Interview with Former Governor and Presidential Candidate Buddy Roemer
HOW TO FIX A REPUBLIC
Buddy Roemer wants you to understand that the only way to save our country is to reform our elections. Today Kucinich proposed an amendment to end Citizens United, which would require all federal campaigns to be financed exclusively with public funds. We all know how easy getting anything past the House and Senate is these days but it’s a nice gesture. Buddy Roemer believes the only way to achieve campaign reform is transparency and limits. He wants criminal charges for hiding the identities of donors. As he has said sunlight heals. He’s the only candidate who refuses to take any money from special interests, PACs or lobbyists. He limits his donations to one hundred dollars. Since the 1% pay most of what elections cost, he’s hoping the other 99% of us will get the idea and pitch in so we can clean up politics in America. As he has said: “It will take one million contributors in the primary to win, and five million in the general. It can be done in the age of the internet.”
HOW NOT TO FIX A REPUBLIC
What’s a voter to do? Everyone knows how important the elections are, except those who think it doesn’t matter because it’s all at worst a sham and at best a logjam. The U.S. economy is still floundering and in danger of being pulled under. The environmental consequences of our energy decisions are on display. Our desire for security is threatening our liberty with levels of citizen surveillance never attempted before except in China, and we see the erosion of our rights by the passage of new laws that undermine the Constitution and a reactionary Supreme Court. Our educational system is expensive and ineffective. Our infrastructure is dated and rickety. And shootings are practically an every day occurence. We need a candidate who can bring a new way of doing things to the gridlock that is Washington D.C.
The GOP is suffering several civil wars in one. Q, Christian fundamentalists and conservative Catholics, and the old school Wall Street party for the wealthy can’t agree on much of anything except how much they want to replace President Biden.
ME? SUPPORT A GOP CANDIDATE?
I’ve always thought of the GOP as the butt end of the same coin the Democrats are on. I gave up on both parties awhile back, though I did help a little with the Obama campaign, not so much because I bought the hope hype; I was dedicated to dumping the Republicans after eight years of W. I’ve never once considered voting for a Republican. But I’m considering it now. Buddy Roemer is not your typical Republican. For example he visited OWS and gave speeches supporting it when his GOP colleagues were dismissing it with the latest professionally composed catch phrases.
We certainly don’t agree on some issues; he’s not my dream pro choice candidate; he has said he would defund Planned Parenthood, he’s against the use of taxpayer money for abortions; but having said that, he vetoed two abortion bans when he was governor. The second one didn’t protect the life of the mother. Roemer said it wouldn’t stand up to Roe vs. Wade. It likely cost him his reelection. When the bill passed anyway it was finally judged invalid, costing taxpayers plenty. Buddy says he’s a Methodist when it comes to choice. He thinks protecting the mother is just as important as protecting the child. He’s also mentioned in this context the separation of church and state. He’s proud of being a listener, so I hope he’ll come to understand why Planned Parenthood was a Godsend to me and still is to many others.
I cast a skunk eye at fracking, nuclear energy, and deep water drilling, but I also realize solar, wind and the other renewables have a long way to go. Buddy Roemer supports drilling but he wants the industry to maintain a reserve of resources for immediate cleanup. He also wants regulators to be independent of producers. He says we’re paying a terrible price for foreign oil in lives, and money. He wants to tariff domestic oil to use the revenue to pay down the national debt. He’d end all subsidies for all energy businesses to level the playing field. Some knowledgeable people in solar and other renewable energy companies should get in touch because I think Buddy Roemer would listen to them. He comes from a state where they’ve been digging for natural gas since the 1800’s, but he took on the oil and gas industries when he was governor, and that takes serious cajones in the state of Louisiana where so much money flows from oil and gas.
Of gay marriage he says gay people are protected by the constitution and should be. Personally he’s opposed to gay marriage, but he points out that each church must decide for itself whether to marry gay couples. Separation of church and state.
His proposals about Medicare and Social Security recognize the power of incremental change over twenty years. A gradual approach that allows time for adjustment not only for recipients but also for the government, should conditions change. Most important of all, his plan gives businesses and individuals certainty.
