How to Run for Congress

On January 15, I launched my exploratory committee and I want to answer some of your questions.

Why run for Congress?

I have always been interested in politics and I’ve often considered a run for office a lifetime goal, but it was when our district was restructured and Rep. Gwen Moore won a fifth term that I decided to seriously consider my own run for Congress.

Like so many of you, I am frustrated with today’s political climate.  Congress seems more divided than ever. Issues such as the budget deficit, security and healthcare reform go unsolved.  Career politicians appear to place their egos above the best interests of our nation.  This is unacceptable.

Rather than continue to complain about it, I want to change things. Politics is not war.  We are all Americans before we are Republicans or Democrats.  Why have so many people forgotten this important fact?

Having different opinions and political ideologies is not detrimental. Our ability to express these views is one of the best things about our country.  Elected officials must realize that they serve the entire nation rather than their political parties and own interests.  I pledge to have the courage to work with all members of Congress regardless of political affiliation to achieve consensus.

How does it work?

The first step in a modern run for Congress (at least for me) involved a Google search.  I located the Federal Election Commission’s Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates and Committees August 2011 (PDF). Chapter 1 is titled Testing the Waters and instructs forming an exploratory committee to raise the initial $5,000 and necessary backing to officially declare oneself a candidate.  That is the step I took on January 15, 2013.

What are the next steps?

Together we can change things.  We must all work together to restart our economy, secure our nation and move forward to prosperity.

Please consider showing your support by donating to the Janet Hinz Congressional Exploratory Committee using the link below.  Any U.S. citizen can contribute. Your $25, $50, $100 or $200 contribution would be most appreciated.


You May Not Be A Critical Thinker If You’ve Said These Things

With the political season heating up, it may become difficult for even the most thoughtful people to remain respectful during election debates.  We could all use a reminder on the way to maintain civil discourse and keep debates focused on real arguable issues.  Having the freedom to debate and state our opinions is what makes this country great.  Voting is a privilege and we should treat it seriously.  This requires careful consideration and critical thought before casting our vote. 

The essence of critical thinking requires questioning.  A critical thinker must question everything he or she is told or believes and this includes even that which the person considers common sense. Critical thinkers are open minded because they seek to draw conclusions after asking many questions both about the information they receive and that which they locate through research. It requires us to think further and consider both our position and try to see the other side.

Here are some examples that may indicate a lack of critical thinking:

1. President Obama is evil. Mitt Romney is evil. Joe Biden is evil. Paul Ryan is evil. There many variations of this. Each reflects a lapse in critical thinking.  Just because you differ with any of these men on political or social policy does not make them evil. 

2.  President Obama, Mitt Romney, etc., doesn’t like America.  Why would anyone subject himself or herself to all the rigors of running for office if he or she did not genuinely love this country?  Could we just allow for the possibility that each candidate is truly patriotic?

3.  President Obama was not born in the country.  Please put this one to rest.  He was born in Hawaii and has the birth certificate to prove it. 

4.  President Obama (or President Bush) is not my president.  If you are an American, the president is your president.  You may not have voted for this person, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is (or was) the president.

5.  I’m leaving the country if Obama or Romney wins.  Please stop making empty threats like this one. If you think the value of living in the U.S. is conditional upon the current president, you are missing a great deal. 

There many examples of a lack of critical thought.  These are just a few. 

Please remember that the goal is not to call people out for their lapses in critical thought because we have all (myself included) made mistakes.  Let’s all make a vow to refrain from personally attacking those who disagree with our point of view. Civil discourse is possible and it is necessary.


Negative Campaigns Are Here To Stay

With the elections just around the corner, media campaigns are pulling out all the stops.  All too often that means negative campaign advertisements.  It’s nothing new and it’s not necessarily worse than than in the past despite protests to the contrary.

Negative campaign ads are here to stay because they are effective. Many readers will protest that mud slinging ads don’t work and actually turn off voters.  This is also true.  But negative campaign ads are effective with apathetic voters.  Mud slinging succeeds in motivating otherwise disinterested Americans into voting against a certain candidate rather than for another.

