A Permanent Memorial for Heather Heyer

I wrestled with posting this here because I don’t think this ought to be a political issue.  I don’t have any other way of publishing this in a public forum, save for a few letters to the editor I intend to write.  Please forgive any smattering of self-promotion this post may or may not create.  — Chris

I would like to see a permanent memorial designed and erected somewhere in honor of Heather Heyer.  As anyone who has been paying attention should know, Heyer, a 32 year old paralegal, was killed by a neo-Nazi at an alt-right rally in Charlottesville this past weekend.

NPR posted an article about Heyer’s remembrance, where many family members and other people who knew her spoke about her dedication to social justice and change.  Heyer’s grandfather said this about her as a child:

“In earlier years she wanted fairness. She wanted justice. She wanted everybody to get equal respect. And with an older brother, that got tough, because older brothers are going to get more privilege, you see, and she’d watch like a hawk and call that out … ‘Why can’t I do that?’ … We had a lot of fiery discussions. She wanted to understand your viewpoint; it didn’t seem right to her but she insisted on knowing your viewpoint.”

Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, spoke of Heyer’s commitment and how we could best remember her daughter:

“Here’s the message: Although Heather is a caring and compassionate person, so are a lot of you. A lot of you go that extra mile. … We know that what she did was achievable.

“We don’t all have to die. We don’t all have to sacrifice our lives. They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well, guess what. You just magnified her.

“So here’s what I want to happen. You asked me what can you do, so many caring people … I want this to spread. I don’t want this to die. This is just the beginning of Heather’s legacy. This is not the end of Heather’s legacy. You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability: ‘What is there that I can do to make the world a better place, what injustice do I see and want to turn away?’ … You poke that finger at yourself like Heather would have done and you make it happen. You take that extra step. You find a way to make a difference in the world.

“My child had a high school education. She was no saint; she was hard to raise because everything was a negotiation, but you know what? She was a firm believer in whatever she believed. And let’s do that. Let’s find that spark of conviction, let’s find in ourselves that action, let’s spread this. Let’s have the uncomfortable dialogue. It ain’t easy. … It’s not all about forgiveness. … The truth is we are going to have our differences. Let’s channel that difference … that anger, not into hate, not into violence … but into righteous action.

“The conversations have to happen. That’s the only way that we’re going to carry Heather’s spark through.”

I would like to see a permanent memorial to Heyer, whether a statue of her or something else, placed at the former location of one of the confederate statues.  I am a lawyer, not a city planner or sculptor, and I have no idea how to go about raising money for this or approaching city leaders.

Given the words spoken about Heyer from her friends and family, it would be poetic justice to have a symbol of hate replaced with a memorial to a woman who died exercising her right to express her beliefs.

Does anyone out there have any experience with this?  Contact me and lets talk.

Updated: 16 Aug 2017

My Statement on Removal of the Robert E. Lee Statue in Charlottesville

I have been asked about my thoughts on the removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia.  To be absolutely clear: I support the removal of the statue from public viewing for what it stands for and its historic context in the history of the United States.  I also support free speech to the limits of the federal constitution – speaking your mind, demonstrating, but not inciting or engaging in violence.

The statue of Robert E. Lee at issue in this matter is Robert E. Lee the general, not Robert E. Lee the educator or Robert E. Lee the author.  General Robert E. Lee was first the Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and later the General-in-Chief of the Confederate States of America.  History has taught us that Lee privately had reservations about both the legal legitimacy of secession and the moral legitimacy of slavery but the record is absolutely clear: despite being offered a command in the federal army, Lee chose to join the rebellion in his home state of Virginia.  Despite his personal reservations, Robert E. Lee took up arms against the United States of America in armed, open rebellion.  Despite his own views, he was personally responsible as a commander for the killing and maiming of federal troops fighting for the United States.  This was Lee’s choice, and he must now own it in the light of history.

Lee’s own personal correspondence clearly indicates he understood the strong economic link between the Confederacy and the institution of slavery.  There is no question in my mind – and I hope any reasonable person’s mind – that Lee knew precisely that he was taking up arms in support of a cause that wanted to maintain the status quo of owning and exploiting human beings for economic gain.  The following quotations come directly from the official Declaration of Causes of Seceding States, drafted, debated, and passed by various rebel states during the Confederacy period.  This is not history – these are actual, contemporary statements drafted by the Confederacy and intended to be the conclusive statement as to why they seceded and, in some cases, provide the legal and constitutional basis for such secession:

Georgia

“The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery….

