Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions2019-10-01T20:07:42-08:00
But but but…. that beard! And that hair!2019-06-15T01:09:40-08:00

Yes, I have a long beard and long hair. I’m glad you noticed. 🙂 I realize that this is highly unusual in American politics today, and yes I could have trimmed it shorter for the campaign – here is why I did not.

My campaign is built around a central theme: integrity. To cut it off just for an election would be inauthentic. It would be pursuing body-modification for the sole purpose of chasing votes, and that to me rings false. It seems dishonest. As I will be telling people again and again in this campaign, we may not agree on every issue, but one thing you’ll always get with me is honesty. I will sit down with you, listen to your concerns, and answer your questions as directly and honestly as I can. I want government to serve the people, and that means listening to them, taking their thoughts seriously, and finding solutions that address their concerns. With me you’ll always get that. And the easiest way to see that is, well… that in spite of all the political advice to conform to expectations, I decided to come to you as I am, and make my appeal to you based upon my character, my experience, and what I can do for you – not what I look like.

How is a historian helpful to me in Congress?2019-06-15T01:11:39-08:00

I have always read widely – indeed, my house is literally a private library, with bookcases covering every possible space. For me, history is the center of a vast spider web that connects every branch of human knowledge, its sole defining feature being the recognition of change over time. As a historian of ideas, that is what I study. And in that capacity, I have learned a lot about who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we might still go. I have studied economic history, so I know what made American rich and how to ensure that promise reaches us all. I have studied cultural history, so I know something about our differences and how to bridge divides, find common ground, and treat others with respect. I have studied diplomatic history, so I know a fair bit about foreign policy and geopolitics – I still read a dozen newspapers a week from half a dozen countries. I have studied the history of science, so I have a keen sense of what we can do when we put our minds to it.

With me in Congress, you get someone not only dedicated to public service, but who has knowledge directly revelant to many areas of public policy, from foreign relations to macroeconomics to the environment. I can draw on my background in research, my contacts in academia, and my willingness to reach outside my comfort zone and confront difficult truths. Politics requires not only a willingness to compromise and work toward common goals – it also requires solid data and the tools to identify it. My training makes it harder for bad information to slip past unnoticed, and means I am a lot more critical of what I get from the news. With me on a committee, I can promise attention to detail and a willingness to put in long hours to review how a proposal actually works… or whether it works! Electing me gets you not just another partisan hack – it gets you someone able to work through complex bills and make an informed decision about whether they serve your interests.

With the demographics of CA-42, how will you appeal to independent & moderate republicans?2019-06-15T01:10:22-08:00

California District 42

An explicitly “centrist” message, designed to lure Republicans, does not work, and Democrats steadily chasing Republicans to the right has been shown a massive failure all across the country. What can work, however, is a campaign centered on economic populism, since this has proven cross-over appeal – in fact, such messages are behind the previous success of Democrats in much of the country prior to the rightward realignment of our political landscape. My principles will be clear and my positions progressive, but they will be cast in economic terms so that they can best be understood and appreciated by voters who are not interested in the moral priorities Democrats consider vital. Focussing my messaging to suit the characteristics of the district – by hammering home kitchen-table economic issues – allows us to expand our coalition and gain enough votes to win.

One way to see the value of this is to consider that, for all their massive differences in social policy and personal integrity, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both hit populist notes in their campaign rhetoric which had substantial bipartisan appeal. A massive post-election survey of 50,000 voters suggests that up to 12% of Bernie’s primary voters went for Trump in the general election. Finding a way to reach that fraction of the electorate can give us much of the difference between Republican and Democratic votes in the 42nd. That ultimately Trump’s rhetoric is dishonest, and his policies mostly their opposite, is beside the point – what mattered was his effort to channel the frustrations of the working class. If Democrats stand firmly for the working class above all – a proposition that works well with our priorities in general – then I believe a portion of Trump’s coalition can be attracted to our ticket.

