Questions are the Lifeblood of Democracy

I love questions.  But more importantly, you should love questions too, because our democratic republic needs an engaged, thinking, critical public to keep it from slipping into tyranny.  And for at least the last 24 months, our public figures have done a piss-poor job of fostering a healthy environment for critical dialogue.

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This trend was thrown into sharp relief during the 2016 presidential campaign, in which the winning candidate reacted to the slightest critique with thin-skinned prissiness and subjected reporters to unprecedented levels of verbal and mental abuse.  Let me state clearly: a boisterous, questioning press is vital to our national health.  Whether they hail from the left or right side of the political spectrum, we the people need journalists to be digging, revealing, questioning, explaining. There are too many examples of governments around the world who have neutered their press in order to pursue corruption and tyranny (see: Russia, China, even developed countries like Singapore).

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This past week we've seen the (now elected) Congressional candidate in Montana flip out and assault a reporter, to the cheers of some on the right, while Rep. Donovan here in NY-11 continues to hide from holding a public townhall.

And to be clear, there are elements on the left that are just as guilty of resorting to violence to shut down dialogue and questioning.  Though colleges are under no legal obligation to host any particular public speaker, once public events are set up they absolutely have a duty to protect the speech and foster dialogue, rather than cowering to political violence.

As a result, I want to make clear my stance on questioning and dialogue.

Five Principles: Questions, the Press, and Dialogue

  1. I am not afraid of questions, simply because I know that questions cannot hurt me.
  2. I love questions, especially tough ones, especially ones from ideological opponents.  I reached my political beliefs through years of thought, dialogue, reading, life experience, research; and so I take every question as an opportunity to befriend, persuade, and entertain (not necessarily in that order).
  3. I respect the press and know that most reporters are working tough enough jobs, for low pay, without having to get grief from public servants.
  4. I will hold public townhalls when elected to congress, twelve of them per year, throughout Staten Island and Brooklyn.  Because ultimately our representative works for us, not the other way around.  To me, this is about public service.  Period.
  5. I assume the best about you.  I'm generally an optimistic guy, and regardless of your background, whether you voted for Trump or Hillary or didn't vote at all, I assume you're just like me, trying to make the best of a messy world while maybe holding down a job, parenting children, caring for a loved one.  In the end we may not agree on policy matters, but I respect and look forward to talking to you.

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There are 528 days until the 2018 midterm election.  I can't wait for all the conversations that lie ahead!