Column

How Joe Scarborough Can Become President

This story originally appeared on Medium.

In order to win a national election in this country, you have to have a few things going in your favor. First, you must have an electable persona. It sounds cliche but it is true in today’s media-driven world. Look at candidates like Mitt Romney and Al Gore; super-smart guys who were personally flawed. Second, you must have the right message at the right time. Look no further than Barack Obama’s 2008 Hope/Change campaign theme. Third, you have to have a bit of good fortune. Bill Clinton was able to latch onto the “read my lips” gaffe from then-President George H. W. Bush to beat a wartime president, an almost unheard of feat in American politics. Finally, sometimes you just have to be good.

As a politico, I have been reviewing the 2016 field and I have an announcement to make. After campaigning for Gov. Jon Huntsman in 2012 for the Oval Office, I have found my “horse” for 2016: former Congressman and MSNBC star, Joe Scarborough. You might only know him as MSNBC’s Morning Joe, but I know him as a leader, a thinker, a strategist, and a bipartisan problem-solver.

Sure, Scarborough isn’t as sexy as Senators Ted Cruz orMarco Rubio or have the largess of Governor Chris Christie and hasn’t held elected office since 2001 after resigning to spend more time with his family and brushed aside calls from his Floridian friends to run again for various offices over the past 13 years. But that doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is what you bring to the table today.

So why, after six years of Barack Obama — who began his presidency with a 67 percent approval rating and who now sits around a 40 percent approval —  would a man who has a hit cable television program toss that aside for a far-fetched long-shot run at the Oval Office; a room that then-candidate George W. Bush said “turns pride into prayer”?

Because he can win.

In 2008, after eight years of the Bush presidency, America was searching for a change in politics. But that did not stop WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) from playing a huge role in the Republican nominating process. For the record, I am a WASP … but I don’t attend their parties.

In the 2008 Republican primaries, we saw that those who labeled themselves as “very conservative” came out in droves to support Mike Huckabee while independent voters showed loyalty to those who remained loyal to free-thinking ideas (see: McCain). Those two facts are not a surprise.

But this quote from Sen. McCain rings true to who Congressman Scarborough is as a thinker and a politician: “We share the common principles and values and ideas for the future of this country based on a fundamental conservative political philosophy, which has been my record.” Finally, on election day the national voter registration was 40 percent Republican to 51 percent Democrat. That was in 2008 when there was a historic wave in favor of massive change and McCain didn’t stand a chance.

Over four years and a massive legislative victory with the Affordable Care Act, the political landscape continued to change in favor of independent minds; even as WASPs were growing in power within the GOP.

What happened in 2012 with the GOP is likely to happen again in 2016: no single candidate is the early front-runner. For instance, in Iowa, my home state, the die-hard Evangelicals came out in force for Sen. Rick Santorum in President Obama’s re-election year, propelling him to a surprising victory. The challenge for the GOP then, as it is now, remains those three factors of electability, message, and good fortune. Sen. Santorum in Iowa had the right message and good fortune that Iowa is a fairly religious state. But that does not translate well the further East candidates go.

Iowa Caucus entrance data showed that for voters, when experience in government was important, votes went to Santorum. If business was important, you voted for Romney. 76 percent said the budget and economy were the most important issues and 54 percent called themselves somewhat conservative or moderate.

Put that together with what was learned in South Carolina that year and you can begin to see how a Scarborough candidacy could pan out. The South Carolina voters wanted an established candidate and split 54-44 for Gov. Romney in the general election, and sent their primary delegates to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Romney. While only 54 percent in Iowa called themselves somewhat conservative or moderate, 64 percent claimed that label in South Carolina. Therefore, what a candidate needs to have is government experience with a focus on business and the economy.

On election day 2012, national voter registration was 42 percent Republican and 50 percent Democrat, a swing of 3 percent from just four years earlier. One last statistic to keep in mind, Iowa reports their voter registration to be 33 percent Republican, 33 percent Democrat, and 34 percent Independent.

