Q: At the national level there are incredible pressures to toe the party line. How can leaders navigate that pressure while attracting support from across the aisle?
My Fix Congress First initiative won’t make me popular with my colleagues, because it includes reforms like No Budget No Pay for real, and changing the gold-plated benefits of being a Member of Congress. I have Democratic voters coming up and saying, “I agree with this — I hope the Democrats in Congress support you on this.” That’s where we’ll have the best chance of bipartisan support.
Plus, from time to time when the Republican Party shoots itself in the rear end, which happens about once a week, I can say that doesn’t reflect the majority of Americans who are members of the Republican Party. These elected officials are pretty much out of step with the party. They play to the extremes. So I can say, “Cut the crap out.”
Q: Wow. You’re refreshingly blunt for a politician.
I don’t take that as an insult at all. The concept of speaking from your gut just happens — and is a breath of fresh air for the American people.
Q: What role do you see Centrists playing in Congress?
There’s a thoughtful approach that centrists can take, versus a meat cleaver approach. That’s where the centrists come in and say, “Here are some common-sense, thoughtful ways for us to move forward.” You don’t see either side doing it on their own.
I get upset with Republicans for saying we have to fix the national debt, but they didn’t offer up any ideas. And for health care, you can’t beat something with nothing – I don’t want to just see what you’re against—what are you for?
And just like Republicans, the Democratic Party has a pattern of playing the shiny object in politics: “We don’t have solutions for the real problems, so let’s focus attention on something that spikes donations and creates a wedge.” On social issues like immigration, for example, how can we paint the other side as nasty, uncaring, call them extremists. Most of the time it’s just talking points.
Q: How do you think we got into this national war of words that keeps us all so divided?
I blame a lot on the partisan political consultants — let them sit out one cycle and see what happens! I don’t have a general consultant on this race, because all too often they’re afraid to say the things that need to be said, and too afraid to reach across the aisle. I’ve got a very clear message I’m trying to convey to people from all walks of life, and I don’t need anyone to get in the way of that.
I’m playing it right from the gut.