New York TimesRoss Douthat wrote about the presidential campaign this week in Mr. Negative vs. Mr. Complacent. He discusses what many have termed the harsh campaign President Obama is running this year. The president is what Douthat terms “Mr. Negative.” Douthat argues his campaign “started out negative and has escalated to frank character assassination.”

Both Obama and Romney are guilty of negative campaigning, however.  Romney ads have taken the president’s words out of context on many hot button issues. Nancy Cordes of CBS News reports, “one ad shows Mr. Obama saying when he was seeking the White House the first time, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’ That was actually him quoting something John McCain, his opponent at the time, had said.”

Why negativity effective in engaging Americans?  University of Wisconsin Madison political scientist Kenneth Goldstein wrote a book about it—Campaign Advertising and American Democracy.  In the book, he argues that negative campaigns contribute to a health democracy because they succeed in engaging voters.  Goldstein says that much of the criticism regarding negative advertising is rooted in the incorrect assumption that Americans are easily manipulated. But the reality is that fewer people seem willing to do their own research and really depend upon ads to inform.

It may be hard to believe, but studies show negative ads help win political campaigns. Refraining from negativity speaks volumes about character, however. How will voters respond this election? Critical thinkers must see through these tactics, do their own research and vote of the facts.

Is Stay at Home Parenting a Career?

The recent controversy surrounding a statement made by democratic strategist Hilary Rosen on CNN last night regarding Ann Romney’s lack of work experience reignited a discussion about a current issue and enduring questions.  Ann Romney responded to Rosen’s comment that “she never worked a day in her life” on Twitter.  She wrote, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” This exchange may have begun in a political campaign setting, but the questions raised are not limited to a specific party, demographic, race or gender.

Is stay at home parenting really work?  Can it be considered a career choice?

This is an issue with which I am most personally familiar and I’ve asked myself these questions numerous times.  As a mother of three, I spend the majority of my time caring for my family.  I am also a part time college instructor, freelance writer and host an active Facebook discussion page.  Each year as tax day arrives, I am painfully reminded that most of my work does not pay.  This fact makes me feel inadequate in many ways.  Our society places a huge emphasis on monetary contributions.  Money is evidence of work.  What happens then if the bulk of your work is unpaid?

There is tremendous value in stay at home parenting and it is absolutely work.  Children and the parents benefit from it, but the sacrifice is also huge.  I entered into this with my eyes wide open and waited to have children until my early thirties.  When I became pregnant, I researched daycares and contemplated going back to my full time faculty position.  But I knew I always wanted to be a stay at home mother, so I carefully considered ways to keep myself engaged in the work I love while being able to be at home.  My education and work experience helped afford me opportunities to teach part time in the evenings and online while accepting occasional writing projects to supplement daily parenting life.  This provides me with a way to contribute to our family monetarily and it also gives me some much appreciated intellectual stimulation. The choice to stay home is not one available to all parents and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to do so.  Despite the difficulties and drawbacks, it is my choice and one I continue to think works best for me and my family. I don’t consider it my career, however.  In some ways, using that word seems to cheapen the work in my opinion.

The level of continual self sacrifice it takes to be a stay at home parent is daunting.  It is tough not to be envious of those earning both increasing financial compensation and personal enrichment in their full time careers. The work of a stay at home parent is constant.  There are no evenings off, breaks over the holidays and it can be messy as well as physically and emotionally exhausting.  The joys are tremendous too.  I see all my children’s highs and lows.  I am there to pick them up when there a stomach virus strikes while they are at school and I don’t have to cancel a meeting to do it.  I can and do volunteer in the classroom.  Our family’s schedule is more relaxed than it would be if I worked full time and I appreciate that very much.

One of the reasons I don’t consider stay at home parenting to be a career is that it seems to have a natural expiration date.  I don’t intend to be a stay at home mother forever and as much as I enjoy this time in my life, I look forward to the next chapter when I do pursue full time employment again. When I do go back to work full time, I will have more skills.  In addition to becoming a better teacher and writer, I’ve learned how to be an excellent multitasker and negotiator.  I am more patient too.  That is all because of the work I do as a stay at home mother.

Critical thinkers know that stay at home parenting is a valuable, it is work and we should never marginalize anyone who embraces this job.