don’t get into arguments, but do offer to be a resource. Ballots are complex, and many people are too embarrassed to ask for help. Offering assistance and information in a non-intrusive way can be just the push your friends need to do their civic duty.
  4. Volunteer your time. Those machines I was talking about at the top of this piece? They’re made out of people who care. And they could really use your help. Even if you just contribute one night of phone banking for a candidate or an initiative you really believe in, that could make a huge difference. Campaigns need all sorts of help from all sorts of different kinds of people: door-knockers, drivers, envelope-stuffers. Whatever your special talent is, they can likely put it to use. And along those lines…
  5. Contribute your resources wisely. Figure out where you (and your last-minute donations) can be of the most use. Pick one or two local campaigns you really care about and focus on those. In Seattle, I’d say you should consider working to get the word out about Sound Transit 3—strong conservative anti-tax backlash arrived late in this race, and the future of Seattle is hanging in the balance. But no matter what, you should get behind the candidates and causes that most speak to you.

This has been the longest, most grueling presidential campaign I’ve ever seen. It’s been emotionally taxing and mentally frustrating. The good news, though, is that we’re finally coming up on the end. After a year and a half as a bystander, you have a chance to speak up and to do your part. Nobody benefits when you refresh Twitter twelve times an hour, but if you’re smart about it, you can make a real difference in the real world. It’s your time to shine.


 * Of course this is an oversimplification. There will often be a surprising bit of news in the last few days of a campaign. The archetypical version of this is George W. Bush’s drunk driving record surfacing just before the 2000 presidential election. And I fully expect there to be a Late-October-Early-November Surprise in this election; you can’t have a candidate as unpredictable, undisciplined, and media-friendly as Donald Trump without some ugly truths hiding in plain sight, and there are thousands of miles of video tape that have yet to be completely scoured. Odds are good we’ll see something break in the next 13 days. But staring at Twitter won’t cause the news to break any faster. Trust me: if shocking news breaks in the next two weeks, you’ll hear about it almost immediately. Set the notifications on your phone to alert you the minute big news happens and you’ll learn about it with everyone else.

 ** Turning off cable news is always a good idea, no matter where you are in the news cycle. Cable news is less about information and more about endless regurgitation and it should be avoided at all costs.

Hillary Clinton Just Explained How She’ll Grow the Economy from the Middle Out: Here’s What That Means

One of these two people knows how to fix the economy. The other one  is Donald Trump.

One of these two people knows how to fix the economy. The other one is Donald Trump.

Donald Trump made headlines at tonight’s presidential debate by refusing to say whether he would accept the results of the election on November 8th. And that should absolutely be the top media takeaway from the debate; it’s unprecedented in modern history for a presidential candidate to deny the legitimacy of an election. This puts the peaceful transfer of leadership that has been at the heart of our democracy at risk.

But it’s important to remember that there were two people onstage tonight. And while Donald Trump was busy unnecessarily imperiling the future of the United States for the sake of his own tremendous (and tremendously fragile) ego, we must also remember that Hillary Clinton was turning in her single best debate performance. Clinton was poised, prepared, and downright presidential up there.

Clinton didn’t just maintain her integrity in the response to the most erratic presidential candidate in generations—she articulated her case more clearly than she ever has. Specifically, she knocked it out the park when she talked about economics. More than she ever has, Clinton made a clear and concise case for why middle out economics is the only way forward for a prosperous America.

“I think when the middle class thrives, America thrives,” Clinton said early in the debate. “And so my plan is based on growing the economy, giving middle class families many more opportunities.” Clinton called for a jobs program that would reinforce America’s infrastructure and our investment in clean energy. She said she wanted America to compete with “high wage countries,” which is especially important considering Trump kept calling for us to compete with China and India and other low-wage nations.

Clinton correctly argued that we don’t want the kind of growth that comes with simply creating more jobs; we want more better-paying, higher-quality jobs. (If you’d like to learn more about middle out economics, Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer’s TED Talk remains one of the best crash courses available. If you want a deeper dive, Democracy Journal’s “Middle Out Moment” issue is a terrific resource.)

This next piece of Clinton’s argument is vitally important, so I’m going to quote it in full. (All of these quotes, by the way, come from Vox’s rush transcript of the debate, which is a tremendous public service.)

 I want to raise the minimum wage because people who live in poverty, who work full-time should not still be in poverty. I want to make sure that women get equal pay for the work we do. I feel strongly we have to have an education system that starts with preschool and goes through college. That’s why I want more technical education in high schools and community colleges, real apprenticeships to prepare people for the real jobs of the future. I want to make college debt free and for families making less than $125,000, you will not get a division bill from a public college or university if the plan that I worked on with Bernie Sanders is enacted.