How would he create jobs? Besides giving decision makers the kind of certainty that’s impossible in today’s highly partisan gridlock, he’s an advocate of fair trade. Our trade relationship with China made sense when we were helping lift them into the world economy, but things have changed. Globalization doesn’t have to be a one-way street. Fair trade means China starts to live up to higher standards and better pay for their workers instead of us having to live down to compete for jobs with people getting paid pennies. Made in America was once the world standard. People preferred to buy American. You got good value and superior quality. American businesses should be given incentives for buying American.
He would enforce immigration laws, but set quotas based on the needs of the labor market, instead of a number chosen by electioneering political policy. He would study ways to allow illegals to go home and apply for citizenship, while protecting immigrants here legally from suffering discrimination.
To prevent another economic crisis this successful banker would increase capital reserves for big banks, and end too big to fail by restoring the separation of commercial banking from investment banking. That separation was made after the 1929 market crash, and undone by the enthusiasm for deregulation, leading right to the 2008 crash.
His tax plan is 17% with the first 50k exempt. No loopholes. No deductions. Just a simple tax. Corporations get the same treatment, no loopholes. Their tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas gone. No national sales tax.
His solution for health care includes coverage of preexisting conditions but no mandate. But how will companies profit, you wonder, when only sick people want insurance? He would let consumers buy insurance across state lines, enact tort reform as he did in Louisiana, and bring competition back to the pharmaceutical industry.
When you hear him say he wants to board up the top floors of the Department of Education keep in mind what he thinks the department should be: “a small and professional body that focuses on data collection and acquiring best practices that show how schools around the country and the world have improved education.”
These aren’t sexy solutions, calculated to rile up the base. These are common sense approaches and they’re not hot air, they’re inspired by experience.
CLEANING UP THE MAGNOLIA STATE
Now, a little history. Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer III is the son of Charles E. Roemer II, former campaign manager and then commissioner of administration for the notorious Louisiana governor Edwin Washington Edwards. Edwards was the classic charismatic but crooked southern governor, enjoying four terms even though everyone knew he was corrupt. His supporters excused him by pointing out he generally stole from the wealthy and he didn’t make much of a secret of it. Buddy Roemer’s father went to jail for a scandal that most people think should have sent Governor Edwards to jail; fall guy was the phrase frequently mentioned.
After graduating from Harvard, and returning to work with his father at a pioneering computer company, in1978 Buddy Roemer ran for Louisiana’s 4th congressional district but he didn’t make it past the primaries. Two years later he was elected; unopposed he was elected again in 1982, 1984, and 1986. As a Congressman, he was what they called a boll weevil, he was a southern Democrat who often voted in support of the policies of Ronald Reagan.
At the end of his third term Governor Edwards wasn’t quite as popular as he had been. He could only charm his way through so much corruption. Louisiana was dead last in many measures of how states are doing in the United States. Roemer ran for office calling for a “Roemer Revolution.” He promised to “scrub the budget,” reform campaign finance, cut the red tape of state bureaucracy, and fix the woeful educational system. Those problems sound pretty familiar don’t they?
Governor Roemer convened a special session of the Louisiana Legislature to push an ambitious tax and fiscal reform program statewide and locally. He aimed to slash spending, abolish wasteful programs, and close ineffective state-run institutions, giving more power to local communities. Voters rejected his proposals in a statewide constitutional referendum. He also worked to protect the environment, despite opposition from the state’s mighty oil and gas interests, and from a state legislature still stuffed with cronies of Edwin Edwards.
How did Buddy do? He reduced 12+ percent unemployment by half. He tested teachers, who were paid less than anywhere else in the US, and gave the ones who passed a thirty percent raise. The state budget was a mess, yet he balanced it the very first year and every year after without new taxes. Louisiana bonds, the lowest rated in the US, received five upgrades during his administration. Louisiana had the worst air and water toxicity in America. He closed loopholes, used tax incentives, penalized offenders and won a Sierra Club award for cleaning up the state.
To raise more revenue for the state he legalized and regulated gambling, restoring the state’s iconic riverboat gambling businesses.
