Tuesday, March 10, 2020

A Berniecrat in Ohio's 5th District

The Revolution Continues is proud to feature an exclusive interview with an up-and-coming progressive candidate for the House of Representatives...
A Berniecrat in Ohio's 5th District:
An Interview with M. Xavier Carrigan


TRC:  Your web page proudly states “Progressive, positive, and proactive” and “making the American Dream an opportunity for everyone.” How exactly do you define “the American Dream”? In what ways will you be proactive in bringing about these opportunities?

MXC: I think the “American Dream” has different meanings for different people, but it generally encompasses having a job that pays fair wages and has upward mobility, owning a home, and raising a family in a peaceful, safe, and secure environment. Certainly, the reality of life in the US has changed considerably from the white-picket fence and 2.5 children ideal of the mid-20th century. However, the underlying spirit remains, and it remains for both those who were born here and those who have immigrated.

I myself am a product of the American Dream. My father emigrated here from Iran, and I am a first generation American. I watched my father work relentlessly to make his own businesses successful and to make sure that his family benefited from his efforts. I will never forget that, and that is what fuels my bid for the 5th District seat in the US House of Representatives. He overcame all the obstacles that immigrants face when setting up homes in a new country, and he worked tirelessly.

I will be proactive in bringing about these opportunities to all of my constituents by supporting an increase in legal immigration, an area in which the Trump administration has failed miserably. I will work to normalize the status of Dreamers as well as resolve the immigration status of countless other undocumented immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding residents. I will also fight to embrace refugees fleeing violence in Central America and not send them back to where their lives are in danger. I will also support citizenship for the translators and other locals who worked with American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and other places in the Middle East, who were critical to our operations despite the fact that helping us put their lives and the lives of their families at risk.

But the American Dream is not just the domain of immigrants. We must fight to support the ability of the US working class to participate in all of the benefits this country can offer. I will fight to prioritize the rights of the individual over the rights of corporations and to implement a minimum wage that supports a decent standard of living – one that is emblematic of our shared perception of the American Dream – to reduce the horrendous disparity between CEO and worker pay and to guarantee that our education works for everyone, not just the privileged.

It is disheartening that today we must fight to keep the American Dream alive, but that is the situation that an unfettered corporate culture of greed and a complacent, compliant government have foisted upon us.

TRC:  As a supporter of the Democratic Party’s Green New Deal, you realize that our current system of government isn’t always on the side of the climate, the environment, or the health and welfare of its citizens, and there are many in the status quo who will fight for the rights of polluters such as CAFOs (factory farms) to continue polluting. What kinds of tactics do you envision using to press forward to make positive inroads on this important issue? What kinds of legislation will you introduce to Congress to help fight climate change and better the lives of not only your constituents but for all humankind?

MXC:  The issue of climate change must be defined as, “How are we going to protect our planet and its people?” and not, “How are we going to protect corporate profits?” So, the first order of business must be to reinstate the vast majority of environmental regulations that the Trump Administration has rescinded, and I don’t mean just the ones for which Trump sat in the Oval Office like a kid at show-and-tell holding up a document with his scribbled signature on it. Because, as foolish as those actions and his behaviour have been, there are countless other regulations that have been decimated by cabinet secretaries appointed to positions that they have essentially been charged with destroying. The behavior of the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Energy, and the Secretary of Commerce has been shockingly duplicitous and aimed solely at propping up corporate profits, the people of the US be damned.

I will follow the leads of other countries around the world that have reduced their carbon footprints by developing high-speed rail systems which also produce new jobs. I will fight for California’s fuel efficiency standards to go national. And I will fight for increased research and implementation of alternative renewable energy sources that will not foul the air that we all must breathe. Trump has done untold damage to our ecological development and that must be reversed ASAP.

TRC:  Have you heard of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) citizens’ initiative that was passed this past year in Toledo? What is your take on citizens taking the initiative to save their—and about 11 million others’—drinking water from animal effluence-caused toxic algae blooms? Since you would represent constituents in western Lucas and Wood Counties who receive their water from the lake via Toledo’s water treatment facilities, as well as representing agribusiness and farmers in the Maumee River Watershed, how do you see yourself balancing these two opposing factions for the good of the many?

MXC:  Drinking toxic water is unacceptable whether it is in Flint, Michigan, or any municipality that gets its water from Lake Erie. Keeping Lake Erie and all of our waterways clean is not negotiable. Corporations do not have a right to destroy our water supply for their profits.

The only way we can resolve the matter of a water crisis as large as the algae blooms in Lake Erie is by making decisions that will not appease everyone. More importantly, it will hurt the pockets of those who profit the most, and I have no problem telling Big Ag that they must reel in their poor environmental practices and must lead the industry in means of mitigating contamination of one of the world’s largest bodies of fresh water.

Recently, a federal judge decided that LEBOR was unconstitutional. I have met many of those who have worked tirelessly for years to get this Bill of Rights made into law, and now have nothing to show for it. When we live in a time where a non-tangible entity like a corporation has more rights than most human beings, this is appalling. I will make sure that this fight does not end on the whims of this court decision and will bring a national media spotlight to LEBOR.