This, right here, is the exact recipe to create lasting, quality growth in America. Raising the minimum wage and closing the gender pay gap is the first step, and it’s pivotal because it engages every worker in the economy. For too long, low-wage Americans have been basically frozen out of the economy because they’ve had no spending power at all, beyond meeting the most basic food, shelter, and transportation expenses required to survive.

Raising the wage enables them to participate in the economy as consumers, which increases demand and therefore creates more jobs. Once that happens, the encouragement of affordable education and apprenticeship programs allows workers to easily pick up the skills required to participate in a fast-moving 21st century economy. The days when Americans would go to work in the same factory for 40 years and then retire have passed. That’s not a bad thing, assuming every American has the opportunity to learn and adapt to the market throughout their lives.

Clinton acknowledges that the top one percent and corporations will have to pay more in taxes if we want to fight rampant inequality, but those taxes will help spur the growth that we haven’t seen under four decades of trickle down economics. Indeed, she acknowledges that Trump’s plan is “trickle down economics on steroids,” which would “give the biggest tax breaks ever to the wealthy and to corporations, adding $20 trillion to our debt.”

Later in the debate, Clinton was asked if she defended President Obama’s economic growth. She praised him for leading us out of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. “We’re standing,” she explained, “but we’re not yet running.”

“We’re beginning to see some increase in incomes, and we certainly have had a long string of increasing jobs. We’ve got to do more to get the whole economy moving, and that’s what I believe I will be able to do.”  In the end, she concluded, America needs to “invest from the middle out and the ground up, not the top down.”

It’s heartening to finally hear a presidential candidate get the economy exactly right. Clinton wasn’t proposing making rich people pay more in taxes because it’s fair, and she wasn’t arguing that we need to punish business to support workers. Instead, she clearly and directly made the case that we all do better when we all do better, that in order to make an economy work, everyone—from the top one percent to small business owners to young adults making minimum wage at their first full-time jobs—has to participate. If debates are the final test of a candidate’s fitness for the presidency, Trump absolutely failed on every single level. But more importantly, tonight Clinton passed with flying colors.

 

Kim Wyman’s Campaign Is A Cautionary Tale

washington secretary of state

The Secretary of State’s office is not a particularly sexy one; stop a person on 5th Avenue in Seattle and ask “hey stranger, who’s the Secretary of State?” and they will either name John Kerry or give you a blank stare.

This general lack of enthusiasm and recognition likely would have been beneficial for current Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman in her reelection campaign. Wyman, a Republican, holds a seat that has been (strangely) kept out of the hands of Democrats for nearly 50 years, and she could possibly have sailed into her second term on a hope and a prayer were it not for two key factors:

1.) Her opponent and

2.) Herself.

Way back in January—well before the primaries were even started in earnest—former Seattle City Councilmember and tech-sector leader Tina Podlodowski announced she would be challenging Wyman. Podlodowski’s campaign focused on expanding voting access (one of her first ads featured footage of Wyman saying she would not support the Washington Voting Rights Act), streamlining elections, and saving taxpayers money.

A major part of Podlodowski’s campaign against Wyman has been undermining Wyman’s time in office; she’s cited low voter turnout, a lack of ballot boxes, and the frustration voters felt over the caucus system in the spring. In September, she uncovered a glaring error in the state’s voter database that could have resulted in a data breach—and seemed to pin its existence on Wyman’s inattention.

Podlodowski has turned what might have otherwise been Wyman’s sleepy cruise into incumbency into an actual race. But she’s not even Wyman’s biggest enemy, as the last few days have demonstrated.

Despite netting endorsements from many of the local newspapers, Wyman’s earned media has largely been soured by her own record. After the Everett Herald wrote that she “deserves another term,” Rep. Luis Moscoso wrote in to correct their editorial, stating that “Wyman didn’t step up” on voting rights.

In attempt to turn the tide in her favor last week, Wyman made her first major announcement of the campaign—using the recent, deadly shooting at the Cascade Mall as a springboard, Wyman’s office released a proposal to require identification and proof of citizenship paperwork to register to vote.

“During this past week, questions were raised about the citizenship of Arcan Cetin, who confessed to murdering five people at Cascade Mall in Burlington,” read the release from the SoS’s office. “He registered in 2014 and voted in three elections. On each of those occasions, he affirmed that he was a U.S. citizen and met the other qualifications to be a voter. The penalty of registration and voter fraud is a prison term of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.”

Unfortunately for Wyman, Cetin’s citizenship had been verified just hours before her slated announcement; as a result, the proposal seemed desperate and in poor taste.

Voter ID laws are kind of a conservative (read: racist) dogwhistle—except for the fact that just about everyone can hear them, which means the announcement was sure to turn off some of the moderate folks that Wyman would need to win the entire state. To try to play both sides, Wyman’s announcement was slated as “bipartisan,” and included a provision for automatic voter registration. Unfortunately, that part of the story was quickly buried by all of the rest of it and likely didn’t win anyone over.