In 1991 after twenty years as a Democrat, Governor Roemer joined the GOP, just a few months before the next election. He opposed many of the policies of the Democratic Party, he has said it had changed so much since the seventies he felt more comfortable joining like minded politicians in the GOP. The change was unpopular with Democrats and Republicans alike and didn’t help his chances for reelection. Caught between the improbably triumphant return of Edwin Edwards and the KKK candidacy of Duke, he finished third and Governor Edwards served his fourth term. Two years after it ended Edwards was indicted and convicted.
Buddy Roemer ran for governor again in 1995 and ironically was knocked out during the primaries by a conservative state senator who switched from Democrat to Republican during his campaign. Ah the fickle electorate, what they didn’t like today may thrill them four years later. In Louisiana the feeling persists that Governor Roemer should have been one of the all time greats, but the state was too big a mess, his staff inexperienced and too ready to step on important toes, his agenda too ambitious; no wonder as you’ll see during this interview he has sympathy for Barack Obama.
HOW A GOOD AMERICAN BANK HANDLED THE FORECLOSURE CRISIS
Buddy Roemer left politics for the world of business. He built retirement communities for alumni close to their beloved alma maters. He started Business First Bank of Baton Rouge. The nature of that bank tells us a lot about Buddy Roemer. They don’t have nationwide or international branches. They specialize in what their name tells you: putting local business first. They didn’t get caught up in the derivatives and quarterly profits circus that crashed the world economy because they stayed focused on what they did best instead of mindlessly growing. They took no bailout money. They restructured loans instead of foreclosing on mortgages. They even pay the ATM fees for their customers.
I know what you’re thinking. First I got sweet-talked by a smooth talking black man from Chicago, now I’m falling for a Louisiana boy “campaign shouting like a southern diplomat.” He hasn’t got a chance, you want to tell me. They won’t let him into the debates. The national media refuses to take his campaign seriously. I know. But that’s where the fun begins. As far as I’m concerned his main message about campaign reform is more important than any of the usual flavors of fake pedaled by the professionals. And there’s this thing called Americans Elect, google it if you don’t know about it. I think Buddy Roemer and Americans Elect could be made for each other. I think he’s a guy the Tea Party and OWS could agree on.
To some people DIY means amateur. But I know what DIY really means. It’s about staying true to what you know is right. It’s about loving freedom. Could it be that Buddy Roemer is the DIY candidate? Could Americans Elect be the DIY party? And with the GOP reeling from one scandal and attack ad to the next, maybe they’ll wake up and smell the coffee and invite Buddy Roemer to explain how he’d change the game for the better. This election could get much more interesting.
You can read the key points of his platform at his website under the Issues tab. http://www.buddyroemer.com
INTERVIEW WITH BUDDY ROEMER (Conducted January 19, 2012)
As we talk the online blackout to protest SOPA and PIPA are live across the Internet and your campaign website is blacked out, too, except for a short paragraph that ends: “How can we advocate for greater liberties in China and around the world while restricting our own?” Amen. So what’s a better way to control the pirating corporations complain about?
They have a choice to make. They can choose to do business or not in China. These guys are businesswomen and men. They work for profit. They’re the ones that developed the Chinese market with the government breathing down their necks, stealing their ideas, pirating their IP, and they say nothing? I had a CEO of a major corporation, a top 500 corporation, tell me that they had lost 85% of their potential sales in China from piracy. And I asked him why do you remain? And here’s his answer: damn good question. All of these free traders got the idea that these foreign countries were like America that they would trade freely. Well they aren’t like America and they don’t trade freely. The biggest criminal area, illegality area, is the whole business of IP, patents and software. We need to set a standard, each individual company, as to what they will and will not stand for, and they need to pull out of China if the government does not enforce the rules of liberty. I don’t believe China will. Let me go a step further. I’ve been to China many times, as you know, and I have sold American made products there, and it’s like pulling teeth. They want to flood this country with their cheap products, made often by child labor, in plants that could not open legally in America, and they don’t want anybody to say anything about it. But try to put an American made product in there and it takes an act of their parliament. So it’s not free trade, it’s not fair trade, it’s piracy. In the United States our companies are flexible, focused, fast and friendly, what I call the four F’s. We don’t need the government to regulate the Internet. We need to have it be a place of confusion, innovation, and entrepreneurship. When we see violators of the truth, or of other people’s rights, then they can be prosecuted under the criminal justice system of the freest country on earth, the United States of America. We don’t need more laws. We need more citizens involved. We need more freedom, and we need to let the chips fall where they may.
