One of the ways I sort out who to vote for, after I’ve considered the policy issues and whether or not the candidate has raped or attempted to rape anyone, is I consider if I would leave my daughters in their care (if my children were still small and in need of care).
Last week our oldest daughter was visiting Turkey, on her way home from working in Malawi and Zambia for several weeks. We got a text from her on Tuesday describing a strange encounter with a shop owner in Istanbul who warned her and her traveling companion about police in the area. Turkey is a lovely country, but the U.S. State Department currently recommends Americans not travel there.
We’re used to Cassidy being in dangerous parts of the world, but when our messages kept going unanswered, we started getting nervous. She was scheduled to return home to Kansas City on Friday. After three days and no word, we started to get a little freaked out. My mind started “catastrophizing” the situation, entertaining possibilities of a broken phone, detainment, abduction…worse. I was scheduled to play a songwriters show at Lindberg’s early Friday night, and I was considering canceling if we didn’t hear from her by late that afternoon. We decided to keep sending messages until her flight was scheduled to arrive later that night before doing anything.
My first move was going to be contacting her colleagues at Outreach International to initiate their crisis procedures, then reach out to the State Department (How does one even do that? Email a private server?). To make sure we got the attention and priority we would want, my next move would have been to call our senator, Claire McCaskill. Not Rep. Billy Long (our congressman), or Sen. Roy Blunt (our other senator), or the president. Claire.
I’ve never met Rep. Long, but in his four terms in Congress he has never agreed to debate an opponent, and I don’t think he has ever held a town hall meeting with his constituents…over four terms in office. He is the worst kind of tenured, tone deaf politician, who shows no particular interest in serving the people in his district. Of course, he can do this.
We met Blunt and McCaskill about a year ago in D.C., on our way down the eastern seaboard. Our brief meeting with Sen. Blunt consisted of me telling him we were traveling the country talking to people about the crippling divisiveness in the nation. He showed no response. When I asked if he had any thoughts, he said, “No. (Long pause.) But then, I’m not a very divisive guy, and a lot of people in this town don’t like that.” That’s it. That’s all he had to say. In fairness, this was not a scheduled interview, it was just a weekly constituent grip-and-grin, and he had other people to see and things to do. The next day we met Sen. McCaskill during her weekly meet-and-greet, and I was blown away. I intended to ask her a similar question, but I never got the chance. She blew through the door talking about how “we have to deal with the polarization and divisiveness problem in this country, or we’re doomed!” She spent nearly a half hour addressing our deep divide, how she would negotiate with Trump if she had a chance, how “we don’t go to media for information, we go for affirmation,” about how she made it a practice in her town hall meetings to bring the people who disagreed with her the most up to the front to take their questions first, and how she planned to run her 2018 campaign from the middle, because “it’s the only place we get anything done.” She spoke with a passion, an intensity, and an uncommon authenticity about serving her state and the greater good of the country. There wasn’t a big audience. Betsy and I were the only non-intern people in the room. I have rarely witnessed such a blend of fierceness, passion, and competence in a politician. And that was exactly what I was looking for last week when I was considering who I would go to for help with my potentially missing daughter.
This truly isn’t about partisanship, it’s about considering the kind of leaders who seem uniquely equipped to get us out of the abyss we’re in. It might already be too late, but if it’s not, we’re going to need people who can cut through the bullshit and get things done, for the greater good. I believe Sen. McCaskill is one of those people. Sure, she and I agree about a lot of values and policies, but we’re not always on the same side of issues. And if we lived somewhere else, my first call might have gone to a Republican like Susan Collins (Maine), or Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Ben Sasse (Nebraska), or Jeff Flake (Arizona), who have all impressed me at one time or another as being interested in serving the greater good.
Thankfully, I don’t have a terrible story to report about our daughter. She was not taken by terrorists or traffickers, and I didn’t have to call Liam Neeson to get her back. Cassidy got busy with her return travel preparations and just forgot to return our messages. She apologized for scaring her parents. No big deal. She’s home safe, and all is well.
All is not well with our country. The public square is coming apart at the seams and democracy, as we’ve known it, is in peril.
I sincerely believe Sen. Claire McCaskill is the best choice for Missouri in the U.S. Senate, not because of the D beside her name, but because we need her leadership.
And I would have entrusted her with the safe return of my daughter.
I will vote for her in November.
*For the record, I’m sure Rep. Long or Sen. Blunt would have done a fine job helping my family and me get our lost daughter back, they just wouldn’t have been my first call.