Andrea Witte never thought of getting involved in politics. But beginning in 1995, the self-employed graphic designer said she began to see her health insurance increase to a rate most business owners would consider unsustainable. The experience left Witte wondering why and wanting to know more. The result was getting involved in the Progressive Democrats and developing a website with a mission to educate people on issues like health care, as well as the federal budget and more, and she's getting some attention for her efforts. You can see her work at www.ConnectTheDotsUSA.com.
How did you get involved in politics?
I got involved in politics or in social policy two years ago during the heath care debate. I am self-employed and own my own graphic design business. I noticed the past 10 years something bizarre was going on with my health insurance. It was going up 20 percent each year, straight off a preferred rate sheet for Blue Cross. I've had the same policy the entire time. Most people I know don't have to pay for their insurance and they don't understand. I thought, "This is completely unfair in America and is completely unsustainable." That was what motivated me to look for a candidate who is at least talking about this problem. I didn't know about single-payer and all these terms that I know now. That's how I tell people how to become a political wonk and how I put my toe in the water—I found an issue that I understood really well.
That's good advice.
People say they want to get involved and don't know where to start. Find an issue you really care about and then figure out who is really on your side. I know I can't go up against Blue Cross by myself, but together we can go up against them. Those who say it is a free-market situation, no, it is a hostage situation. They can jack up these rates 100 times and you're going to pay it because you can't get a policy from somewhere else.
How did the idea for Connect The Dots USA start?
I was working with different groups, like MoveOn, and using my graphic design skills to make great signs and have good communication at our rallies. I learned from our last election that people don't have basic facts about issues. People are busy, and I have to admit I was one of them. ... After the last election I decided I've got to do something that's educational, but in a fun visual way.
What did you start with?
Well, first I started looking for existing presentations about the budget or jobs, but there was nothing out there. There wasn't a one-stop place for people to get great visual info on job and tax policy or even how the budget breaks up and what solutions sound like good ideas. I wanted something that could give a basic understanding and offer historical perspectives.
When did you officially get Connect The Dots USA started?
It's been eight months. I did the first presentation in January, called "Dude, Where's My Job?" using PDFs for visuals. I realized then that people just want to have something they can take with them, so I put together a booklet. I couldn't afford to run the whole thing in color like on the website, which is why Raúl (Grijalva) started referring to them as the coloring books. At a meeting with local progressives, (Grijalva) said he had been on a retreat in Washington and they discussed how they are not good at communicating and getting information out on our values. I just happened to have the coloring-book version with me. He and his policy director were blown away, so after that I opened for him at a Progressive Democrats meeting and did "Budgets, and Deficits and Debt, Oh My!" ... Later, Grijalva said, "I made copies of her budget presentation and gave it to ... all members of Congress. Next I'll give the coloring-book version to the Republicans."
Have you worked at marketing the website?
I haven't done a lot of pushing yet and I'm just figuring out how to look at stats, but my goal at the moment before I start to market it on a national scale is to have three presentations done to show that this site isn't just about one thing. What I want to have is a place you can get the basics on every major issue. My goal first was to do jobs, then the economy and budget, and now finally my first interest, health care.