“The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its leaders and applauded by its followers.

“With these principles on their banners and these utterances on their lips the majority of the people of the North demand that we shall receive them as our rulers.

“The prohibition of slavery in the Territories is the cardinal principle of this organization….

“Such are the opinions and such are the practices of the Republican party, who have been called by their own votes to administer the Federal Government under the Constitution of the United States. We know their treachery; we know the shallow pretenses under which they daily disregard its plainest obligations. If we submit to them it will be our fault and not theirs. The people of Georgia have ever been willing to stand by this bargain, this contract; they have never sought to evade any of its obligations; they have never hitherto sought to establish any new government; they have struggled to maintain the ancient right of themselves and the human race through and by that Constitution. But they know the value of parchment rights in treacherous hands, and therefore they refuse to commit their own to the rulers whom the North offers us. Why? Because by their declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property in the common territories of the Union; put it under the ban of the Republic in the States where it exists and out of the protection of Federal law everywhere; because they give sanctuary to thieves and incendiaries who assail it to the whole extent of their power, in spite of their most solemn obligations and covenants; because their avowed purpose is to subvert our society and subject us not only to the loss of our property but the destruction of ourselves, our wives, and our children, and the desolation of our homes, our altars, and our firesides. To avoid these evils we resume the powers which our fathers delegated to the Government of the United States, and henceforth will seek new safeguards for our liberty, equality, security, and tranquility.”

Mississippi

“Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.”

South Carolina

“We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.”

Texas

“We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

“That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.

“By the secession of six of the slave-holding States, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North, or unite her destinies with the South.”

There is no question taking these declarations that the genesis of the Confederate States of America was preservation of the institution of slavery – whether the federal government has authority to interfere with a state’s traditional power to determine property.  Of course this means property interests in human beings.

The Robert E. Lee statute honors a person who took up arms against the United States in support of a philosophy that subjugated an entire race of human beings to mere capital property.  Such history belongs in a museum; not on a marble pedestal in a public space paid for by tax dollars.  Take it down; take the other Confederate monuments down; and place them in a museum where their context can be properly made.

— Chris Minelli

 

P.S. :: If you want to read the full text versions of the declarations of secession, you can find them here.  Also, the PDF version of my statement can be found here.

Announcing the Minelli Mow-a-Thon!

Big news!  OK, my impassioned plea for donations didn’t fly, so it’s time to do the American thing by getting to work raising the money myself. Therefore, I proudly announce:

Minelli Mow-A-Thon 2018

What is that, you ask? OK, here’s the deal. I’m not oblivious to the fact the people who like my message and support my campaign cannot donate thousands of dollars to me.  They cannot pay hundreds of dollars to do to a fancy fundraiser and dress up in formal attire like someone who is about to go down with the Titanic.

I’m also not oblivious to the fact my primary opponents and (more importantly incumbent Adam Kinzinger) do not have this particular financial handicap.  I’m not going to go down like a British destroyer in Dunkirk without a fight given that no money = no name recognition = no level playing field.

Given that money is tight, I know you want to get something in return for your hard earned dollars. Turns out lawyering doesn’t get me outside much, and I don’t like that.  I’m going to take care of both birds with one stone.

I will walk around and mow lawns.  This includes trimming and sweeping.  Give yourself a week off (or week(s) if you want me to come back later).

So how do you get me to come to your home or business and do this?

The Terms

If you are a Democrat – I will gladly come to your house and mow your lawn for a donation to my campaign. I will supply the mower and gasoline / trimmer etc. as well as campaign materials. In exchange for me mowing your lawn, I will require (a) a campaign donation in an amount of your choosing, and (b) you have to take the materials I give you and talk to your neighbors about me and what I stand for.

In between appointments, I will be speaking to Republicans and / or Non-Democrats in your neighborhoods by walking around door-to-door.

If you are a Non-Democrat I talk to in between appointments – I will also gladly come to your house and cut your lawn, but I require two things from you: (a) a donation of your choosing and (b) five minutes of your time to listen to what I have to say. And also I want to hear what you have to say.