Another way in which I can reach out to independents and NPPs is my own non-partisan mentality and outsider mentality. Yes, my views are consistently progressive, but I am not a tribal person by nature, and will review all policies, issues, and bills on their own merits, on their own details, and determine what is in the best interests of the 42nd. My background is in policy analysis, not as a creature of machine politics, and I will let my principles guide my legislative identity, not partisan calculations.

Are you in it to win it? Are you running to make a point, or make a change in Washington?2019-06-02T00:38:27-08:00

I am absolutely running to win and the 42nd can be won. It is, demographically speaking, already a purple district. What it lacks are two key ingredients to flip it blue – enough money to run a massive canvassing and get-out-the-vote operation touching every part of the district, and a candidate who can appeal to working class independents, non-voters (the youth and minority communities, especially), and progressive Democrats alike. The second point is addressed, I would argue, by running an outsider like me who can make an appeal to authenticity and an independent, analytical character, which transcends the “D” on the ballot. The first issue is a more persistent problem, and one that I will seek to address by deploying national contacts to build a major fundraising operation and draw in resources not only from the district but far outside of it. The state and national party bosses will not see the 42nd as winnable, and will not commit the kind of cash that we need, until we can prove that it is winnable, by greatly improving on the fundraising efforts of the past. The funds are not for expensive, big-ticket buys, but for two key things – a more professional core operation, and a much more extensive ground-game than is possible on the shoestring budgets we have been stuck with up to now. My strategy will center on breaking past patterns and changing the rules so that our district gets national attention for a change.

Will you do the campaigning it will take to win the 42nd?2019-06-02T00:38:44-08:00

Absolutely, yes – I have already reworked my teaching schedule to give me most of the week for campaign events and efforts. I did a Ph.D. while working full-time teaching five to ten classes per semester, so I am accustomed to those long, long weeks! I have deep reserves of energy, ambition, and patience, and I can manage a highly-stressful endeavor without sacrificing anything. I am building a campaign that will reach out to every part of our community – to neighborhoods generally neglected, to churches and mosques and synagogues, to students at every area campus (whether in the district or adjacent to it), to Hispanic/Latino groups and Native Americans, to the independent working class in the rural sectors of the 42nd, and to every civil-society group who will allow me to speak. I am a tireless worker and am building a dedicated team to put in the time and effort needed – and with your help, we will knock Calvert out of office at last.

Ken Calvert will play dirty and has money – how will you counter this?2019-06-02T00:39:03-08:00

Calvert is welcome to play as dirty as he likes. I am open about my life and have no dirty secrets – I have led a clean life of hard work, and am ashamed of no part of it. If he attacks me on something, I will calmly respond to it, then move on. Letting your opponent dictate the terms of engagement and keep you on defense is a mistake too many Democrats make. My default approach to dirty politics will be to post a rebuttal so that people who are concerned can find it, and will try thereafter to ignore the matter and continue to focus on policy. My Stoic mentality towards personal attacks should insulate me from the need to fire back at every slight, and I am by character opposed to dirty politics – which I view as a trap laid by some politicians to take you off message. I will attack Calvert on the issues, and his abominable record – not on his personal life.

As to the money, I will hope to increase our success in this area. Much of the things on which Calvert spends money are simply irrelevant to beating him. We do not need television or radio buys, or huge billboards – what we need is a canvassing operation that can knock on every door, and a get-out-the-vote machine that can deliver people to the polls. We will need to raise more than has ever been raised in order to win, but we do not need to exceed his haul because our strategy differs completely.

How can I stay in touch or learn more?2019-06-02T00:39:34-08:00

There are a bunch of ways you can learn more about me or my campaign. For starters, there is this Web site! 🙂 But I am also active on social media, so you can follow me on Twitter or ‘like’ my Facebook page. There is also a contact telephone and e-mail at the bottom of each page, in case you want to get old fashioned.

Have a question for Liam?