You’ve been a congressman and as governor you cut enormous state unemployment by half during your term, balancing the budget, and improving education. You run a billion dollar bank that didn’t get caught up in the Wall Street debacle. Yet you’ve been excluded from the debates. A beautiful example of what happens to independents in a society of cliques, sound bytes and corporate culture, the same thing that happened to the music business, and the movies, happened to politics, too. So how can authenticity prevail in a world of croney-ism and manipulation?
There are no easy answers here. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. The influence of money is just an example of that. If you think Washington D.C. is a fair shake, if you think Washington D.C. is on the level, you just don’t understand what happens in America. It’s the few elite at the top, no one else counts. I have decided, I did it about a year ago, that the only way to bring change was to stand up. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not pretending to be the best candidate for president. Maybe there are others better than I, no doubt about it. But I am saying that of all the people that have announced to run I’m the only one that doesn’t take checks from the corporate interests or from the special interests. Therefore I’m the only one who will be free to lead on fair trade, on tax reform, on immigration reform, I’m the only one, and everything works against me. I haven’t been invited to any debate. It’s been a real struggle. But let me give you the good news. Last week was our best week in the year that we’ve been running. We raised more money, got a higher standing in the polls, we got to three percent. We’ve had contributions from all fifty states. We’ve had fifteen thousand to twenty thousand people who have contributed to our campaign an average of 25 to sixty dollars, that’s the way I like it. No PAC money. No Super PAC money. Everything reported. I am so proud of what we stand for. Now my hope is to get beyond pride and get to the practical business of getting people’s attention. I’m not going to be able to do that unless I’m invited to one of these debates. I’m hoping that somehow some way somewhere they’ll take the only person who is running who has been a governor and a congressman and say, what do you think, Buddy? That’s when our campaign starts.
The key to your policy is campaign reform. You’re waking people up to the fact that until we take the dark money and big lobbies out of politics nothing else can get fixed. That can’t be pleasing to the people who grease their wheels with all that money. To what do we owe this foolhardy bravery?
Experience. I grew up in a state where politics was corrupt. We had very flamboyant governors, they were very popular and they were very polished politicians. We had the highest unemployment rate in America. We had teachers who were not paid. We had bond ratings that were the worst in the country. We had a population that stagnated and decreased. Our kids left the state to get jobs. That was not because Louisiana was not a great place to eat and live, and dance and sing, it’s a great place to live. But it was corrupt at the top. What we did was to clean out the corruption and have the toughest campaign laws in America. We’ve had twenty years now of government that’s been good, better and best. We’ve had Mike Foster. We’ve had Kathleen Blanco. We’ve had Bobby Jindal. Clean, honest. Louisiana hasn’t had twenty years like that in its history. And you see things change. There’s more hope. There’s more jobs. Kids don’t leave Louisiana for employment anymore. Our net worth, our value, our incomes are going up. So you have to defeat the corruption, and I think the lessons learned in Louisiana are applicable to the national government.
Lousiana is the microcosm, Washington D.C. is the macrocosm?
Exactly. That’s why I recognized it a year or so ago when I went to Washington. I hadn’t really looked at it in ten or fifteen years. I hadn’t been there in twenty years. But I looked at it and said, man that looks a lot like Louisiana. Your success depends not on what you know but on who you know. And that’s corrupt.
Here it is, the China question. You say we are stuck with a policy toward China that reflects economic conditions long gone, we need a level playing field. Others say your policy would trigger a trade war with China that could break the world economy. Can you explain how some of the changes you would make could benefit both America and China?