TRC:  You’re not taking any corporate PAC donations, relying instead on individual donations from the grassroots. Yet the Republican incumbent for Ohio’s 5th District, Bob Latta, will more than likely receive numerous large contributions from Super PACs and lobbyist organizations. How do you see yourself competing against such a moneyed opponent in the general election? What ways will you as the financial underdog take on the status quo? Does having less money mean becoming more inventive in your campaign strategy? What does that look like?

MXC:  Our average donation is $10. Why? Because we truly represent those who want to see change in our political system, not those who are looking to influence legislation aimed solely at filling their own pockets. We seek the support of those who are not just focused on money but on formulating policies that make a difference to all Americans.

I have watched multiple candidates on the national stage not just raise a fraction of the incumbent’s take, but also spend a fraction of what the incumbent spends, and still win. Because it’s not just about how much money you raise, it is about the platform and the policies that you have that ring true across this entire district. Unless you have those policies, forget the rest. That has been proven in this election, as well. No matter what you think of Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, it became crystal clear that the untold millions they spent on their candidacies did not win them much of anything in terms of the nomination for president.

We don’t need $1 million to beat Bob Latta. I would estimate anywhere between $250,000 and $500,000 is more than enough to make that happen. What it's going to take is boots on the ground -- volunteers who are willing to talk to the people. And that is what our campaign has: people who don't need to be fed tons of money to help a candidate get elected that they truly believe will help them.

We have been out-raised nearly 10 to 1 by our top Democratic opponent, and yet we are still contenders, because every single person on our team is in it for the right reason. And when you’re in it for the right reason, you find ways to do things no one ever has before. You innovate. You re-invent. We need someone who can go on to the general election and not have to compromise their values just to be a contender. That is the only way forward for progressives. And my team and I have already shown we can do that.

This is not to say fundraising is not a part of our strategy at all. We regularly phone bank, e-mail, and text to seek donations from people across the country and here in Ohio’s 5th. I am not na├»ve, and, as with just about any major undertaking, funding is essential. In political races, however, it is essential to regulate how and from whom that funding comes. I am a huge proponent of doing away with the Citizens United decision that unleashed a torrent of corporate money into American politics and has taken power from the people through an absurd decision that made corporations “people” and money “speech.”

TRC:  You’re not the only Democrat in this March’s primary. How would you say you differ from your opponents, Mr. Redinger and Mr. Rubando? What makes you the strongest candidate to face off against Bob Latta in the fall? How will you inspire the base to show up for you both in the primary and the general?

MXC:  I am the only true working-class candidate and the only true progressive in this race. Before I started driving truck, I had two main careers and a plethora of jobs throughout my lifetime, in three different states and four different countries, and in a wide array of industries. This has provided me with unique insight into the needs of all workers and the concerns of all of my constituents.

Our campaign is truly grassroots, and we rely heavily on volunteers who are also working-class Americans. That’s what we’re made up of. And, more importantly, our entire campaign is made up of working-class individuals, not just here in Ohio. Our message is a national message. We want to take our local issues to the national stage, and that's going to take a national effort. That's what our team consists of. We have volunteers from New York City all the way to California, and it continues to grow. 

This is a right, red, MAGA kind of district. But the reality is, a lot of these people who are right-wingers, especially the ones who are MAGA, are just like us. And the only way we win this district is by engaging with those on the right. It isn’t enough for us to just engage with the people that we know that have the same views as us.

In order to beat Bob Latta, we have to reach across the aisle to those who see the writing on the wall: Latta is a do-nothing representative. He is a known name, but, for most people in the district, he is an unknown quantity. People go along because they know the name, but the more they know about him, the more disenchanted they become with his performance in the House. And I have been working hard to make sure the electorate knows that. Three quarters of the people in my profession (truck drivers) are Republicans. And I talk with these people every single day.

I have encountered these right-wingers and you know what they tell me? You win that primary you already have my vote. My campaign has that message to flip the fifth, to take it out of the hands of the people who don’t care about the constituents and who are solely concerned with putting more money in the boss’s pocket.  

Mine is a grassroots campaign within the Democratic Party and it is an outlier campaign. We are not part of the Democratic establishment in the district unlike, in particular, one of my opponents. But an outlier is the only candidate who can flip the district blue. Ohio’s 5th District has not been represented by a Democrat since 1939. I think that says it all as far as the efficacy of the out-of-touch Democratic organization in the district.

TRC:  Your web site states, “We need working class people on Capitol Hill to represent and fight for the working class of America.” Now this is a refreshing statement! Your goal to introduce legislation to create more workers co-operatives sounds fascinating but also controversial, at least to some CEOs who enjoy their mega-salaries at their workers’ expense. How do see yourself handling the probable intense opposition from Wall Street tycoons and Big Bankers? How do you see yourself inspiring working class people into believing in themselves and their dreams to own their own place of employment?

MXC:  Indeed, the opposition from Wall Street will likely be formidable. Wall Street and Big Banks inevitably do not want worker co-ops to proliferate in America, because they give more power to the people. But the record is pretty clear that corporations that have transformed themselves into employee-owned entities have done quite well both in terms of profits and employee satisfaction.

