A friendly playbook for good change

Cupid's Heart reading POLICY with arrow going through it.

The world is before us and we need not take it or leave it as it was when we came in. James Baldwin

Welcome! I'm Caitie, a writer, former Congressional staffer, Mainer born and bred. Policy is for Lovers is a playbook of good policy change for lovers of this world who want a friendlier future in it.

No hot takes, punditry, or blood pressure-raising campaign coverage. Just a handy evergreen roadmap on how public policy works so we can help make it work better - whether on the local, state, or federal level.

Public policy isn't the only remedy to what ails our time. But after years among the committee markups, horse trading, empty-pizza-box-late-night world of politicians making policy, I saw something I'd missed before:

Most Everything is Shaped by Public Policy

Food and drug policy shapes what can be in our ice cream, toothpaste, aspirin. Patent policy shapes how much we pay for medications. Labor policy shapes if we get paid parental or family medical leave. Subsidy policies - or lack thereof - shape why corn and sugar are so cheap and childcare and assisted living are so expensive. To say nothing of guns, reproductive rights, healthcare, emissions, and other marquee issues.

The world's cruelties (plus some of its kindnesses) are not inevitable or immutable; they are shaped in no small part by public policy. And here's the upshot:

Anything Shaped by Policy Can Be Reshaped By Policy - If We Know How

Policy is for Lovers is an assuring bearhug of policy know-how. Our focus is what happens between elections; that's when the bills that become the laws of the land get written. If we don't know how to engage in that policymaking process, we won't have much say in the laws we live under.

And our focus is love. Love, to paraphrase Layla Saad, is the most sustaining fuel I know for changing anything, but especially the very slow, very slippery work of legislative change. The dustbin of history is overstuffed with brilliant policy whose champions got cynical, burned out. No need for that.

We are building the world we want to live in in the building of it. If we build it with anger - which is likely justified, there's plenty to be angry about - and the bill isn't enacted, we've got nothing but a bitter taste in our mouth. But if we build it with love and the bill isn't enacted, we've got a world that's a little more loving for our effort - and maybe even some juice to give it another go next legislative session. As poet Elizabeth Alexander puts it, "What if the mightiest word is love?"

I don't have every answer - some may quibble with the answers I do have; there are many roads to Rome. What I do have are some tools we can use to start shaking loose some kinder, more just policy. Which seems important because there are folks who know how public policy works and they're very good at making it work for their special interest. But if we each know how public policy works, we can collectively make it work for the common interest.

A Bit About Caitie Whelan (Whale-IN)

Caitie (she/her) trains good folks and organizations on how public policy is made so they can help make better policy on the local, state, and federal level. She was a staffer in Congress for six years, starting in the Senate and ending as Senior Foreign Policy Advisor for a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee. She served as Communications Director for the Maine Democratic Party and did communications and operations for one of President Biden's global climate initiatives. Caitie co-founded a school in India with a community of lower caste musicians and ran her own creative writing and teaching venture. She graduated from Brown University and is a member of the Brown University Women’s Leadership Council, where she co-chairs their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Group. She is a Truman Scholar for Public Service and Founding Chair of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Maine Chapter's Public Policy Team. Contact her here.