Preparing for the election of our lives

TLO’S 2020 presidential Election DIALOGUE series

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020, you and I will be doing two things: First, we’ll be deciding who will be our next president, our next vice president, our next senators and congresspersons, and our next state and local officials. Second, we’ll either be affirming or rejecting the direction forward that our current politicians have forged for us over the past several years. This election is still 22 months away, but even now it’s obvious that our choices that day will be among the most consequential we'll ever make.

The issues at the heart of these elections involve some of the most complex, highly controversial choices that have ever been on a presidential ballot. Most of these choices are now – and will continue to be –  too complex for most of us, as solitary individuals, to truly understand. These ballot choices won’t offer any heroes. Nor will they offer any simple right or wrong choices; no sure, decisive ways forward. Nonetheless, the votes we cast, the choices we make, will be seminal. 

Without some kind of focused self-directed educational effort, I believe most of us will be unable to make wise, well-informed decisions on November 3rd, 2020. Without serious, concentrated preparation, the decisions we’ll make 22 months from now will most likely be choices that have been influenced and even inflamed by the highly polarized political environment that’s been the touchstone of our politics for years. In this environment, getting ready to make wise, well-reasoned, and adequately evidenced choices will require the kind of concerted educational effort most of us have never thought necessary. Until now. 


The political and ideological polarization that has swept through this country over the past two or three decades, as well as the highly complex, firmly entrenched problems that have, for a while now, been festering inside this country’s body politic, prove that our ordinary experiences and our customary insights will not suffice this time around. Between now and November 3rd, 2020, I believe everyone who votes in 2020 has to make sure that they are walking into their respective polling places well-enough informed to make wise, well-reasoned, evidenced-based ballot choices.

Getting to the place where we can make these kinds of wise, well-reasoned, and adequately evidenced choices will require a concerted, personal effort; a serious investment of time and energy. I’ve thought a lot about this and have concluded that the best way I know to get ready for November 3rd, 2020’s presidential elections is to engage in an extended series of dialogue sessions between now and then with a few select others, where each dialogue session in this series is focused on one or two specific aspects of this presidential election in an open-ended conversation about what wise, responsible choices could, and should, look like.

Accordingly, I've decided to do two things. 

·       First, I've decided to create a TLO Presidential Election Resource Center. This center, once it's up and running, will be a place where those of us who are interested in getting fully prepared to cast informed votes in 2020 can research and review useful information, important election-related documents, resources, and data – the kind of fundamental, seriously researched material that promotes critical thinking and supports reasoned conversations. 

·       Second, starting today, I’ve decided to convene a series of quarterly Presidential Election Dialogue Sessions. This series will involve video conferences in March, June, and September of this year, with one face-to-face dialogue session in December 2019. And then, a repeat sequence of virtual meetings in March, June, and September of 2020, with a final face-to-face dialogue session at the end of October 2020. Each of the dialogues in this series will be focused on getting those participating fully prepared to cast wise and reasoned votes in all of the various elections they’ll be involved in, come November 3, 2020. 

Together, TLO’s Presidential Election Resource Center and our quarterly Presidential Election Dialogues will be focused on exploring all the national and worldwide trends and each of the various social and political movements that have been, and currently are, shaping and driving our emerging presidential election processes. Of particular interest will be issues like the group dynamics currently driving political polarization in this country, the forces encouraging a revival of this country’s white supremacy impulses, and the impacts that day-to-day crises like immigration, opioid addiction, gun violence, and rising levels of income inequality are having on our constitutional norms. The Presidential Election Center and our quarterly 2020 Election Dialogues will look to any subject or issue that will help our dialogue participants get prepared to cast wise and reasoned votes in all the local, statewide, and national elections they’ll participate in during November 2020.  

I realize that asking you to say “yes” to the idea of joining me in this kind of experiment in civic education is a big ask. But, given all that we’ve watched and been a part of over the last couple of years, I think it’s a reasonable ask, no matter what you’re ultimate choice is. I also realize that, if you’re going to make an intelligent choice, you probably need more information. This is one of the key things that the Presidential Election Resource Center is for. This center is designed to provide those who might be interested a sense of what we’re intending to do. It’s also designed to provide those who are questioning whether or not to join with all the information they’ll need to decide whether actually participating in our election dialogues is the best choice for them. Right now, the infrastructure for the Presidential Election Resource Center is up and available to see; the navigation button below will take you there. At the moment, the Presidential Election Dialogue series landing page is the only segment of the Center that is fully operational. But, as it sits, this page does have all the details that are available about our 2020 Presidential Election Dialogue Series. The navigation button below will take you to this landing page.