The thing about all of these numbers is that they have continued to evolve. The latest Gallop poll about party identification says that Independents are more important than ever, making up 42 percent of the electorate. (Democrats make up 31 and Republicans 25 percent). Couple that with the “Yes she’s running,” and “No she’s not running,” rumors about Hillary Clinton and there is a perfect storm for someone with big, mainstram ideas to jump into the battle for the presidency.

The challenge Scarborough will face — aside from his name recognition problem — is that while he was a Congressman, he supported and sponsored some pieces of legislation that don’t have popular support in today’s America.

For instance he advocated the elimination of the federal Department of Education in the 1996 House Budget. He was also staunchly pro-life, supported U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations, and was against raising the minimum wage from $5.15 in 1996. Of course, anyone can change over the course of 13 years and he will have to answer to these if in fact he decides to run.

But he can run. And he can win.

In his book, The Last Best Hope, he wrote, “We cannot claim the constitutional high ground in our efforts to fight the nationalization of health care and finance while demanding that Washington become entangled in gay marriage debates and OB-GYN issues.” Perhaps he is a conservative for the 21st Century.

He has the unique ability to listen and compromise to find real solutions. That’s what we need in an American leader and with Independent voices clamoring for real change, perhaps it is him they seek.

Fearful and Ready

When this year began, I had no idea that I would write another book, or that I would now be sitting on the couch injured after a stupid mistake at the gym. A gym I might add I have been to at least once a week in 2013 as it was my New Year’s Resolution for your information.

writing pad

But I have. I had not been a member of a gym for years and to be sitting here with arguably the best body I have ever had, I know I have defeated the fear.

Now that my book tour is winding down, I am torn about what to write about.

I was chatting with a fellow writer friend of mine yesterday and we both mentioned the fear we have in putting pen to paper and fingers to keys. It’s a dreaded unknown. For an artist, it is in that unknown where the bright beacon of freedom rings.

But it is in this space, this 2 a.m. what-the-hell-can-I-possibly-create-that-hasn’t-already-been-created moment where I find out who I really am.

There is no hope for my creativity without fear. I know that. And since I am scared to write — for fear of sucking or of greatness — I know something good is on the horizon. I can feel it. My fingers are ready.

A Week of Heroism

It didn’t strike me until late Friday afternoon how emotionally drained I was from last week.

No matter how many times our country and our world goes through a terrible act — terrorism or natural disaster — it always takes time for the pain to set in. And at each of those events, the days always begin with the same sentence: The day began just like any other.

Monday, April 15, 2013, is no exception. The weather was perfect in Boston for Patriot’s Day and the historic Boston Marathon. I checked Facebook in the morning and saw that I knew two people running. And now, as a marathoner myself, I did my best to keep up with the race.

Then all of a sudden, the skies darkened and evil had a face. Two of them.

We all know the story. Moments after the blast, first responders, viewers, and fellow runners tended to the wounded. It was, in a word, a war zone. Any other adjective does not do the aftermath justice.

Three dead. Nearly 200 wounded. A nation shaken … again.

Living in New York City, security was tightened. Events in Boston were postponed or cancelled.

We again lost our innocence. And then on Wednesday, there was the massive explosion in Texas. And this on a week where we already had the 20-year anniversary of the Waco Compound event, the 18-year anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing, the anniversary of Columbine, and the anniversary of the BP Oil Spill. So, perhaps we haven’t had our innocence anymore.

Most of the deaths in Texas? First responders.

For me, it seemed that nothing would be getting better. And then came Friday. We had suspects. One was dead. One was on the run. And the city of Boston was locked down. I hated watching it. And then came 6 p.m. and the lock down was lifted without an arrest. I came home and cried.

Finally, news came they had someone. And when it was confirmed by the Boston Police, I breathed a sigh of relief I didn’t know I needed.


Someday soon I will tie my sneakers and go for a run in honor of the victims. I came home early Saturday morning and cried again.

We live in a world full of hate. But we live in a world full of love. And if I have seen anything this week, it has been a true passion for peace, for justice and a selfless sacrifice for our fellow humans. And I believe that is what Boston, Texas, and America can continue to be.

