Discussing Politics and Religion

Throughout my life, I’ve found it curious when people would state unequivocally that we simply could not discuss politics and religion in public.

When American culture agreed to this pact, our society and country suffered for it. There should be no reason we cannot discuss issues important to the lives of our families, communities and country without it descending into a disrespectful shouting match.

If something isn’t working out for the best interests of most people, I’ve simply been unable to remain on the sidelines accepting that failing status quo. 

This is why I so often have stood up, said and done what I felt was necessary, especially when it came to the intersection of politics and religion. Growing up in the Midwest and rural America, there is no escaping either. 

Since I was young, I’ve seen one party take over this region while the other appeared to walkaway. 

Due to the erosion in how both politics and religion are discussed, sustained progress in tackling our toughest challenges has become nearly impossible.

Why is it that the most crucial issues are often championed by the most polarizing figures in America and often in the most divisive ways? 

Who wants to get behind a candidate that is for a comprehensive set of solutions to address this complex array of problems?

It’s far easier to use simplistic talking points designed to gain attention instead of practical, pragmatic messages. 

Social issues are complex and often are used to keep voting blocks coming back to political parties. They do this with little regard to local economic issues nor the willingness to discuss the negative consequences on public health and wellbeing by pushing this monolithic social agenda.

Who wants to hear a nuanced position on key issues that inspire intense emotional reactions in order to have a discussion about how to produce beneficial results for community and family?

It’s far easier to force people into choosing to be against someone so they don’t feel they have any other alternatives.

This is why many special interest groups create political candidate questionnaires that are devoid of nuance and designed to focus voters in the ‘for or against’ paradigm.

Over my lifetime, I’ve been blessed to have many discussions with others about both politics and religion. It’s actually a pleasure to listen to someone with a different perspective. I’ve always been skeptical of “Yes” people. No one can really agree on everything. 


That’s why the way in which some on the far left behave is so counterproductive. There’s no room to have a vigorous and thoughtful discussion on any issue. 

You see similar behavior on the far right, which has nearly engulfed the entire Republican Party. 

I’ve watched AOC celebrate ending 25,000 jobs, which is painful while longtime Republicans have backpedaled on American tradition and our U.S. Constitution, all for the sake of political expedience in support of President Trump and their own re-election.


The vast majority of people aren’t in the extreme wings of either political party. They stay mostly silent because to speak up means to become the new target of one or both extremes. 

Each election cycle the party in power will try and pit the other as the most radical and extreme as to sway those in the middle that their side is with them.

This is why Republicans will focus on socialism and abortion rights through 2020 to keep their voters and independents from seeing Democrats as a reasonable alternative. 

Wouldn’t it be far better to have an election based on what candidates want to do if elected instead of one based on fear and anxiety?

If we’re ever able to move this country forward for all her people, we have to be able to discuss the issues that matter to each of us in a realistic way.

It might not be something we’re accustomed to doing, but it is something we need to become comfortable in doing for the sake of the country, our communities and our families.

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Sensitive President, Party Flails in Europe

Senator Lindsey Graham and President Donald Trump are upset by the remarks by President Macron of France Sunday to honor the fallen soldiers of World War I, which also marks America’s Veterans Day. I highly suggest watching the full speech, as it is an important perspective regarding global and our national security.

Considering the unfortunate state of our international relations with our longterm allies, the frayed nature of the alliances that have helped prevent a third World War continue to be stretched under the Republican Trump Administration. 

After World War I, nationalism persisted throughout Europe and around the world, despite efforts to counter it. This ultimately led to the rise of the Third Reich and World War II. These same nationalist energies are rising once again, and we must be vigilant and recognize what’s happening around us. The stakes are extremely high.

On one hand, you have the President demanding our NATO allies to step up to the plate with more money and forces. On the other hand you have both the President and Sen. Graham complaining about these same allies discussing setting up such an army while they increase funding to the alliance. It’s not easy to see through the hyperbole and double standards.


  1. We have a President that is quite sensitive with an extremely thin skin. He can’t even bear a light rain for Veterans Day events with world leaders commemorating our fallen soldiers in Europe. 
  1. We have a sensitive GOP that is bereft with double standards. Even when Europe steps up and makes enforcement and funding a priority, they elect to defend our weak President instead of holding him accountable for his words and deeds.
  1. We have a Political Party and a Political President that chooses to weaken our alliances and disregard our agreements that have helped to protect both our country and the world.

