A Road Less Traveled

~ notes from an uncommon journey ~

Why I'm Supporting John Russell for Congress

There's a special election this year in Ohio's 12th Congressional District, thanks to Representative Pat Tiberi's resigning before the end of his term. (It's a special election because it's to elect someone to serve the remainder of that term. The general election for that seat is for the following Congressional term.)

And the primary for each of them...is at the same time...on the same ballot. One of the things that means is: we have to vote for the same person twice on the same primary ballot. Strange but true.

That election is this coming Tuesday, May 8th.

From the night of Indivisible Ohio District 12's candidates' forum back in February, I knew I wanted to support John Russell. And my commitment to that support has only grown since. Here are some of the reasons why. If you live in Ohio's 12th District (Here's how to find what U.S. House District you live in), I hope you'll join me in voting for John Russell. 
  1.  As he was growing up in the rural Ohio Valley, he saw people in his family and community pull together to help each other through tough times, which he says gave him the values of community and service, and he believes that such values should be written into our policies. I couldn't agree more.
  2. He is committed to running a face-to-face campaign. He wants to talk to as many 12th District voters—both urban and rural—as he can. And he's taken concrete steps to do just that, including participating in candidate forums and debates, holding town halls (he has held one in every county in the district), and attending 'meet the candidate' house parties. He has also committed to holding regular town halls once he's in office.
  3. He gets that as a white man, he wouldn't exactly add to the diversity in Congress—and that he doesn't have the lived experiences or perspectives of those who identify differently than he does. But he is committed to surrounding himself with a diverse group of people who do have those lived experiences and perspectives—and listening to them.
  4. He is not accepting any corporate donations to his campaign. Here's what he has to say about why: "Over and over and over again, corporations hire armies of lobbyists and get preferential treatment at the expense of ordinary people who can't hire lobbyists.... If we want to challenge the status quo, and take on special interests, we need the independence given by not accepting corporate money to get elected."
  5. He has been politically active for years, even before Tiberi's seat became open. John independently started a petition to get Tiberi to hold a town hall with constituents. (Note: Tiberi never did; he resigned before his term was up, and now John's running for that same seat.) John helped organize Indivisible Ohio District 12 (one of the many Indivisible activism groups that formed in response to the 2016 election), and he joined their fight to save the Affordable Care Act.
  6. He has a strong grasp on the issues. In the time that I've been volunteering for his campaign, I've observed John talking with voters on multiple occasions. And I don't think I've seen him stumble once when asked about any issue. He's able to immediately speak to it and to articulate where he stands. And it strikes me as being more than just good communication ability or being personable, though he certainly has both of those as well. He really knows where he stands and what he will fight for.
  7. Having grown up in and being a farmer in rural Ohio and having also worked with fellow activists in the urban areas of the district, he has broad appeal across both parts of the district. That seems to be a rare quality these days; it's  refreshing to have a candidate who can cross what has become way too much of a divide in our country.
  8. Last but certainly not least, he has solidly progressive positions on the issues. Among other things, he'll fight for:
    • common sense gun safety laws
    • making voting easy/ier for all eligible voters
    • universal health care, through a single-payer, Medicare-for-all model
    • improved infrastructure
    • steady, good-paying jobs
    • a $15/hour minimum wage
Here's John talking more about his position on several important issues:

You Guys, She *Gave a Speech*

Let's get one thing straight right now: While she would almost certainly do a better job than 45 (which, let's face it, is probably the lowest bar for presidential success of all time), Oprah Winfrey is not terribly well qualified to be the President of the United States. I'm not insulting her; I'm just stating a fact. She's incredibly accomplished and is qualified for a lot of things; I just don't think that being POTUS is one of them.

Giving an impassioned (and awesome) speech at an awards show does not automatically mean she'd be a great candidate. And overseeing a media empire does not automatically mean she'd be a great president, who is tasked with leading the most powerful nation on Earth.

There is a lot more to candidacy and certainly to presidency than speechmaking and business savvy.

I mean, how many times do we have to learn the hard way that business ≠ government?!? Because...business does not equal government! Would some parts of government do well to apply sound business principles? Surely. But they are not the same things. Determining how to maximize value to shareholders is a far cry from, say, deciding whether to send troops into harm's way.

As my friend Jay Cosnett put it,
 Governing requires experience... at governing! Passing bills, forging consensus, navigating overlapping centers of power and influence, maintaining and building coalitions, dealing with other politicians and governments... This idea that government is somehow "not real work" and that someone from the private sector doesn't need experience in it is bullshit.

And Thomas Chatterton Williams in this great New York Times piece:
I am not immune to Oprah’s charms, but President Winfrey is a terrible idea. It also underscores the extent to which Trumpism — the kowtowing to celebrity and ratings, the repudiation of experience and expertise — has infected our civic life. The ideal post-Trump politician will, at the very least, be a deeply serious figure with a strong record of public service behind her. It would be a devastating, self-inflicted wound for the Democrats to settle for even benevolent mimicry of Mr. Trump’s hallucinatory circus act.

*  *  *

And let's talk for a minute about how all this "Oprah 2020" talk is diverting attention from the content of that awesome speech. It was (mostly) about eliminating the need for #MeToo, to put it succinctly.

Here it is, in case you've been living under a rock for the past 24 hours:

Why aren't we talking about how to make that new day dawn? Why aren't we talking about how to make harassment and assault socially unacceptable? Why aren't we talking about how to make respect for the personhood of all human beings...absolutely basic?

Why are we ignoring these critical topics, fixating on the fact that she spoke well and passionately, and jumping immediately to...'hey, let's make her president!'?


*  *  *

By the way, since electing Barack Obama didn't end racism, do we somehow think that electing Oprah would end sexism?!?

If an extremely qualified white woman, one of the most qualified people to ever run for the presidency, couldn't get elected to the highest office in this country (and...you're kidding yourself if you think misogyny didn't play a role), how well do you think a Black woman would do—without the requisite cultural change that Oprah's speech so beautifully called for happening first?

We cannot skip the hard, hard work of dismantling systems of racism and patriarchy and expect that electing a charismatic leader will in and of itself fix our problems. Even if that charismatic leader is very well qualified (see again: Obama).

*  *  *

Would I love to see a Black woman president? Absolutely. I say bring on the #BlackGirlMagic. I mean, the white guys haven't done all that well, for one thing. And Black women have been at the forefront of social change for ages. They know how to get shit done.

But first, we need to do (at least) these two critical things: 1) look for truly well-qualified presidential candidates (of any and all identities) and 2) get to work on fixing that which is broken both within ourselves and within how we relate to each other.

The future of our culture and our republic may well depend on it.
© A Road Less Traveled

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