The key to success here is the people. And it has always been the people. One of the biggest tasks ahead of me is simply educating the public, the workers, on what worker co-ops are and how they can be of benefit to them. Your question about how I will inspire the working class to believe in themselves is precisely the right question to ask! And luckily, this, talking to the people face to face, having frank conversations with them, educating them, is exactly the thing I do best. 

My ability to meet that opposition from Wall Street will come on the heels of the progressive movement in this country that seeks to wrest control away from the elites and put it back in the hands of the workers. The energy and momentum that movement has, coupled with multiple voices that have been lifted up to the national level, is how we inspire the working class to demand their power back.

TRC:  Student loan debt forgiveness—yes or no? Can we as a nation afford to pay for everyone to attend college or higher training after high school? (More likely, how can we afford not to!) Do you regret going into debt to finance your own education?

MXC:  How we will pay for student loan forgiveness, which is something I wholeheartedly support, is actually one of the easier questions to answer: by adding a half of a tenth of a percent tax (0.05%) on speculative trading on Wall Street. This is a small ask, given how much welfare they have received from us. It will not just pay off student loan debt within the next decade, but fund free public college and trade schools for everyone, now and in the future. The Republicans are screaming, "How are you going to pay for this?" If we are the greatest country in the world, the richest, the most powerful, the kindest, the most compassionate, why can’t we take care of our own citizens as is done in countries that are not the greatest in the world, the richest, the most powerful, the kindest, and the most compassionate?

No, I do not regret going into debt to finance my own education. But, like so many others, I did so with the expectation that I would eventually be able to pay it off while still pursuing my chosen career and having the life I want to lead.

Though this financial burden has weighed heavily on me and forced me to stray away from the job I love--teaching--it has also taught me an invaluable lesson. I might not be running for office were I not, like so many others, struggling to keep afloat in this economy, with the weight of student loan debt holding me down. Whatever the drawbacks, it has helped spur me to take up this fight.

TRC:  You state that you are an ardent supporter of the progressive candidate Bernie Sanders and his bid for the presidency and that you believe in his “Not me, us!” motto. Have you received any word yet that Bernie will endorse your run for Ohio’s 5th District? And if Bernie doesn’t receive the Democratic nomination, will you support the eventual nominee or will you follow Berners who support a more progressive candidate for the White House?

MXC:  We are still working on endorsement from the Bernie camp. Our values and campaign goals are very well aligned, and I am running in part to ensure he has more support in the House when he gets elected.

As far as it goes with supporting whoever the DNC nominates, I am a man of principle. If their principles align with my principles, then yes, I will support them. We need to take out Donald Trump. That must happen. But if we’re going to just serve it up to someone else who’s going to spout more platitudes and get nothing done for the American people, what’s the point?

I am the type of person who stands behind his principles no matter what I am fighting for. I was raised as a Republican but spent my entire voting life as an independent until Bernie Sanders came along. Then I finally decided I was a Democrat. I always believed the Democratic Party is the party of the working class, and it needs to return to that. 

Whoever is nominated, if they’re fighting for the working class, I will stand by them. But if they are going to compromise and be bought off, we’re just getting the same stuff as usual. I cannot accept that. 

Given how the primaries are going so far, and from what we are seeing in national polls, I think Bernie not winning will cause a fundamental breakdown within the Democratic Party, sooner rather than later. I hope this is not the case, but if Bernie has the nomination stolen from him, I think the question will be far more interesting than whether or not his supporters will go on to support the Democratic nominee.

TRC: Interesting it will be, no doubt about it! Thank you for answering our questions and best of luck in the primary, Xavier. Ohio voters don't forget to vote early now or on primary day, March 17.


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While the novel virus COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) continues to spread across the globe, credible health organizations still say containment is possible. However, there are a few things making containment within the U.S. less likely. The biggest of these is that people are expected to pay out of pocket for testing, treatment, and quarantine. But it doesn't have to be this way, and New York State just proved it!

The current estimated death rate of the virus is 3.4%, which would translate to millions of people in the U.S. if the virus continues to spread. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has just changed the standards for coronavirus testing to anyone who has a doctor's order. But due to the cost of such testing — one Miami man was charged over $3000, and that was with insurance — many people will not get tested and instead continue to spread the disease.

Other countries are already proving that this works. In South Korea, for example, testing is free and extremely efficient — the system even includes drive-through stations that can test people in minutes. Making it a no-brainer for folks to get tested means a better chance of containment, a better understanding of the disease iteself, and even a lower mortality rate — South Korea's is just around 0.65%.

If the U.S. has any hope of curbing the sickness and death this virus is causing around the world, we have to demand free treatment for all! As a society, we are only as safe as the least safe among us. Let's stand together and demand our lawmakers protect us in every way possible, starting with making all testing and treatment of coronavirus free!

Thank you,

Lauren W.
The Care2 Petitions Team


P.S. If the cost of coronavirus testing is left unchecked, undetected cases will cause the disease to spread like wildfire. Please sign the petition.

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