Instead of focusing on legislation and actions that will both protect our national security through both soft and hard power, the Trump Administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have increased military budget while slashing diplomatic efforts.


All of this will only increase our dependence on hard power, helping to fuel the military industrial complex, which both parties support. 

All of this will only increase the dependence on our young men and women in military interventions abroad. 

All of this will only increase our budget deficits and national debt, leading to higher interest rates, a drag on the economy, and diminishing capacity to make the investments necessary to rebuild our country, invest in education, and prepare for the future.


As a country and as Americans invested in our communities, our national security, and in our future, we must demand accountability and responsibility from our elected officials, regardless of party.

Subservience to a party over the people is a road paved in good intentions without checking in on the results.

When our national security is at stake, it’s crucial we get it right.

A Campaign About People and Policies

This campaign was about people and policies for an economy that works for everyone, education that prepares our children for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and a healthcare system that is both affordable and accessible for our residents. 

Despite coming up short in votes during this election, the message we delivered resonated with voters across the 33 counties of the 15th District. Party loyalty and money remain stubborn forces in American politics. 

If we’re ever to dig out of the morass that our district finds itself within, we must see beyond party.

We must work to be rid of big money in our political system as it is as corrosive as it is deafening.

I urge all elected officials to make themselves as accessible to their constituents as possible. Being afraid to show up and answer the tough questions isn’t an excuse when you’ve been hired to do the job that the public is paying you to do.

We have to have tough conversations and be able to hear from those that feel they have profound disagreements with us. How can we live in a country where hearing something you don’t agree with prompts you to make threats of violence?

Our country must start working together.

That means we’re all part of the solution which is a sustaining force in our lives. 

Solidarity After Anti-Semitic Attack

In the wake of the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history, the country is in need of healing and of leadership that brings us together. Hatred and bigotry never dies, and when it turns into violence and killing we must stand in solidarity against it. We can only do this together as a nation not by furthering the divisions between us.

The mass shooting in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue is a tragedy, and one that is deeply felt by our own Jewish community in the 15th District. The Mattoon Jewish Community experienced anti-Semitic attacks back in 2001, which incorporated the same hateful message as the shooter was spewing on Saturday. Our local Jewish community locks their doors during services so as to protect those who attend services. 

It’s a painful reality that too many live with day in and day out in America. The fear of being attacked and killed for who you are and for your faith is something no one should have to experience. It is the experience of many Americans.

We can do better. We do that by working together, standing up to hatred and bigotry in all of its forms, and not turning away when those in our own families and communities use divisive and hostile rhetoric that we know is against our American values.

(Picture Courtesy of USA Today)

The Saudis, Arms and American Values

Any attack on the media is an attack on American values. Let’s be clear.

When someone resorts to bullying and killing their critics, you know there’s something wrong. America has a long history of standing up against such bully tactics. All of our American values and strategic interests are under threat.

Most information seems to point to Saudi Arabia killing an American journalist in their consulate in Turkey. We have strong strategic ties to the Saudis. What we do in response matters.

We should never condone the killing of any American, especially one that is working to report on actual news. The danger and threat to journalists abroad is real. Without them we would not know what’s happening inside war zones and brutal regimes.


What do we do?

We have a $110 billion arms deal on the table with Saudi Arabia. For the President to remove this deal from negotiations shows weakness and allows both allies and adversaries alike to move against our national security interests. That is simply unacceptable.

Oil per barrel is increasing. That hurts Americans who will also be hurt by the Trump Administration Trade War. OPEC currently wants to maintain their production level and most importantly will be meeting this December in Austria. That means we have leverage when we choose to use it for both our economic and national security objectives.

This arms deal is as crucial for American workers as it is for the Saudis. The proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran is brutal for civilians. Our American values and our national security interests are on the line.

Both Russia and Iran are dependent on the price of oil. As prices decrease, they’re less capable of working against our strategic interests abroad. We should press every bit of advantage and leverage we have to achieve a safer world and a stronger, more robust national security.