Deal? Deal. Email me at chris@vote4minelli.com to set up an appointment. We don’t have to be rich or have rich friends to succeed. Hard work can win the day just as well.

The Schedule

I will be in the following areas on the following dates.  This of course is just my schedule.  If you want me to come by and mow your lawn some time other than these dates then contact me and set up an appointment.

August 6, 2017 – Ottawa, Illinois.

August 15, 2017 – Rochelle, Illinois.

August 26, 2017 – Pontiac, Illinois.

September 9, 2017 – Watseka, Illinois.

September 26, 2017 – Princeton, Illinois

And I will absolutely guarantee without any qualification that I can work harder than any member of congress alive today.

Updated: 2 Aug 2017

Lessons from Georgia and Bringing the Democratic Party Back to the People

John Ossoff lost the special election in GA-06 last night to Republican Karen Handel.  This election was the most expensive congressional race in history.  Ossoff received $23 million in donations from individual donors alone; estimates for the entirety of expenditures made by Ossoff or on his behalf is well over $50 million.

Karen Handel went on record stating that she did not believe same-sex couples should be able to adopt children and that she did not support a livable wage.  In the past, Handel has refused to acknowledge human effects on climate change.  She also supports the Republican American Health Care Act.

How many times will democrats have to lose before we realize there is a significant problem with our approach to federal elections?  We lost in Kansas; we lost in Montana; and last night we lost in Georgia.  Immediately after the major networks called the GA-06 race for Karen Handel, I started seeing messages on progressive Facebook pages here in IL-16 imploring people to look ahead at the next election (this time in Virginia state elections).  And of course these pleadings came with an attached link to Act Blue to contribute money to the relevant democratic political action committees.

Enough!

Ossoff was unsuccessful in GA-06 tonight after spending more money than any Democrat in history for a congressional seat. What does that tell us? You can’t buy elections any longer.  What else does it tell us? If Democrats want to win we need to re-evaluate what we are doing and how we are doing it.  Only fools continue to do the same thing and expect something to change.

Honestly I am dreading the news and analysis tomorrow.  I can predict the coverage now.  “Progressive ideals are popular nationwide!  We will win next time!”  “Georgia has been Red since 1979! We can win a more moderate place!”  “Don’t worry about it fellow progressives!  We closed the gap between 2016 and now by X% and (blah blah blah lots of math).”

Enough.  We democrats lost and there is no excuse for it except we did not persuade voters to vote blue.  We can talk until we are blue in the face (pun intended) about statistics and how things are better now and how next time we will get them.  But it is on us and it is on Ossoff.  $23 million couldn’t do it because our approach was wrong.  $100 million would not have done it.  The tragedy is a person who believes same sex couples should not adopt and who does not believe in a living wage beat us.  Better statistics than 2016 does not give us seats in Congress.  Winning congressional races gives us seats in Congress.

I want to change.  I want my campaign to be different than what Democrats have tried in the past because that is clearly not working anymore.  It doesn’t work specifically in rural America, which is where IL-16 is and who I intend to represent in Congress.  This is what I plan on doing and what I would propose to others running on the democratic ticket in rural America.  It is different than they typical democratic playbook by design.  There is something inherently immoral in asking for campaign donations and using them in a way that has a recent history of utter failure.  I want to change the game and hopefully this can be a start to a different way of doing business on the campaign trail.

We need to stop opposing the GOP and clearly state what the Democratic Party of the United States stands for and what we believe in.

I have spent a significant amount of time speaking to individuals and groups that are not self-identified Democrats (more on this below).  I consistently get feedback from these encounters and there are a lot of similar themes expressed.  The foremost concept I get involves the democratic platform and can be expressed into three different statements:

A.  What does the Democratic Party stand for? Why can’t any democrat express that or just say what it stands for?

B.  Why are Republicans actively trying to help the economy and create jobs, while the Democratic Party is worried about transgender bathroom usage and making police officers look racist and awful? (This is a paraphrase, but only a very slight paraphrase).

