On May 4, Massachusetts independent candidate for U.S. Senate, Bruce Skarin, kicked off his campaign and 1,000-mile #Walk4Democracy with a talk titled, “Citizenship in a Republic.” The same title as a speech that President Theodore Roosevelt gave at the Sorbonne in Paris, France in 1910.
Roosevelt's speech is most known for the quote about “the man in the arena.” A homage to those that strive to “do the deeds.” Bruce’s speech may eventually be known for the reminder that Roosevelt was not talking about leaders doing great deeds, but rather the quality of the individual citizen in a republic.
To illustrate his point, Bruce tells the story of three unique individuals: an entrepreneur, a professor, and a civic innovator. Each story highlights a different aspect of the dysfunction that exists in politics and government as well as an opportunity for citizens to make a difference.The entrepreneur is Tesla and SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, who recently demonstrated a capability that will enable rockets to
return to the launchpad for reuse, which Musk estimates will lead to a one hundred-fold reduction in the cost of launches to space.
The dysfunction in this first story lies within a recent Air Force, sole source contract to the United Launch Alliance (ULA) for $14.4 billion. Musk claims that the 36 launches in the contract would cost taxpayers over four times what SpaceX could deliver and that the Russian-made engines in the ULA rockets likely violate current U.S. sanctions. The over $10 billion in potential savings represents more than half of NASA’s annual budget.
“These kind of contracts happen over and over and over again,” Skarin remarked, “costing taxpayers billions of dollars.” The reason these kind of contracts occur led to Bruce’s second story about Harvard Law Professor, Lawrence “Larry” Lessig.
Bruce explained how his desire to solve big problems led him first to Congress and to the realization that the members of Congress no longer stood for the people, but rather for the funders. Money in politics led him to Lessig.
In January of this year, Bruce walked over 185 miles with Lessig and other advocates as part of the New Hampshire Rebellion, a multi-year strategy toward ensuring that the top issue for candidates in the 2016 presidential primaries is to address the corrupting influence of money in politics.
Bruce also summarized Lessig’s latest initiative that put out a mayday call to citizens for creating a kickstarter-styled “Super-PAC to end all SuperPACs”. An initiative that most pundits deemed impossible, but that just reached its first one million-dollar goal two weeks ahead the desired deadline.
“This is proof that we the people want change,” noted Skarin.
A poll commissioned by his campaign shows a similar trend, with 50 percent of Massachusetts residents preferring an independent candidate over just 30 percent for the incumbent Senator Markey.
“With 53 percent of voters unenrolled from either party, we independents and moderates are the overwhelming majority,” Skarin explained. “We deserve to have a voice in Congress.”In the final story, Bruce introduced Jennifer Pahlka, who helped create
Code for America, an organization which she describes as a Teach for America for geeks. In the program, tech professionals are paired up with city and state governments to develop rapid and innovative solutions that can be remixed and reused across the country. Software that would have taken years and run into the millions using standard protocols was created at a fraction of the time and cost.
“This last example shows us precisely how we can modernize government,” noted Skarin, “what is part of basic best practices in the tech community can be directly transferred to how we solve problems together in government.”
“We cannot fix everything with just one election,” Skarin acknowledged, “but my campaign is part of a much larger, multi-year, multi-faceted strategy to bring government back to the people.
Near the end of the talk, Bruce described his ideal candidate by unveiling an image of Ben Franklin.
“I think we have enough lawyers in Washington,” Skarin said. “It’s time we had some scientists, that are independent, inventive, and dedicated problem solvers.”
“Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t see Ben Franklin walking through that door. Instead, I see an opportunity. An opportunity to fight and raise these issues and to offer a choice. Let’s start with that, let’s start with a choice and see what happens, and see what we can do.”
Shortly after the talk, Bruce and a band of supporters departed on the first leg of his 1,000 mile walking journey to meet with voters.
“Campaigns really should not be about raising money,” Skarin explains. “They should be about connecting with voters. What better way than to simply get out there and meet them on the street?”For the next four months, Bruce has planned a route that takes him all over the state, including the furthest reaches of Western Massachusetts to the tip of the Cape and the islands.
“I want to represent everyone equally,” notes Skarin, “regardless of party affiliation or any other station that has been used to discriminate against voters and divide our population.”
Bruce may have a tough road ahead of him, but his dedication and boundless optimism for what our country can accomplish is a refreshing break from politics as usual.
Bruce Skarin is a Massachusetts independent candidate for U.S. Senate. To Learn more about his campaign visit www.bruce2014.org.