The Chinese could always make a decision to level the playing field. After all they’re a communist nation, and one party, one man makes all the decisions. He could decide that they don’t want to trade with America anymore. We’re their largest customer. They’re not going to make that decision. They could, but I predict that they won’t. What I want to ask them to do is to trade fairly. To not send us products made by children. To not send us products made by prisoners. To not send us products made by forced labor. To allow our products to go there. To meet the standards that working people around the world have to meet. They should meet them in China. We will gain because our manufacturing jobs will increase. We’ll quit letting these cheap goods come in made by children, and we’ll make them in America. Maybe they cost a nickel more, but we’ll get jobs in America. The Chinese will gain because the standards they’ll have to meet to get their products into our country will raise the living standards in China. As far as I’m concerned we’re in a trade war right now. We have surrendered. We have said send us your crap and we’ll pay for it. I’m going to say something different. I’ll say send us your best products, made to our standards, and we’ll do some business.
One of your fair trade policies is to ban trading with partners who practice prisoner labor. Does that mean we can’t trade with ourselves? You talk about the power of reform, how would you reform our prisons
We need fewer prisoners. That means we need more jobs, which makes for less time to steal, cheat and hurt each other. I’m a Methodist boy. I think that people who do harm and damage need to go to prison. I’d like to live in a society where there’s less harm and damage. Where there’s more work and less welfare, and we treat people with pride and honor. That’s why I spend my time on economic revitalization, and economic health. I think a family without work is not happy, not healthy and not free. Their chance of going to prison doubles and doubles again when they don’t have a decent job. My time is going to be spent on changing the world by creating jobs, fair trade, an economy that’s growing, and campaign reform that gets the crooks out of Washington. If we get the crooks out of Washington we’ll have fewer crooks in our prisons because there will be more jobs.
The war on drugs has filled our prisons and eroded our rights. Obama promised to respect the states, but the feds still enforce federal law, ignoring state laws. What’s your stand on the war on drugs, and would you respect state laws?
I do respect state law, after all I was a governor. I know that Louisiana is different from Idaho and should be allowed the right under our federal constitution to have different laws. There are certain things that are the national government: military defense, relations with foreign governments, that’s all Washington D.C. But things like the application of marijuana laws or the application of certain work standards, those sorts of things are under state purview. I would honor that. The war on drugs is an important war. I’m not a believer as a father or grandfather that everything goes. Drinking is legal but it’s voted on parish by parish, county by county, and we need to agree on those differences. But even where drinking is legal there are age requirements, there are restrictions. So the states need to run their state as long as they honor the federal constitution I will let them do that.
The War on Terror is terrifying in more ways than one. The surveillance technology now available and the militarization of our police forces make many Americans fear for our liberties. We all know the Ben Franklin quote about liberty and security. Can we stay safe while preserving privacy?
We always have to work on that. This is always going to be a struggle. The government always has an excuse at the moment why they need to temporarily scrutinize us, review us, question us, fingerprint us. I’m skeptical. I’m a constitutional freedom loving person, and I think the Patriot Act goes too far. I don’t think we need to give up a single right while we fight the war on terrorism. Let me say it again. We do not need to give up a single right to catch a terrorist, if we do the terrorists have won.
You’re a supporter of natural gas for cleaner more independent energy. You say fracking technology needs to be improved. Should there be a moratorium on fracking until we feel reasonably certain that we’re not poisoning water tables or causing earthquakes?
We have plenty of history on fracking. It can be done wisely and well, it can be environmentally sound. I think we need to keep improving it. There’s seventy years of experience with fracking in Louisiana and everybody’s drinking the water. Any process can be dangerous. All processes must be watched. I’m an environmentalist. I’m the governor who got the Sierra Club award for the state of Louisiana. We cleaned up our air and water. I believe in natural gas, I believe it’s energy for the next fifty years. It’s plentiful and cheap. I believe we have to break our addiction to foreign oil. I would frack, I would do it below a certain depth. I would have clear standards. I would have penalties for those who violate them. But we need to drill, we need to create jobs, we need to have an energy supply that is not controlled by Saudi Arabia.
Would you continue to spend federal money on radioactive waste disposal, which amounts to an enormous subsidy, or should the companies that own the nuclear plants be trusted with that?