We have to stand up for our American values and our national security interests, making certain our brothers and sisters overseas have an all-in strategy that ensures their sacrifice and effort is focused on our longterm strategic objectives. 

When we have a government that doesn’t have their strategic eye on the ball, we’re shortchanging our military, diplomatic, and economic efforts. It is critical we utilize every bit of leverage we have on the global stage, especially when we have a Congress that abdicates their responsibility daily.

As your representative, I will fight to end the abdication of the Legislative Branch. We need stronger and more independent oversight of the Executive Branch that challenges and holds the President and his administration accountable, regardless of party.



Social Security Fairness Act

When we work in America, we make a contract with Social Security and Medicare that earns us benefits throughout our lives and into our retirement.

It is critical that we protect and strengthen these programs for all Americans. Some professions, public sector jobs, and the military in some states and throughout America are treated differently, leading to a breach of that contract.

If you or your spouse pay into Social Security and Medicare, you should be able to receive those spousal benefits regardless of where you’ve worked. Teachers and their spouses in Illinois, however, are getting screwed because of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO). 

Under the WEP and GPO, workers who have paid into Social Security and Medicare have their spousal benefits dramatically cut, sometimes eliminating their Medicare coverage late in life when their spouse passes away. We must protect these spousal benefits for all Americans because these are earned benefits. It’s the right thing to do.


I would support the Social Security Fairness Act of 2017, which has broad bipartisan support. It’s one of the areas where my opponent and I are in agreement.

Unfortunately for our teachers and spouses, this bill has been sitting in the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security since March of 2017. It is not even listed on the Subcommittee’s website as a bill introduced in the 115th Congress, so the GOP is not serious about solving this problem.

That is why we need a Congress that will move this legislation forward instead of letting it die in a subcommittee for over a year and a half.

I will push for this reform as your representative and voice in Washington.

Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education is the key for our nation’s economic future.

If we don’t create equity in the early education system in the 15th District, many of our communities will never catch up in the modern global economy. We all know that funding education through property taxes is a failing policy for businesses and families alike. Rural school districts suffer while booming communities are able to fund robust education programs. Our children deserve better. 


The reality is that our brain develops the most dramatically in the first years of life. Therefore, the federal focus must be directed where it can do the most good.

If we don’t give every child in America the same solid foundation, we’re shortchanging not only their future, but the future of their family, their community, and our country.


This year in yet another massive Omnibus Bill, more funding was secured for a few early education programs, but not nearly enough focused where the need is most. We need funding, teachers, support staff, and facilities for preschool through 2nd grade. This is where many of our rural communities are falling behind, forced to increase class sizes, layoff support staff, and rely on a ‘hope for the best’ mentality with the dedicated teachers that remain.

In Illinois, a day care provider can only care for 8 children on their own. Meanwhile, teachers care for 15, 20, 30 and more children at a time and are required to educate them in 50 minutes. How does this disparity make sense?


Through more consistent, dedicated funding sources for early education, local school districts will be able to reallocate these funds and resources toward curriculum focused on education and training for better paying jobs in their region.

Vocational programs, training programs, and increased dual credit courses from local community colleges and universities will give students more options. 

A greater percentage of federal education grants should go directly to local school districts instead of block grants to the states. This will help avoid waste and administrative costs while giving property tax relief locally. The goal is to give our local school districts more control, creating more of a role for the public to engage directly with their school boards, teachers, and administration.

We have to forge better community relationships that bring back accountability, trust, and results. 


Finally, food insecurity is an increasing problem throughout the 15th District and rural America. As wages continue to stagnate and bills increase, especially in the face of rising tariffs while Congress sits on the sidelines, working families putting food on the table is a serious concern. As a result, children come to school hungry, making it difficult to learn. Programs like the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) have been filling the gap.

We should increase funding to CACFP, offering more locally sourced meal programs through our schools for our children throughout the year. This can help offset SNAP program cuts that will likely be in the Farm Bill this year so that American’s children and their education and nutritional needs don’t suffer at the hands of Congress. It will also create jobs and boost family farms.


Early Education is the foundation on which a child’s future is built. With a renewed American investment in our children, we will better compete in a global economy, halt the brain drain, and bring better paying jobs back to the 15th District. This is what having a broad, generational vision can bring to America. It is long overdue.