Change is Inevitable

Change is one of those things that will forever and always be a constant in life. It will always be there. Sometimes in the form of a blessing. Sometimes in a curse.

But that change is inevitable means we can either embrace it, take it, or change the change.

Parents are special in that they get to see all the changes their children go through from infants, to little children, to young adults, and then adults. I have changed a lot in my 29 years. But in a lot of ways, I am who I always was. Except there have been some times in the past six years, where I wasn’t me.

Change does happen over time, and in my life, I didn’t see it happening. But I was changing. And not in a good way. I lost who I was.

It took hitting rock bottom for me to see it. And once I did, I began to re-embrace me, the real Richard.

In Life As a House, George says:

“You know the great thing, though, is that change can be so constant you don’t even feel the difference until there is one. It can be so slow that you don’t even notice that your life is better or worse, until it is. Or it can just blow you away, make you something different in an instant. It happened to me.”

And it’s true. Change is hard to feel when it happens a little at a time until you get to your destination and you don’t even know who you are and how you got there.

What is my grand ‘ol lesson for you now? Listen.

Listen to yourself. Listen to those around you. And as you listen, reflect:

Is this change for good or worse?

Be Original

In the land of so much noise, we have to pick and choose what messages we actually pay attention to and let into our lives. I have actually become pretty strict with what I let into my life now, and it is a goal of mine here in 2013 to be super-focused.

But it is hard with all the noise that bombards my e-mail inbox and news feed. However, as our world get noisier and noisier, the spammers and junk mail continues to flow in at seemingly faster and faster rates.

I can hardly keep up with it. But one piece of spam I got last week was the last straw for me:

Spam has to be originalThis came to me via Twitter, and I laughed as I read it. I get this message a few times a month and I’m tired of it.

Not because it is annoying (it is). But because it is unoriginal. Seriously. Get creative. Do something to make me click on the link if you’re so desperate.

But this Twitter spam message isn’t the last straw. We all do it. We do the same thing everyone else is doing. We Tweet what we’re eating even when our resolution is to eat healthier. We bitch about politics without understanding policy. And we keep doing it.

I think that is why I don’t post 3-4 times a week, but rather once or twice. I want whatever I create to be original. To be new. Each time I sit down and write, or paint, or sing, or whatever, I want it to be amazing and not boring and over-done. I have one chance in my life to be original and amazing. So do you.

24 Hours of Gratitude

Yesterday I marked each hour with a tweet of something I am grateful for. The full list is below, but I challenge you to do the same. Use the hashtag #24HoursOfGratitude and see what really matters to you.

1:00 – Family
2:00 – A Job
3:00 – Steve
4:00 – Friends
5:00 – Love
6:00 – An Education
7:00 – A 401(k)
8:00 – The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
9:00 – Food
10:00 – Faith
11:00 – Art
12:00 – A Home
13:00 – Animals
14:00 – Health
15:00 – Brother
16:00 – Niece
17:00 – Sister
18:00 – Dad
19:00 – Passions
20:00 – Mom
21:00 – Laughter
22:00 – Understanding
23:00 – Compassion
24:00 – You


Hurricane Sandy Destroyed My Home

I lived through Hurricane Irene (even if it was only a Tropical Storm when it made landfall last year near me here in New York City). In fact, about 10 days before that I experienced my first-ever earthquake too!

Last week I lived through my first true hurricane. The lady Sandy made landfall late Sunday and the eye of the storm made landfall on the Jersey shore Monday evening. First, let me say this: I am fine. My home is fine. I never lost power. I didn’t lose anything.

But I will also say this … it didn’t hit me until yesterday what this storm did. I’m 28, likely a third of the way through my life and I’ve seen tornadoes destroy my home state of Iowa. I’ve watched from the safety of my home the damages from earthquakes and hurricanes since I was a child; from Andrew to Katrina, I remember them all and was always saddened by the destruction of these storms. Hell, my sister lost nearly all her possessions in the historic 2008 flood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I’ve seen it.