There’s a third option. I would open Yucca Mountain storage facility in Nevada. We built it over twenty years ago. It’s the best in the world. It should be the repository for nuclear waste. Nuclear energy generation is unsafe now because we’re storing the waste at each of these sites and these sites were not designed for five years, and ten years, fifteen years and twenty years of storage. They’re overcrowded, they’re overburdened, they’re unsafe. The government ought to collect this waste we process, the spent fuel, and sent the remainder to Yucca Mountain and store it safely. France does it. Frances has 85% of their electric energy produced by nuclear plants. They use vitrification, which is a process I’m very familiar with. It’s done safely and it’s stored in a storage facility that’s safe, earthquake proof and that can stand for a million years. We already have that facility in this country, we just don’t have a president with an energy policy to make nuclear safe. I will make it safe. Vitrification is a glass process, it’s sand and glass, and it stands for a million years. We know about it. We would vitrify our spent fuel and store it in Yucca Mountain. That’s what it was designed to do 29 years ago. I voted on it on the floor of the United States Congress.
You support renewable energies. You say you would cut all energy subsidies. The Chinese are spending a trillion or more on solar and wind over the next five years. Won’t they outpace us in the new energy economy if we stay dependent too long on our old energy standbys?
The market will beat them every time. The government never made anything. They can subsidize all they want. We subsidized ethanol for 27 years. For what? I mean, what government ought to do is have education run locally, revise the tax code, have corporations pay seventeen percent, let there be no exceptions. Have your highest tax rate at 17%, no exceptions, do away with double taxation, do away with alternative minimum taxes, do away with the marriage penalty. Let’s make it simple, clean, non lobby-able. Let’s get on with being in the marketplace. Government does not pick winners among solar, geothermal, or wind. The government cannot pick winners there. It ought to get out of the business and let the market operate.
Regulation is such a blurry word. We want clean air and clean water. But our good intentions wind up smothering new businesses that can’t afford compliance officers, and we still don’t have clean air and water. How would you find the balance between environmental protection and improved opportunities for small business?
I would have two kinds of regulations. I would have regulations for companies with five hundred employees and more, and they would be tough and clear and fair. I’d have a lot fewer regulations for companies under five hundred. These are the companies that create jobs. These are start up companies. These are companies that don’t have lawyers, they don’t have a compliance officer, they don’t have a lobbyist in Washington. These are companies that should be given more freedom. They create jobs. I would regulate them very lightly. I would heavily regulate the major corporations, who have more lawyers than good sense. They have twenty lobbyists in Washington, and have compliance officers everywhere. I would hit them hard and fair. That would give us balance. We’d clean up the air and water with the big boys, and we’ll let the little guy create jobs.
What would you do about the revolving door of politicians and lobbyists, all those juicy jobs former regulators know they’re going to get?
I would prevent it. I would have a seven-year requirement before a member of congress or a chief executive officer in government could lobby, and become a registered lobbyist in Washington. Seven years. The current rule is two years and it is not enforced. I would change it. Number two: I would not allow a lobbyist to bring a check to a politician. Number three: I would not allow a senior executive or a former member of congress to lobby on behalf of a foreign country ever. I would make those three changes the first day I was president.
America’s infrastructure is a joke, how can we afford to repair and modernize it?
We’re going to have to dedicate some money to the repair of our infrastructure. It should be led by the states, but it should be supplemented by the federal government. We have federal taxes already on the books designed to do that. Except that the federal tax is being used for other things. I’ll invest in infrastructure. I did it as governor, I’ll do it as president. It will be a light touch, but it will be an early touch, use the taxes already in place. I would cut the department of transportation by 3/4, by a hundred billion dollars, and I will take half that money saved, and I will spend it on infrastructure, without raising any new taxes.
My dad was a Marine and my big brother was a grunt, what can we do to help our veterans, so many of whom are homeless, and suffering post traumatic stress and other long lasting war wounds?