C.  Why aren’t Democrats patriotic? Why don’t they love America?

I grew up in rural America among what progressives have termed “working class whites,” and I can identify a lot with these concerns.  I held my nose and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 because she wasn’t Donald Trump.  I wasn’t on board with her primarily because I had no idea what she stood for or what she was proposing.  I understood Bernie Sanders (and voted for him in the primaries).  I understood Donald Trump.  To this day I couldn’t tell you what precisely Clinton wanted to do or how she proposed to do it.  That is not a useful way to run a campaign.

I try to condense my ideas down to their lowest common denominator, partly because I can make the ideas simpler to communicate.  I can’t speak for all Democrats.  I am hardly a cookie-cutter Democrat and even among the Democratic Party there is a significant amount of differences in opinion on what the party stands for and what our platform can be.

This is what I believe in.  There are three stances.  All three are derived from my campaign slogan and philosophy on government: People Before Politics.  America’s backbone is in the principle We The People hold the power and legitimacy to govern.  We The People call the shots.  We The People can change things if we don’t like how things are going.  My stance is as follows:

  1. We are committed as Democrats to acting as a catalyst for the American middle class to work towards achieving the American Dream.
  2. We are committed as Democrats to putting People Ahead of Special Interests.
  3. We are committed as Democrats to the Constitution of the United States and the Rule of Law.

Government exists to make sure everyone who works hard and has ambition should have a fair shake at achieving the American Dream, however one chooses to define that.  We need to take care of our citizenry.  This means starting from day one – We The People need to guarantee high quality healthcare to all citizens as a right no different than a right to police and fire protection.  We The People need to make education affordable for anyone that wishes to attend trade school or college.  We The People need to make sure policies are in place to support and assist small businesses and manufacturing thrive in a global marketplace if we choose to continue our policy of free trade.  We The People need to improve our physical infrastructure (roads and bridges) and our social infrastructure (equal pay for equal work; working to solve the opioid epidemic, etc.)  And every citizen should benefit from the Democratic Party’s work – regardless of whether they voted democratic or not.

Each of these issues deserves its own article, and I am working on that.  But for now this is what I stand for.  I live in LaSalle County, and I see a lot of problems in rural America.  But I also see a lot of Americans here that just want a fair shake.  They feel Democrats are out of touch with them; I want to change their minds and provide them a path to prosperity for the future.  I see a lot of empty buildings and underemployed people in rural America, and there is no reason why in five or ten years’ time we can re-energize the rural American workforce by investing in We The People.

We need to stop sucking at political communication. 

In my campaign I have talked to many diverse groups.  This is entirely by design.  I use a baseball analogy when I speak: within a 162 game season, 50 games are statistically guaranteed to be losers and 50 games will be statistically guaranteed to be winners.  The 62 games in the middle are the ones that matter and the ones that separate the 2016 Chicago Cubs from the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.

What does that have to do with campaigning?  We need to get out there and look for people who are not predisposed to vote for Democrats or Republicans.  If you are a strong Democrat and the ballot says…

…then chances are you will be voting for a fictional cartoon duck.  Similarly, if you are a lifelong Republican who has personally benefited from republican principles it is unlikely that anyone can change your mind.  But research has shown that a majority of people, when pressed, do not self-identify with either majority political party.  These people may be self-identified independents that are interested in single issues or otherwise apolitical people that (for whatever reason) do not regularly think about the political process or regularly vote.

Democrats need to hit the pavement and start talking to independents and apolitical people because this is where we will get the most benefit in expressing the democratic platform and how our beliefs benefit America.

I saw John Ossoff spend tens of millions of dollars and, taking his campaign strategy completely from the DCCC’s playbook, he got nowhere with it.  Argue with me all you want about improvements and the future and whatever else but politics is a zero sum game.  You win or you lose and there is no prize for second place.  Karen Handel is going to Washington and John Ossoff is not.  And that is entirely the fault of his communication with the people inside GA-06.

In the law you are always taught in trial advocacy courses to speak to your jury.  Your client does not matter; the opposition does not matter; the judge does not matter.  The only people in the entire universe that matter during the trial are the fourteen people in the jury box.  Twelve of them will vote.  You absolutely must tailor your arguments, the factual presentation, the exhibits, and even your body language and appearance to persuade the individuals in the jury box that your client is right.

