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Reflecting on 2018

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While many may look back at 2018 with less than a rosy perspective, I think it was a pretty great year for me personally. I read a bunch of good books, my sister graduated college, my family is in relatively good health, I got to see almost all of my good friends at least once this year, my brother moved to within driving distance, and I got to marry the love of my life!

We all have things we’re struggling with, but it’s rewarding to take a minute to consider one’s good fortune and blessings.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year! 🎊 🍾

What I Want Out of My 2020 Democratic Candidate

There are going to be a bunch of Democratic candidates running for President in this upcoming election cycle. Some centrist, some liberal, some progressive. While just about anyone would be better than the embarrassment that currently holds the office of President, I’m optimistic that we’ll have an opportunity to vote for someone worthy of leading this country.

To that end, I’ve listed out some things that I want out of the next Democratic candidate for President in 2020 [This post is likely to be updated multiple times].

  • Leadership

This is going to be an important aspect in just about everything that follows on this list. I want a candidate who not only leads this country with a steady hand, but like a good leader, I want someone who inspires others to do more for their country, community, and fellow man.

Part of leadership means conveying those goals and ideals into actionable policies and legislation that can be put into action. It means showing the American people how those policies will end up benefitting both them individually, and the country as a whole. It also means re-taking our mantle as a responsible world power and re-emphasizing the importance of allies.

  • Bold, Progressive Policies that Focus on the Problem

I am an optimist by nature and believe whole-heartedly that we can right the ship. But we can’t do it by starting out small and hoping others will just magically see our point of view. We’re progressives. We’re for progress and our policies should aim big. Those aims should be about overcoming the problems we’re facing, both now and in the future, no matter how overwhelming or insurmountable those problems may seem in the moment.

We need to simultaneously understand, however, that better is good and an acceptable accomplishment. Perfection is not attainable at the outset and we can’t let our desire to accomplish big things forestall the first steps. We will need to work across the aisle in order to accomplish our goals and no one side holds the monopoly on good ideas. That being said, we need a candidate who doesn’t let arguments like “civility” or “we’re not ready” shorten our goal posts. We need both long-term goals and short-term attainable goals and we shouldn’t confuse the two.

Some progressive policies I would like to see introduced and pursued are:

Aggressive Plan for Climate Change – This should address the problem on both domestic and international fronts. This plan would ideally include a repeal of gas subsidies, keep the U.S. in the Paris Climate Agreement, incentivize clean energy, and prepare our country for rising sea levels and more severe weather. In short, a Green New Deal.

A Realistic Plan for Jobs – Automation is here and we need to deal with it. From warehouse and package delivery to transportation, retail, restaurants, and manufacturing, we will need to figure out the next big steps for our economy. We’re at record low unemployment right now, but that will change and we will need to be prepared for it. I don’t presently agree with Universal Basic Income, but some type of jobs guarantee, possibly tied into a Green New Deal, would have my attention.

Progress on Healthcare – The Affordable Care Act was a giant step forward on healthcare and now we need to press forward. I think the tax penalty for uninsured needs to be reinstated as a way to re-incentivize people to get healthcare, but this should be done in conjunction with a low-cost public option that covers. Additionally, we need to get away from employer-provided healthcare. I think tying one’s health to their job and the healthcare options provided solely by an employer is something both Democrats and Republicans can get behind fixing. More choice in the marketplace, less fear of losing one’s healthcare if you lose your job, and less administrative burden on businesses.

Protection and Rights in the Digital World – This topic has gained some steam after Facebook’s most recent failures in maintaining the public’s trust and will only continue to become more important. While a privacy bill is important, I would like to see some type of requirement regarding the handling and storage of people’s information for companies dealing in personal data. Maybe blockchain will assist with that, but there have been so many hacks and releases of personal data I can’t count how many times I’ve been notified by HaveIBeenPwned.com. I’ve also become interested in the Right to be Forgotten but I think we need to have more public debate on the topic before we can look at how something could even begin to be implemented. Finally, we need a candidate who believes in net neutrality and will do something to put that back into place. California has had to take the initiative on this, but I hope we can adopt some type of nation-wide model that keeps the US on top in terms of internet freedom and expression.

Space Force?

Space Exploration – I’ll admit that the idea of a Space Force was actually inspiring to me. Maybe it’s because I feel I could include space law in addition to maritime law as my practice area, but from what I understand, it would be a massive reorganization of missions that are already allocated to the U.S. Airforce and wouldn’t be worth the trouble. That being said, while we need to continually devote resources to our immediate situation at home, the research that comes from working towards big goals like space and planetary exploration helps push us forward as a country and a species.

  • Policies that Repair America

While it is important to know where we want to go, it is also important to focus on fixing where we are now, and there is a lot to fix:

Serious Election Reform – I was encouraged by the fact that the planned H.R. 1 for the new Congress is one the focuses on institutional reforms surrounding our elections. My understanding is that this bill includes provisions to restore the Voting Rights Act, protect improper purging of voter rolls, automatic and same-day voter registration, require states to upgrade and secure their election systems, and amply small-dollar donations. I would like to see the text of the bill, but these types of reforms are a great place to start. In addition to those, I would like to see a measure that makes Election Day a national holiday or at least increases early voting. H.R. 1 could help with that, assuming the automatic and same-day registration provisions remain. A consistent identification procedure and some type of fix for Gerrymandering would be nice as well.

Fair, Firm, and Humane Immigration Reform – Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to talk about immigration reform for fear of looking weak. I want a candidate that takes a stand to fix the problem. To my way of thinking, that would include protection for the Dreamers and the non-criminalization of asylum seekers. As a country, we need a clear and simple way to apply for citizenship and clear policies on who is accepted and who is not, how many are accepted for citizenship, and it needs to be non-discriminatory. For too long we have accepted illegal immigration as a way of life but I do not think it is fair or right to anyone to have such a large population living in the shadows. There could be a public notice and enrollment period for all illegal immigrants to become citizens. There should also be a penalty for having broken the law. I think a sliding scale fine that may be rolled into an application fee for citizenship could be appropriate. The penalties for failing to sign up should also be clear and the consequences for what happens should be enforced at all levels; individuals and those who hire them. We can disagree on the details, but we need a candidate that is willing to get the ball rolling on this issue because what we have now is not working for anyone.

Infrastructure – We need to continually update and upgrade our infrastructure. This includes roads, bridges, and buildings of course, but should also include technological infrastructure such as increasing rural broadband access and implementing country-wide 5G.

Education – We have a looming problem with the amount of student loan debt in this country and we need to do something about it. Ideally, a Democratic candidate would have a plan to that involves revisions in payment plans and reducing costs of higher learning generally.

I think well-focused administrations have the ability to attack a lot of problems at the same time. To use a tired metaphor, we have the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time and we should do so. We have a lot of things to fix and I’m glad the incoming Congress isn’t waiting around for the next President to get the ball rolling, whoever that may be.

What things are you looking for in the next presidential candidate? Who do you think has the best shot at President? Who do you want/hope runs for President?