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PowerPlayer: Congressional Candidate David Vogel

Monday, October 08, 2012


This week’s PowerPlayer is Independent Congressional candidate (1st District) David Vogel. Mr. Vogel was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about why he’s running and his vision for Rhode Island and the country.

1) What made you decide to run for Congress?

On my candidate's page at Facebook, the following phrase has become my slogan:

Because Compla(I)n(I)ng About Government (I)s Gett(I)ng U.S. Nowhere

Over the last 30 years, the federal government has come under increasingly intense pressure from industries that are ready, willing, and able (not Abel) to spend vast sums of money in order to influence (or simply buy) Congress in order to favor those few sectors -- at the expense of the remainder of the population. As one would expect when an ecosystem is thrown ever-more out of balance, the result has been a constantly widening gap -- not just between the "haves" and the "have nots," but between the electorate and those it sends to Washington.

Within the context of the legislature, there is only one thing I find to be more disheartening than watching our government sell out -- that is the way in which our population has allowed itself to be manipulated into believing that our problems will be solved if we continue to vote for the very groups (Democrats and Republicans) whose actions created the problems in the first place. At this juncture in history, it does not appear to matter whether a particular politician is a (D) or an (R); the reality is that when one is a cog in a major-party machine, one is pushed into conformity with a specific ideology -- an ideology that is bought, paid-for, and dictated by party bosses and, in turn, by their corporate masters (this is the true meaning of "trickle-down government"). Sadly, the evidence is mounting that this phenomenon has forced the priorities of Democrats and Republicans to converge with those of K Street, and to diverge from those of Main Street.

Which is why I am running as an Independent.

Although I enjoy a healthy debate, I am not a protester by nature. At the same time, I have concluded that if I ever am to count myself as being part of the solution, it is necessary for me to become involved in a way that is substantive in nature. While this takes me outside of what (in the past) has been my comfort zone, there is truth to the concept that you never know where you can go until you try to go to places where you never have been.

2) Tell us the three biggest issues that need to be addressed to turn around Rhode Island’s economy.

1. In the short-term, the most important thing Rhode Island needs to do is to decide that we want to make our state an inviting place in which to conduct business, and also an inviting place in which to actually live. The reason I place these two together is because it makes no sense to grant incentives to an employer without also offering some good reason why employees would want to come here to live. By designing some type of hybridized package, we stand a chance of not only attracting quality employers, but of the employers, in turn, being able to draw good employees. This would help to broaden the population base, and thus relieve the stress under which our state currently operates.

2. In the medium-term, Rhode Island must establish a clear direction in which to go. While it's nice to discuss the notion of "attracting business now" in order to stimulate our economy, it is necessary to have a plan for what we would like to showcase as the "identity" of our state. For example, Silicon Valley specializes in high-tech, New York specializes in finance, and Las Vegas specializes in gaming and conventions. If Rhode Island weren't so small, I would say that finding an identity for an entire state would be pure folly; but in this regard, our size could be an asset. (With apologies to Hasbro, the "Mr. Potato Head" theme was something less than satisfying.)

3. In the longer-term, Rhode Island must work to improve its system of public education. While technology certainly has taken hold in the modern classroom, I would argue we are not being as efficient or as productive as we should be. We know that children are capable of learning within the first twenty-four hours of life, and yet we waste their first several years by not teaching them much of anything in the way of the basic problem-solving skills that are such clear necessities in an information-driven economy. If it is true that locations with higher-quality systems of education traditionally do better than places without such a feature, imagine what being known as an innovator in education could mean for a place like the Ocean State.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

I practice law, so my routine can be pretty tedious. These days, of course, my schedule is peppered with interviews, appearances, discussions, and more e-mails than I normally receive. I am proud of the fact that I answer every communiqué that is sent to me by actual people (corporations are not people), and that I have had to decline only a very few invitations to appear.

4) You’re an immigration lawyer. What does “comprehensive immigration reform” actually look like?

When you read (or hear) the phrase "the immigrant community," what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Raise your hand if the screen inside your head is showing images of highly-qualified engineers, computer programmers, web-developers, attorneys, physicians, entrepreneurs, and a host of others who work in industries that are integral to the economic fabric of this country.

Those aren't the images that come to your mind? Then you are acquainted neither with the immigrant community, nor with its achievements.

If our nation is to undergo an economic renaissance, participation by the immigrant community is vital; its members are industrious and, for these people, thriving in the United States is more than a mere goal -- it is a true status symbol.

While our philosophy of immigration, and thus our policies, should be centered around the foregoing, we instead have a federal government that actually imposes untenable obstacles to legal immigration. This is done via inconsistent rules across agencies, inadequate requirements for the competence of employees, ineffective training, nearly unfettered discretion for decision-makers, virtually no accountability, little recourse for when the systems fails, and entirely unpredictable results.

An overhaul would include the following:

*Decoupling the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) from Homeland Security;

*Shifting funding into the USCIS;

*Addressing/correcting extant inadequacies of training;

*Imposing accountability upon government personnel who exhibit blatant disregard for the underpinnings of the system;

*Harmonizing (and simplifying) the rules across the agencies;

*Retooling the artificially low numerical caps that exist for lawful immigration.

Ultimately, the focus must be upon providing a workable framework for the system, real hope for families who wish to be united, true predictability of results, and the meaningful purpose our government is so fond of pretending it already gives.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I'm a lifelong insomniac. Unless I'm sick, I don't sleep for "normal" durations of time; rather, I live on an endless series of naps.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My Jewish mother

Favorite Restaurant: My father’s kitchen.

Best Beach: If it's a beach, if it's summertime, and if the menu includes New England lobster and fresh Rhode Island Butter & Sugar corn.... then it makes the list.

Best Book You’ve Read in the Last Year: Ninety-nine percent of my reading is informational in nature, which means that rather than reading books, I usually am reading reports and analyses.

Advice for the Next David Vogel: So far, here is what I have learned about running for office as an alternative candidate:

*Conventional wisdom is not as wisdom-filled as one might think;

*Money does not need to be the key to this endeavor;

*An unwavering genuineness, coupled with a lengthy perseverance, will garner lots of positive attention. I believe if I had executed my strategy over a period of twelve to eighteen months, instead of just two to three, my profile at this time would be substantially higher;

*Answer all e-mails you receive from real people (corporations are not people). This also applies to the communiqués that appear to be from individuals whom you think will disagree with you -- they might hate your position, but they will respect the fact that you took the time to draft a personal response;

*Until our political environment changes in a fundamental way, third-party candidates don't get many opportunities to connect with lots of voters. Treat every single interaction as though it is your only chance to state your case.

*Do your homework. While nobody can be expected to know everything, it needs to be clear to those with whom you are speaking that you have taken the time to educate yourself about the salient points of the issue.

*Don't fake it. If you lack certain pieces of information, or if you have not given enough thought to a topic, it's ok to say so; in the same vein that answering your e-mails earns respect, so too does intellectual honesty.

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @danmcgowan.


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