Let’s see how John Ossoff did with that.  As an Illinois resident I was not subject to the (likely) constant barrage of television and mail advertisements, but I did see a good number of Facebook ads looking for donations and making Ossoff’s candidacy into a national issue.  I also got emails.

This is the most common advertisement I saw on social media:

This was pointed out by a person who got emails from his campaign.  These are actual subject lines the DCCC was sending out related to John Ossoff:

And to show a pattern, these are emails send out in support of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race:

I don’t know why I have to state this, but never superimpose a picture of the candidate in front of a graph that is going down to zero!  I’m going to say that again.  Stay positive with your messaging and make sure the messaging is on point!!  All I remember from Ossoff’s presence outside of Georgia was how he was likely going to lose because he didn’t have any more money.  Or how he was going to lose because there wasn’t enough money to keep the good fight up against Handel.  Obviously the DCCC and Ossoff’s campaign felt that the average Democrat voter or supporter was nothing but an ATM machine that was susceptible to political boogiemen and scary stories.

We don’t persuade anymore in regular life and that is a real shame.  Maybe it’s because people interact more on the internet, or maybe it’s because high schools and colleges rarely teach rhetoric, but generally people are better at opposing a point than convincing someone of the values of another point.  Standing on a sidewalk with a sign that opposes something is significantly easier than writing a letter to the editor in support of something – in a way that convinces people as opposed to making dog whistles to people who already agree with you.  There is a difference.

My campaign will be focused on November 6, 2018 and convincing people of all political persuasions that my way is the best way for rural America and IL-16.  I’m unconcerned about the democratic primaries and will not be spending money on fighting other Democrats.  I am unconcerned about Adam Kinzinger’s negatives and would rather talk about my positives.  Kinzinger will illustrate his negatives all by himself.  We as Democrats need to give We The People something to believe in and something to vote for.  That is my sole mission through November 6, 2018.

We need to get over ourselves.

This is a hard point to talk about, but it needs to be said and we need to have straight talk about it.  A college friend of mine explained political teamwork in this way, and I agree with it.  The Republican Party is like a tight knit high school football team.  Every member knows the goal and knows their role.  If the coach tells them to do something, the players holler out “sir, YES SIR!” and do it.  The Democratic Party is also a team, but it is more like a high school golf team.  Yes, they all wear the same shirts and ride the same bus to the course, but ultimately individual performances matter over team performances and leadership is non-existent.

The Democratic Party is fragmented now and we need to get over it and learn to work together as a team.  As a team we can overcome almost anything.  As a fragmented group of people all shouting that their way is the only way we will continuously lose.

This fragmentation is only partially brought on by what the media seems to point to as the sources: Hillary Clinton’s loss and generational differences in the party.  These are important, but I personally believe that the biggest motivating factor to party fragmentation is America’s two-party system.  If you are opposed to something the Republicans are doing, you are a Democrat and vice versa.  That has put a diverse group of people on the same team – Bernie Sanders progressives, Roosevelt / Kennedy Democrats, single-issue voters that the Republicans don’t support, and (occasionally) someone who will side with the Democrats based on their career or geographic location.

This makes teamwork hard – it is hard to work together with a lot of people that might not support the end results you are seeking – but see our diversity as strength.  Diversity is what America as a whole has been built on.  We can reach a great many voters and a great many viewpoints if we all work together.  I hope to persuade as many people in the Democratic Party to believe in me just the same as I hope to persuade non-Democrats to vote for me.  It is all in the art of persuasion.

 

Chris Minelli

The Most Common Question I Get


I wanted to address a common question I always get in person and online within this blog post.  It is a question that every candidate gets often so hopefully this post will be helpful to a variety of different campaigns.  It is a question equally heard within federal, state, and even local campaigns all over America:

“How can I best help with your campaign?”

That is a great question!  Each campaign is different, but generally speaking these points are what every campaign needs to thrive.  This list is generalized quite a bit, but my own campaign runs like this.  If you want to help out, then consider these five things:

1.) Come to an event!  Campaign events (or any political events really) might be new and intimidating to people who have recently decided to become politically involved in their communities.  Keep in mind the people you will meet are similarly-minded to you – which is the whole point of assembling together – and you’ll find plenty of friendly faces.

