Good Work: Candidates & Causes

I appreciate the folks that ran for office for all the right reasons–especially those that were not able to finance their own campaigns. Running for office requires constant groveling for donations, being exposed to malicious claims, and a grinding campaign schedule.
The following are some good and bad outcomes of election 2012:


1. If you noticed Republican candidates, like Rob McKenna in Washington, making education a priority and advancing a thoughtful education, it’s because former Florida governor Jeb Bush has been providing tutoring.
2. Democrats For Education Reform supported 30 legislative races and their candidates won 22.  In Washington, DFER support probably made the difference in the successful bid for charter school legislation.
3. Passage of Washington State ballot initiatives on gay marriage and decriminalization of drug use also signaled an advance for individual freedoms — a historic theme of the 2012 election. Demographics suggest there won’t be another Republican president until the pro-growth libertarians wrestle control away from the social conservatives. Liberty marches on.


4. This is probably a bad idea, but hear me out–congress could cut a deal that makes the “fiscal cliff” work for both parties. It may be possible for the House to build a “glider” to take advantage of the cliff. Going off the cliff is the only way the Democrats get their tax increase and peace dividend and the only way the Republicans get massive spending cuts. Perhaps the house can outline a rational set of budget add backs (for Ds) and tax cuts (for Rs) that make going off the cliff a better alternative than just kicking the can down the road. A deal of this sort may allow the tax cuts to expire and cuts to take place — some temporarily — but avoid the predicted drop in the U.S. credit rating and a stock market dip in the market. The hardest to accept downside for Democrats would be big cuts to education and safety net programs with only partial recovery likely. Engineering a path for a “glider” bill like this through the Senate would probably require filibuster reform—and that would be a bonus on many fronts.
5. All the undisclosed PAC spending can’t be a good thing for America. It is likely to make it harder for serious minded independent candidates to run. However, I don’t see a campaign financing reform bill in the near future.
6. That people waited in lines for hours to vote using antiquated technology in a process overseen by partisans is a disgrace. It’s time for an upgrade. We vote by mail in Washington. Some may be nostalgic for lines and levers, but the opportunity to spend several hours on a Saturday researching positioning and initiatives is a gift that should be available to all.
To all the candidates that ran — and particularly those that ran on principal and lost — thanks for the commitment, vulnerability, and effort. You make this a great place to live.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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