But this experience the past week, seeing friends have to run from their homes. Not have power for a week. A mother in Staten Island lost her two boys, two and four, as the flood waters rushed them and took them from her arms. They were found the next day, yards from each other. Lost. One of many lost to Sandy.

The path of destruction is vast. As I write this, my friend Hannah still has not been allowed back to her apartment in New Jersey. An entire neighborhood in Queens caught fire and due to the winds, they couldn’t stop it. Look at the photo … it doesn’t look like a war zone. It is one.

Fire on Breezy Point during Hurricane Sandy
And on Staten Island we see the true pain. They took a head on hit. The moment the waters rose, they didn’t have hours, they had minutes. Lives have been lost. Destroyed. In my backyard.

I don’t know 1 percent of New Yorkers, but watching them on television beg for help … they are my neighbors. We ride the subway together. Go to Starbucks together. Pay really high taxes together. And just want a chance. And my heart aches for them. I was lucky. I was sparred.

Sandy came and went but she has impacted my life in ways I never thought I’d have to experience. I don’t ever want to see this again in my neighborhood. The pain and sadness and anger was not deserved by the citizens of New Jersey, of Staten Island, of the East and West Villages, of Red Hook and of Breezy Point.

But there was love there. Doctors provided free exams. Restaurants cooked what they had left for those without power; for free. Residents ran extension cords down their steps with power strips so people could charge their phones to let people know they were safe. Families. Cats and dogs. Please keep this region in your thoughts and prayers. Sure, we’ll be fine. We, like all cities, are resilient. But that doesn’t replace the homes, the photos, the memories and the lives taken much too soon.

Sandy has taught me one thing, a lesson I continue to learn more each and every year: love as often as you can.

Thank you.

Articles

Buzzfeed Photos of the Destruction

5 Lessons from “The Summer of Richard”

Sure, I involuntarily departed from my previous full-time job and sure it was depressing. But after 110 days on my own, I joined a new team here in New York City and I could not be more excited about the future.

But in what I am now calling, “The Summer of Richard,” I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned. And in case you were wondering, yes, I stole that line from Seinfeld:

1) Goals Keep us Focused. Without question, having the marathon (link) as a goal kept me moving forward. It is easy to get stagnant and frustrated and depressed without goals and targets in mind. But knowing that at the start of June I was going to be traveling to sunny San Diego to run a marathon with my family supporting me, kept me focused on the goal. And even after achieving it, that high carried me forward. Always have goals in mind.

2) Tough Moments Reveal Our True Desires. It is true. When you are down and out and frustrated, you begin to see what you really want in life. I spent the “Summer of Richard” re-developing some of my workshops, building out a new book idea and writing a short script.

3) Embrace the Opportunity. I finally had time to write. So I did and got published in RSi Magazine and PRSA Tactics. Had I not embraced the moment, that would not have happened.

4) True Friends Stay Close and Get Closer. When you are at your lowest, your closest friends and advisers get closer to you. They push you and hold you close when you need it. I will never forget my friend Kade who one day was offering his support and six weeks later, basically telling me to get off my ass and make it happen.

5) Rest. Boy, did I need the rest. It was honestly, a blessing to have the summer to myself. I needed to let my body rest, not because of the marathon, but because of life. I had been working at some level since I was 15 years old. I am now 28. I have only had one real vacation in four years. And barely take days off. I needed it.

In the end, I learned more about myself in those 110 days than I could have doing nearly anything else. I thank you all for going on the ride with me.

Here is to tomorrow!

I Am a Proud Conservative

I don’t talk about politics a lot here on my blog. Mostly out of choice that when I talk politics, I want it to be issue based, not emotional and if I’m sitting down to write about politics, it usually means I’m emotional about it. It has happened before with flip-flopping, social security and other issues as well.

But here is the thing: I am a conservative. I’m not registered with any party. Why? A few reasons.

  • I am not a Republican (as it is defined in today’s world).
  • I am not a Democrat.
  • I am not a Libertarian.
  • I am not a Tea Partier (even if I do love tea any day of the week).

