Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

Ed Rushman: Two-Party System Left Me "Homeless," so I Decided to Run for Congress

Author: Ed Rushman
Created: 06 March, 2018
Updated: 17 October, 2022
4 min read

I've never been a fan of politics. There are some great things out there, books and movies I enjoy, the occasional leader who does or says something worthwhile, but there is always a reserve, some part of myself I hold back. Mistrust, perhaps, or just knowing from history that even the best leaders have their limits. It's been an interesting life, I worked with a few stars as a child, met a few politicians, been held at gunpoint a few times, loved and lost, and considered politics but it never went anywhere. Deep trust or commitment has proven elusive.

But something changed in 2016, I realized there was no one trustworthy running the parties. For the second time, a party left me, and with both gone, I felt politically homeless, disenfranchised. No political organization seemed good, both seemed lacking in common decency, both appeared desperate and yet unwilling to take an honest look at themselves. Each seemed to define itself as an opposite of the other. I felt alone in this since the media showed people enthusiastic about their parties.

In searching for a way forward, I met a number of people with better views of politics, and through our conversations things came into focus. They felt politically homeless as well, and were trying to do something about it. They encouraged me to run for something; they believed in me. When I began to float the idea with less politically minded friends, they were enthusiastic, too. I should say that most of my friends are much younger then me, some are people I rock climb with, others from our parish, some from work. They felt the same, they had no real choices, the political situation was hopeless, the partisanship getting worse, the divisions more pronounced.

My interests tend to be national and global, possibly because I've done work with people from all around the world, and since our Representative seemed a poor match for our district, the House seemed a good choice for me.

The district is about a quarter unaffiliated, a quarter Republican, and half Democrat, so given the level of dissatisfaction it seemed possible. It's not an easy thing for me to knock on a neighbor's door to ask for nomination signatures, much less those farther away from home, and it was a surprising experience. These were Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and many with no affiliation. They were 18 to 80, men, women, some from other countries. And yet they were all overjoyed that I was running, like I was a hero. I expected them to see this as a hopeless cause, given the district is rated 'safe Democrat', and yet they smiled and signed, called other family members to come to the door and sign. When I went out for dinner or to the store, I'd sometimes pitch the server or cashier if they weren't busy and got the same treatment. Yes, there were two out of that crowd that believed strongly in the system as it is, but all the rest were strong supporters.

And I'm running for those strong supporters. Whenever I meet a new person and tell them I'm running, their eyes light up or they tell me how dissatisfied they are with things, or simply say "this is what we need" after seeing my flyer or hearing my story. Hearing their support revives my spirits and reminds me why I'm doing this.

I've got a powerful message that's unlike anyone else running in Orange County. It's everything neither party is. It's what I've been searching for. "Be the change," they say.

We wish for political leaders who inspire us, but in my case, it's the people who inspire me. In a few weeks, the county voters guide will be in the hands of more than a million voters. I've paid the costs out of my own pocket: it's not my way to ask for donations, and I want this to be the voters' campaign.

If they like what they read, if it moves them, they'll vote or me. I hope they will tell people about it. I've contacted the media, as I should, but there is not much interest, except some highly motivated writers seeking independent candidates to interview, and that's gone well.

The people will decide. If they vote for me, it won't be due to campaign spending, to political consultants or marketing experts, it will be a free choice, a real choice, not the lesser of two evils.

I don't want to use the same methods as the millionaires, the well-connected people I'm running against. I'm doing what I believe to be right and if voters send me to the House it will be proof it's possible. Then more will come. If not, perhaps someone will see my attempt and do better.

Someday, someone will get through, especially if the dissatisfaction keeps growing, if the politically homeless keep growing. The two parties are doubling down on their strategies while their members drift away, especially the young. It's only going to take one independent in the House to change everything. I hope it's in 2018.

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