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Desmond Thorsson: Gap Exists between What Voters Want and What the Parties Offer

Desmond Thorsson is joining the ranks of a unique, if undistinguished, corps of American politics: the journalist turned politician.

In his former life as “Desmond Crisis,” Thorsson was an independent radio and television personality. He hosted programs on USA Network, Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy), and an AM radio network produced by the original broadcast division of CNET Networks (now a brand of CBS Interactive). Today, he is running for California’s 12th Congressional District (currently held by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) as an independent

“My former work as a journalist taught me the importance of independence,” he said in a phone interview. “Unfortunately, the media is the last place you are going to find it.”

Journalism has not been Thorsson’s only line of work. He previously worked with law enforcement, served in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and developed video games. He currently teaches communications at a local college. Still, it was journalism that fostered his political development and now serves as a launch pad for what he hopes will be a congressional seat.

Thorsson self-identifies as a modern Whig and is a supporter of the Centrist Project. He is also an admirer of Lawrence Lessig and the Rootstrikers project, which advocates campaign finance reform. Indeed, it seems to be the issue he cares deeply about.

“I am campaigning by example,” he said.

“I refuse to take money from PACs or from private institutions. I only receive contributions from individuals. I’d say the average contribution is around $100. I really believe that campaign finance is the root of the problem with Congress, whose members are entirely beholden to receiving campaign funds rather than representing their constituents and solving the many problems Americans have.”

According to Thorsson, the typical contributor to his campaign is a young, independent business person usually working in a start-up or a small, team-based organization.

“It’s pretty remarkable the type of people who are contributing and supporting my campaign,” he said. “They are independent-minded, are unafraid to take risks and support innovation. They see the government and two-party political system as failing and want new alternatives. That’s why I am running as an independent.”

Thorsson may stand to benefit from California’s top-two primary system. The 12th District contains San Francisco, whose residents, quite simply, don’t vote Republican. John Dennis, who ran as a libertarian Republican in 2012, won 14.9 percent of the vote without any financial backing from the party.

“I generally see top-two as a positive good and I think I have a good chance of getting to the final ballot,” Thorsson said.

Nonetheless, though Thorsson carries his Independent label with pride and believes in pragmatic centrism, it may be difficult to sell that in the campaign with some of his policy positions, which are almost uniformly left-progressive with a few smatterings of libertarianism. He supports a national single-payer health system, is “suspicious” of the Keystone XL pipeline, is pro-abortion rights, supports gay marriage, supports the breaking up of large banks and the establishment of strict limits and regulation on their size and scope, and supports public education.

His most conservative stance is on immigration. He is in favor of immigration reform, but believes that illegal immigrants need to “get in the back of the line” and “learn English” prior to working for citizenship

Thorsson acknowledges that his interpretation of moderation probably contradicts other moderates in different parts of the country. Still, he finds that adopting the label is necessary for a new dialogue to take hold in Washington.

“A plurality of Americans feel Congress is not representative of them,” Thorsson said. “Most Americans are moderates, yet our politics is being decided by the most extreme sides. I think there is a huge gap between what the American people want and what Congress and the two parties are offering. I hope to start filling that space.”