I say it again, I am a proud conservative. Without getting into policy and alienating my readers, I believe in small government. I believe a government should do a few things really well. I mean, REALLY well.

Take Facebook for instance. They helped us build (and in some cases, re-build) our networks. The world is social and Mark Zuckerberg knew that and created a platform for us to be more social. They do that really well. Selling advertising and games, they aren’t the best.

The same goes for Microsoft. They made a great video gaming system. But they made a horrible music player.

That’s how I view government. I believe they should focus on defense, education, environment and perhaps even throw in health. Of course, we would still have the interior and the commerce and veteran’s affairs departments. But in my opinion, we don’t need many arms of government programs.

I am a staunch believer in radical reform of Social Security. Why? First of all, in it’s current form, it will not work for me. Secondly, it is a levied tax not used for government operations. It is a mandated retirement plan that I have no control over. Legal or not, I want control over my future. To me, in my conservative viewpoint, is going to be forced to put money in, I should have a say as to what happens to it.

My point in writing this political post, even though a part of me says I shouldn’t, is that I am a conservative. I don’t want labels on me or anyone, because they box us in. Signing pledges and saying you will “never raise taxes” or “never privatize social security” puts you in a no-win box.

I stand on issues, not rhetoric. And we’re going to hear a lot of rhetoric in the coming weeks. Don’t listen to it. Do your own research and be who you are.

You’ve Been Fired. Now What?

Three weeks ago I was let go from my job. There I said it. Taking the stairs down for the last time was definitely an emotional experience. And as I stood in the lobby of our office building in the Flatiron District here in the big city, I held back my tears. But the first of what would be dozens of texts began to stream in.

I walked the block-and-a-half to the subway to go home to drop off my bag. You see, I had tickets to what turned out to be an amazing show for that evening. Usually on the train I read, either the news on my phone or a physical book. But I could do neither. I stood, holding the cold metal pole, stunned. I never in my life had I imagined that I would be fired.

Sure, I’ve lost an election before, but it wasn’t re-election. In a sense, I just wasn’t hired then. But now I had been given the pink slip, which ironically is white. Which makes me curious where that terms came from.

By the time I got home, still stunned, my roommate had made me tea. I walked into the hallway, dropped off my bag and entered the kitchen. He asked me what had happened. And as I began to talk, I lost it. The tears finally came. We sat on the couch, drinking tea while I cried. And it was cathartic. I let it out. My unhappiness. My anger. My shock. And my worry.

Then I quickly changed and while I walked back to the subway to go see my show, I responded to as many texts and emails as I could. Then I got to the show and tried to turn off my mind and take in the experience. And I did. After the show, I went to Shake Shack with my friend Vikash who had attend the show with me. It was just what I needed. The time with a trusted friend (but the chocolate and peanut butter shake helped quite a bit!) basically re-set my attitude.

As we sat there and conversed together and with the New Zealander working at The Shack, Vikash was more than excited. We was excited because he knew I had wanted more time to do the things I am passionate about. Writing. Painting. Speaking.

When I woke up Thursday, only an hour later than normal, I got right to work. I started writing again. In fact, the week after being let go, I had a blog post up each day of the week. I don’t remember the last time that happened. I am building online partnerships. I did one painting already. I’m looking forward to getting my camera out soon too! I’m working on a video script now as well. I’ve been on a few interviews. I have even sent my novel out to an editing team. And I’m relaxing. I’m breathing.

hire a great speakerIt only took me 12 hours to take the events from the afternoon of May 2 and turn them into something positive. Sure, I still have depressed moments as I truly enjoyed the experience and the team I spent 13 months with. But I constantly remind myself that in the end, it is the journey. It is the experiences. It is the people that matter in my life. Not the job. Not the name on the paycheck. It is the people that come in and touch my heart.

Sure I’m worried about the next paycheck, or rather, getting a paycheck again. But for right now, I am eager for the road ahead. The possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to share them with you here.

If this experience has taught me anything so far, it is that I really do believe in possible.