Events are important.  They lend support to members and strengthen the political communities we have at the local level.  Whether the meetings are democratic central committee meetings, Indivisible groups, or other progressive organizations a strong and vibrant local scene is the best catalyst to change.  There is a lot of truth in the often-quoted statement, “all politics are local.”  National movements were once small local actions and built momentum over time.

Look at the events listed on my page. I speak often and if you are interested in my campaign or learning more about me as a person coming to an event is a good way to get started.

2.) Follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and participate online.  The twenty-first century has many new tools for candidates and community organizers to use and most of them are free.  In the old days communication cost money.  If you wanted to get a message across, you had to buy radio time, make a TV commercial, figure out a way to make the news media interested in you, or spend significant amounts of money on direct mail.

Things are much cheaper now, but sometimes “cheap” can be complicated in ways not many people think about.  Candidates can make Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and websites with ease and much cheaper compared to what traditional forms of communication would cost for worldwide reach.  My website and my Facebook page can reach anyone on earth that has an internet connection.

Here’s the complicated part: traditional (expensive) communication will reach people of all political affiliations and demographics whereas new (cheap) communication is largely self-selected and therefore not as good as “communicating.”  This is an unusual concept, but here is how it works with some examples:

  • People from the far political right to the far political left watch television.  The television will show commercials without involvement of the viewer.  The viewer can change the channel, but the TV station (not the viewer) decides to show the commercial and the viewer much digest enough of the message to voluntarily change the channel.
  • People from the far political right to the far political left drive cars and / or use public sidewalks.  Billboards exist in public, and if they are placed correctly they will be seen by anyone in public.  The viewer can ignore the message, but the message must be seen and then actively thought about for the viewer to choose to ignore it.  In other words, the message was digested by the viewer regardless of their political affiliation or desire to consider the information.
  • People from the far political right to the far political left receive postal mail.  Much like billboards, a postcard direct mailer to a person who is not interested in the political message may wind up in the garbage.  But – the person has to look at the postcard mailer and make a decision to trash it.  The message and the name of the candidate is in his or her head even if the postcard mailer is in the garbage, provided the postcard is designed correctly.  And the name might stick around for future reference: the die hard republican might take notice when he or she hears a democratic candidate mentioned on TV if the name is familiar.

Problematically, free communication is largely digested by a self-selected audience.  That isn’t ideal for a candidate (like me) that is trying to reach outside of the democratic bubble.  If somebody seems interested in my platform, they can search for my website on Google or look for me on Facebook.  However, this does not create interest or name-recognition out of nothing.

This is where you come in and how you can help.  “Like” my Facebook page and also “like” things I post.  Share my material to your own personal page.  Copy and paste links to my website on your page.  Re-tweet things I post on Twitter.  This helps in two ways: (a) it will allow my content to be seen by people – your Facebook friends and Twitter followers – who might not otherwise know who I am or what I stand for, and (b) multiple shares of URLs actually does good things with the algorithms that Facebook and search engines use to add exposure to content.

In other words, when you interact with my postings Facebook and Twitter then Google thinks other people might want to interact, too, so it is easier for people to see me who aren’t actually looking for it.

3.) If you are able, donate to my campaign.  Asking for money is a hard thing for me to do, because I am a DIY-minded person who has always been self-sufficient in everything.  Asking for help is anathema to me.  But the cold hard truth is campaigns costs money – federal campaigns cost lots of money especially – and money buys things that volunteering and sharing Facebook posts do not.  As I described above, winning involves a combination of name recognition and getting my message out to people who are not pre-disposed to voluntarily digest the message.  Money buys that sort of thing.  Money buys, promotional items, traditional communication, and gasoline for my car so I can get out in the community and talk to people face-to-face.

If you can’t afford to donate, don’t worry about it.  If you can, even $5 or $10 can help.  You can find out how to donate to my campaign via mail here or you can donate online via Act Blue.  Act Blue is awesome.  It is a not-for-profit that does credit card and debit card donation processing for progressive candidates and charitable organizations.  Click the button below to donate online:

4.) Volunteer with my campaign.  Volunteering is vital to any organization.  A campaign is essentially a not-for-profit, and every not-for-profit needs boots on the ground to do things that can’t be paid for and can’t otherwise be done.  Volunteering for a campaign can take many forms, from a part-time titled position (finance director, social media director, scheduling manager, etc.) to a one-time volunteer at a single event.  Even just coming to an event and looking to help out the same day is useful!  There is always a need for someone to hand out flyers, buttons, take down attendees’ information, and make sure things run smoothly.

