Jack and Kay in 2001

Character Not Included is a work in progress.  The concept for this book began in 2006 when its author, Jack Pelham, figured out that practically every pundit, politician, and voter in the country was making a fundamental error in assuming that “Washington” (and what goes on there) is America’s biggest political problem.  If the diagnosis was wrong, so went the thinking, then the attempted cures wouldn’t work.  And that’s what prompted Pelham’s investigation:  the very fact that the most popular cures weren’t working!  (And they still aren’t!)  While many others would opine that this is simply because the cures aren’t being applied well enough or thoroughly enough, or simply haven’t had enough time to work yet, Pelham suspected that a deeper analysis was in order.

Having already tried his hand at political activism with the Twenty Minute Patriot Project, Pelham had already learned a thing or two about the American public.  The Project called for citizens to devote a mere 20 minutes a week to being involved in politics, whether that meant simply reading pertinent articles and books, writing an elected official, persuading others to be involved, etc.   Their political paradigms and parties did not matter; it was simply their involvement that was the goal.  Participants were asked simply to sign on to the project, showing their commitment to being involved, and hopefully, “priming the pump” by adding their names to the list so that other newcomers would be more likely to join.

Pelham’s early and informal marketing research on the Twenty Minute Patriot Project yielded fairly impressive results.  Friends and family enthusiastically said it sounded like a “great idea”.  Even a popular radio talk show host said the same when Jack made an impromptu call to discuss the concept on the air.  Having all “green lights” from this research, he forged ahead to set up a website and discussion forum for the Project.  And when it was announced that it was finally ready, nobody signed up!

This was Jack’s first solid glimpse of a theme that would be manifest in a thousand other ways:  People tend not to do even the things that they think are “great ideas”.  But Jack was slow to learn. Instead, he ventured ahead in his political analysis of the United States and her government, figuring out that we are a nation that does not follow its own laws.  From this, he devised the strategy that would become the Rule of Law Restoration project (ROLR).  He figured out a way to bypass the “two-party system” that is strangling the nation and to get candidates elected who would agree in advance that the powers of the offices they were seeking are limited powers.  In 2010, he and his wife Kay reached about 1,500 candidates for office–everything from state legislature to state governor to US House and Senate–and got nearly a 5% conversation rate, getting 71 candidates to sign the Rule of Law Restoration Pledges!  This was a remarkable conversation rate for any internet campaign, suggesting that this idea really had “legs”.

The problem appeared in the second prong of ROLR’s strategy.  Voters were also asked to sign a pledge that they would not vote for any candidate who had not first signed the ROLR candidate pledge.  After enough traffic to run up 19,000 page views on the ROLR website, only 20-or-so voters had signed up, and half of those had been personally influenced by Jack to do so.  It was a dismal failure, coming down to the fact that the public wanted to reserve for itself the option of voting for candidates who would not rule out breaking the law while in office.  When people were asked whether government should be made to obey the law, they thought it was a “great idea”, but when given a non-violent and effective way to make that happen, most opted out.

Once again, the axiom of people not working toward “great ideas” had been affirmed.  And as that axiom became undeniable in Pelham’s mind, it became obvious that clever programs and initiatives would be of no use unless the people themselves could be persuaded to think and to behave in a different way.  Hence, this book.

Six years is a long time in the life of a thinker/learner, and along the way to writing this book, Jack’s views on a number of topics have been considerably altered–many as a result of the research required for the book!  He has become what he describes as “one of the most non-partisan people in America” and has since developed a paradigm that no thing ought to be taken as true without having been vetted first.  As a result, this book is object and impeccably sourced, unlike so many others in this generation.

The book’s premise is this:

Though a man may inherit the most glorious mansion in the world, he cannot inherit the type or fortitude of character necessary to keep its lawn mowed.  That, he must supply himself.  Simply put, the character is not included.  And so it is with America.

Jack’s professional career has had many stations along the way, the result of which is a well-rounded view of American life.  From law clerk to selling Steinway pianos, from a clerk in a government training office to a high school and university instructor, and from a licensed pest control technician to an entrepreneur and an innovator in the paintless dent repair industry, these various stops along the journey have provided quite an education.  Add to that his bachelor’s degree (in music), his role as a husband and father, his previous experience in several different types of churches, in trying to reform a corrupt small-town government, and his extended involvement in several internet discussion forums on various topics, and you begin to understand how “big picture” thinking came to be one of Jack’s strengths.

Character Not Included: What America must fix before she can fix anything else aptly analyzes America’s political landscape, pinning both the blame and our hope right where it belongs: in the American public.  “Washington” only carries on because we allow it, and we could have changed that at any point we wanted.  It is the author’s hope that after reading this book, you will not only want to fix what ails us, but will be well-equipped to do it.

You may learn more about Jack by reading his blog at jackpelham.com.