Well, we have a commitment. We need to honor our commitment. We need to decentralize our health care so it will be in more locations. We need to make sure that we offer coverage of all damage done by war and half of that is mental, and mental instability. So that does not need to be an unspoken rule. That needs to be talked about, discussed, fully funded, and taken care of, it’s very straightforward. You know the political warriors never want to talk about the full cost of war. it’s time that we do that. It’s also time that we be more careful in the wars we get into. We’re took quick to decide. And too slow helping those who get hurt. To summarize, I see a need for a change in attitude. Congress needs to vote on wars, not presidents. Number two: we need to support our troops while they fight and while they recover. That needs to be a full commitment.
You seem to be the perfect candidate for Americans Elect. You were a Democrat for twenty years, and then a Republican for another twenty years. The parties have veered to the left but mostly right while you pretty much stood fast. Your campaign reforms of transparency and limits dovetail nicely with Americans Elect which is itself a campaign reform, a way of inviting the American people into the process 21st century style. Do you think Americans Elect can challenge these billion dollar candidates?
It remains to be seen. It’s a question that doesn’t have an answer yet. It won’t happen unless Americans Elect as a unity ticket really appeals to plain people. Most Americans don’t give a penny to a presidential candidate. The people that do are the elite, the well to do, and the special interests. Americans Elect will not win if they appeal only to the elite, the well to do and the special interests. They have to appeal to plain people to get them involved, so our candidacies are a natural fit. I like unity. I like rebuilding America. I like small contributions. But it remains to be seen whether Americans Elect can catch fire. We’ll see. I like what they stand for, but we’ll see if they catch fire.
Ever hear that joke, how do you start a fight on the Internet? Express your opinion and wait. What I like about you is you aren’t afraid to identity real problems and you have practical solutions for many of them. But people wonder how you’ll get by the gridlock of the parties, and of the parties within the parties. The whole country seems to be paralyzed by emotional politics and culture war. How will you go about refocusing the American people so cooperation becomes possible?
It’s why I’m running this way. I think you best serve by how you run. I don’t think it works to run for political office in one manner, and then try to serve another. It must be seamless. So I run without PAC money, without Super PAC money, with no large checks. That is the key to serving. I will throw the lobbyists out of the room. No lobbyist will be allowed to bring a check. No lobbyist will be allowed to be on a fundraiser. We’ll have plain people make these decisions. For example, in health care reform, I’ve been a diabetic for forty years, I believe in health care reform. Many Americans can’t afford to be sick. But the way to get reform is not to get with the big boys who give the big money, that’s the insurance companies, that’s tort lawyers, that’s pharmaceuticals, no, they want to keep the system just like it is. If you want change and you want reform you get doctors, nurses and patients in the room. Plain people, and design a different system, a system of competition and choice in clinics and you will lower health care by twenty percent or more in the first year, and you’ll have a different America. It’s true in bank reform, it’s true in tax reform. I don’t want to be president and have a gridlocked nation, so I have run for office deliberately the most difficult way possible, with small contributions from a lot of people because that’s the way I will serve, and that’s the way congress will follow. They’ll see the power in people, and they’ll see a president who will listen to them, play poker with them, watch football with them, have dinner with them, give them credit, they’ll see a whole different approach. They’ll see an approach not giving republicans credit. Republicans can’t run this country; they’ve proven that. It’ll be an approach not giving democrats credit. It will be an approach giving America credit. That’s the way to rebuild the nation and that’s the way you break the gridlock. Listen. Act. Include. Give credit to others and good things will follow.
You’re teaching by example?
It’s the only way. I mean, I wouldn’t run, who wants to be president? Can you imagine being Obama? What a sad situation. No budget reform, no tax reform, no jobs reform, no immigration reform, nothing. I don’t want to be nothing. I want to the president of a society that has decided to correct its problems. I want to be president of a country that decides to rebuild.
Who is your favorite president and why?
Of course, my favorite president, I didn’t know him, but I just think he’s the best president we ever had: Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln ran for president with two words: one nation. It was a real simple concept. He said when you join you cannot leave. Told them all that. One nation. Then when he ran for reelection he ran with four words: One nation no slaves. He was the greatest president. He gave us the nation.
Tamra Lucid is the author of Making the Ordinary Extraordinary.