Volunteers really are the backbone of any campaign.  If you could like to volunteer, please check out my volunteer page here and drop me a line!

5.) MOST IMPORTANT – Be a good example of change.  I always harp on this when I speak in public, but we need to stop talking to each other and get out and talk with people who do not self-identify as democrats.  Talk to your neighbors and friends that are independents, or libertarians, or apolitical, or (gasp!) republicans.  Listen to their concerns and worries about our country.  And persuade them the democratic way of doing things is not scary, harmful, and may actually address their fears!

Hopefully this helps!

Chris Minelli

Adam Kinzinger on Planned Parenthood (Spoiler: He Lied)

I was able to attend Representative Adam Kinzinger’s Q&A yesterday in Pontiac, Illinois.  It is good that I work for myself, because Mr. Kinzinger only provided 20 hours’ notice that the Q&A was going to take place.  He also scheduled it at a time that most constituents would be at work.  Nonetheless, there were about 75 people in attendance including myself.

Adam Kinzinger Q&A

David Giuliani, a reporter with the Ottawa-based The Times newspaper, noted in his coverage of the event that Mr. Kinzinger in the past has blamed the “radical left” (Kinzinger’s words) for disrupting town halls.  Mr. Giuliani also talked to the sheriff’s office, who had officers on the scene, as to why they were there.  The answer he received was, “we try to do what they request.”

I did not seen anyone in the audience that I would describe as “radical left.”  I’m unsure as to what that term means specifically, but there were no (a) anarchists, (b) rioters, or (c) Joseph Stalin impersonators present that I personally witnessed.  All I saw were concerned constituents that wanted a chance to see their representative to Congress in-person and ask questions of him after an extraordinary few months in federal politics.

This Q&A was similar in structure to the Q&A held by the League of Women’s Voters in Rockford last month.  Questions could not be directly posed to Mr. Kinzinger.  Instead, questions could be written down on a note card and submitted via a wicker basket.  Mr. Todd Wineburner, a newsman from WJEZ, acted as moderator.  He chose questions from the basket and allowed Mr. Kinzinger whatever time he needed to answer.

With no criticism to Mr. Wineburner, this format for a town hall does not allow constituents – or even a moderator – to hold Mr. Kinzinger’s feet to the fire publicly on issues important to those in attendance.  There were a few questions directed to the American Health Care Act – the “repeal and replace” bill that the House passed last month that Mr. Kinzinger voted in favor of – but Mr. Kinzinger just glossed over it.  His explanation for most bills involved his concern over the increase in deductibles and premiums under ObamaCare plans and that the AHCA is simply “misunderstood.”

(Sidebar: experts have stated that the Republicans themselves, not the ACA’s structure, are causing premiums and costs to rise because the GOP is patently lying about the ACA and is not clear on continued premium subsidies, causing chaos in the market).

I was really, really hoping for more substance in his answer.  Maybe something about his thought processes in deciding how to vote; what the bill will specifically do to premiums and deductibles (and that Mr. Kinzinger had actually thought about those nuts and bolts); and what his constituents were telling his office and whether that mattered in his final decision.  (Mr. Kinzinger noted that he had “thousands” of comments come into his offices from the phone and email but he did not elaborate further).

This is why Mr. Kinzinger’s preferred format is terrible.  The format is almost worse than not having any Q&A or town hall at all.  Whenever a (pre-screened, softball) question is not answered nobody can press for a clearer answer or in the case of a patent falsehood press for the truth.

Enter another of Mr. Kinzinger’s statements.  Mr. Kinzinger stated, twice, when asked about continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood that he would not support funding because he “does not support tax money used to fund abortions.”

Because this is a bald-faced lie, and it is irrelevant to the federal monies used to fund Planned Parenthood, and because there was no way for me or anyone else to correct the record yesterday:

Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS. 

I’m actually going to say that one more time, because abortion is a hot-button topic and when public servants like Adam Kinzinger sit on a stage and blatantly lie in such a way that would inflame the passions of his constituents to where a reasonable discussion based on facts and not feelings cannot occur, it makes me mad.