And then there’s today’s October surprise—a complaint filed by the Washington Attorney General’s Office alleging numerous instances of campaign finance reporting violations. They aren’t massive and they aren’t especially shady, but they are sloppy. And there are a lot of them.

Which doesn’t exactly bode well, considering the job that Wyman is trying to keep.

Up and down, Wyman has shown that campaigning is not her forte—unfortunately, in an office that oversees campaigns and elections, that seems like a pretty huge problem. Sure, you could say it’s just paperwork, but then what is the job of Secretary of State if not paperwork?

Wyman’s campaign isn’t a complete disaster, but it is a cautionary tale; public disclosure in Washington is watched closely and taken seriously, and paperwork needs to be filed in a timely manner. If Wyman can’t manage to do it on the campaign trail, it’s hard to say if she’ll be able to do it in office.

Yes, Tonight’s VP Debate Matters. Let Me Tell You Why

Two white dudes who really love their flags.

Two white dudes who really love their flags.

I listen to a lot of political podcasts, and almost all of the major ones have made variations on the same joke in the past few days: when discussing the vice presidential debate, the hosts will crack wise about falling asleep because both Democratic VP candidate Tim Kaine and Republican VP candidate Mike Pence are so deadly dull. And then they’ll participate in a conversation about whether or not the vice presidential debates will “matter,” because vice presidential debates have traditionally never affected the polls.

This is bad, dumb thinking, on several levels. First of all: of course a vice presidential debate matters. These candidates are second in line for the most powerful job in the world. And Dick Cheney has proven that vice presidents can demonstrate an outsize effect on foreign and domestic policy even if the president stays in good health for all eight years of a presidency. Plus, vice presidential candidates traditionally take on the role of attack dogs, articulating the policies and arguments of the presidential candidates in rawer, more honest language. If you want to hear a less-polished discussion of what really matters to America, the vice presidential debate has traditionally been the event to watch.

Of course, we are living in a very different year for presidential politics, one where the rules don’t seem to apply. And that’s true for this vice presidential debate, too. While it’s true that the presidential candidates—both of whom are plagued by bad favorability numbers and scandals—chose their VP candidates at least in part because they were relatively boring and straightforward politicians, tonight’s debate is potentially going to be even more important than a usual vice presidential debate.

For one thing, at the top of the ticket we have the two oldest presidential candidates in history, which makes the vice president of more interest to the general population. Even though I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton could thrive over the course of eight years in the Oval Office, and Trump is supposedly the healthiest person to ever run for any office ever or something, sometimes bodies make their own decisions. (Plus, heaven forbid, if Trump wins, he’d likely commit an impeachable offense sometime within the first three months of his presidency.) We need to be aware of the character of these men in case they should have to take command.

But more importantly, assuming that Trump loses this November, this debate could be our first vision of what the post-Trump Republican Party will look like. Sure, Kaine is going to try to pin Pence to his running mate early and often during the debate. But Pence has repeatedly created distance between himself and Trump—from the Muslim ban to name-calling, Pence has demonstrated that he’s uncomfortable being lashed to Trump’s side. And Trump’s self-immolation over the last week and a half might give Pence enough pause to consider an escape hatch from the ticket. He’s not quite sixty yet, which makes him a young enough politician that he might have another post-Trump chapter in his political career.

If Trump goes down in flames this November, Pence and Paul Ryan will be the closest thing to party leaders the GOP will have, and I expect Pence to deliver some messages to the never-Trump crowd in this debate. Will Pence embrace Reaganesque trickle-down and interventionist Bush-era brutalist foreign policy, the way he did before he was on the ticket? Will he lean heavily on policies like tax cuts for the rich, no raises on the minimum wage, and cuts on regulations as a way to grow the economy? Seems likely. If you feel like you’re living in 1989 when Pence starts talking about his vision for America’s future, odds are good he’s fallen back on the Republican party’s baseline.

And hopefully, Kaine will hold Pence to his disgusting words on LGBTQ tolerance. It was Governor Pence, after all, who pushed the anti-LGBTQ “religious liberty” law that nearly destroyed Indiana’s economy. The rest of the nation, remember, recoiled at Pence’s brand of hatred, and organizations everywhere led anti-Indiana boycotts until Pence backed down. Civic Ventures founder Nick Hanauer really laid into Pence’s “almost surreal stupidity” in a Twitter rant that spread far and wide.

It’s doubtful that Pence will double-down on his hateful actions when the full light of the media is on him, but Kaine should hold him to it. This, after all, is the standard-bearer of the pre-Trump (and, likely, post-Trump) GOP: exclusionary, hateful, and obsessed with the terrible economic policies of the past. Pence needs to be revealed tonight—not as a harmless bore, but as the man many mainstream Republicans look to as the face of the future.