So once again, say it all together:

Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS. 

In reality, when the GOP states they want to withhold money from Planned Parenthood they are saying something that is much more complicated than merely stopping (imaginary) government checks from being sent to Planned Parenthood’s mailbox.  There is no line-item for Planned Parenthood in the federal budget.  Rather, federal money that gets to Planned Parenthood is from government reimbursement for preventative care.

This is how that works.  Planned Parenthood is a not-for-profit organization that provides all sorts of low-cost services to women that encompass all kinds of preventative care in addition to procedures such as those that terminate pregnancies.  Because of Planned Parenthood’s lost cost / not-for-profit nature, 60% of patients that seek preventative care are recipients of government aid such as Medicaid.

A is a low-income woman who receives Medicaid benefits.  A desires a pap smear and birth control (whether for contraceptive purposes or for hormone regulation) because she understands her health requires these things.  She goes to Planned Parenthood because it is convenient and she does not need to make a co-pay for necessary preventative services.  A gets the preventative services; these services are billed to Medicaid (just like private insurance would be billed); the state A lives in pays the bill; and eventually the federal government reimburses the state for the Medicaid costs. 

Here is a handy chart (from the good folks at Planned Parenthood Action Fund) to explain how the federal monies that do get to Planned Parenthood actually get to Planned Parenthood.  Let’s repeat our bold text from above once again: Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS.

So to recap: federal money is eventually used to repay Planned Parenthood for preventative services much like private insurance would pay for services at a healthcare provider’s office.

But wait!  If Planned Parenthood does in fact perform abortions, would A or any other low-income patient be able to receive a procedure and then use Medicaid to pay for it?

The answer is no because federal law prohibits it.  The Hyde Amendment, a 1976 law that prohibited federal funds from being used to fund abortions and was modified in 1994 to allow an exception for cases of rape, incest, and where the mother’s life is in danger, prohibits Medicaid funds from being used for abortion procedures.

The policy behind such a prohibition should be debated in another blog post, but let’s say it together one last time for Mr. Kinzinger’s benefit: Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS.

Chris Minelli

 

Federal Support for C.S.A. Organizations

I am dedicated to finding new ways to reduce living expenses for working families.  Besides housing, perhaps the largest consumables expense in a family’s budget is for groceries.  According to a United States Department of Agriculture report, between the years 2012 and 2016 food costs were the third largest inflationary increase Americans faced right behind housing and health care.  The “all items” inflationary figure for the period was 4.5% and food rose disproportionately at 6.1%.

During the same period, the Bureau of Wage Statistics reports that wages rose a mere 2.3% for private industry workers in 2016 and 2.1% in 2015.

Affordable, healthy food is an issue that affects all people but workers especially.  In rural communities and increasingly in urban communities Community Supported Agriculture organizations, or CSAs, are developing to fill some of the gaps in the need for affordable, healthy food.  Generally, a CSA is an organization that grows a variety of food crops on a small scale and occasionally produces other foods, such as farm fresh eggs.  Subscribers will pay for “shares” to a CSA for a set price which covers the CSA’s operating costs.  A share then entitles the subscriber to a set portion of the productive capacity of the CSA on a weekly or a bi-weekly basis.  What a subscriber gets depends on the season, how well the crops are producing, and how many other subscribers are participating in the SCA.

Surprisingly, there is little in the way of federal support to encourage the development of CSAs in communities that do not currently have them and support CSAs where they are already established.  Generally a membership fee to become a member of a not-for-profit organization that runs a CSA would be tax deductible but share costs are not.  Further, if the CSA is not organized as a not-for-profit and does not qualify as a tax-exempt organization for whatever reason, nothing that is contributed is tax deductible.

One of the first things I would do when I get to Washington is to introduce legislation to amend the Internal Revenue Code to (a) reduce the barriers for CSAs to seek tax-exemption status; (b) provide a deduction from personal income tax for contributions made to CSAs regardless of whether the contribution is in exchange for shares of food or not, and (c) provide a financial structure to encourage the development of CSAs in urban areas through tax credits and to encourage existing rural CSAs to serve urban areas through tax deductions.

CSAs, I believe, are a direct way we as Americans can work to eliminate food insecurity in America.