It didn’t take long for the overuse of #Resistance to become a painful cliché, a punchline on Twitter used to gently mock the overly earnest and poke holes in the cynical and misinformed. But last week, we were reminded over and over that we really are in the middle of a struggle of civilizational struggle against really hateful, malevolent people and the people they exploit. The pipe bombs, the massacre at the synagogue, the endless harassment of women and minorities — it will all continue unless we do something about it.
It’s incredible to see the kind of work that is going into getting out the vote, despite the endless obstacles being thrown at them by Republicans. After a bus of black voters was pulled over by Georgia police for no good reason, ten more busses, filled with 500 voters, were sent to the polls by groups like Black Voters Matter. (You can donate to the ongoing GOTV efforts HERE.) In Texas, despite record voter intimidation and voting machines that seem to be literally changing results to the GOP, there are women in deep red parts of the state meeting in secret to help get out the vote for Beto O’Rourke.
Meanwhile, in Iowa, JD Scholten, one of our favorite candidates, continue to campaign hard against Congress’s own Neo-Nazi, GOP Rep. Steve King (IA-04). The rabid bigot just recently went to Australia to trade racist notes with a group founded by an actual Nazi, a move shitty even by his standards because his trip to Europe was financed by a Holocaust memorial group trying to get through to him. You can donate to Scholten’s campaign HERE.
“It has to be about the people”
What Scholten is doing is important because it sends a message to these hate-mongers. They have for too long been allowed to spew filth without any real challenge back home, which only encourages them to be more and more unhinged and incite the worst in America. Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan is a bit slicker and less overt with his hatred than King, but he’s actually far more dangerous.
The founder of the far-right Freedom Caucus, he has made it his mission to gum up the works of government — even John Boehner has called him a “legislative terrorist” — who actively works to hurt women, LGBTQ+, minorities, and anyone who is not a rich, bigoted white man. He’s also at the center of a sex abuse scandal at Ohio State, a fact that Democratic candidate Janet Garrett only addressed when Progressives Everywhere spoke with her last week. She was trying to be respectful and keep the focus on the issues, about which she has profound differences with Jordan.
A teacher for 35 years, Garrett has been fighting for Ohio’s 4th district for the last six years. The effort has led to Nate Silver noting the race as a potential major upset, a credit to Garrett in an incredibly, grossly gerrymandered district.
This is your third run for Congress against Jim Jordan. What led you to run the first time and why continue to run?
We got gerrymandered a district with Jim Jordan in 2012. I met him in 2012 when he was running for the first time. I started a group that we called ourselves the Jordan Watch. We met weekly, there were about a dozen of us and we followed his votes and we went to town hall meetings and we tried to raise awareness because there are so many people that don’t know who’s representing them in Congress and they certainly don’t know his agenda.
In 2014, nobody stepped up to run against him. [Former Dem Rep.] Marcy Kaptur actually twisted my arm to get me to run. I was teaching full time at the time and I just had a ragtag group of volunteers. We knew that it was not a serious challenge, but I just thought that somebody had to challenge him, somebody had to raise awareness.
The reasons that I started to run in the first place still remain, because he does not do anything to help the people in the district. I was actually was in Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board meeting with him about three weeks ago and they said to him, “Mrs. Garrett has in her campaign literature that you have no legislative successes. How do you answer to that charge?”
And he said he didn’t go to Washington to pass bills. And I thought, why you didn’t read a job description before you applied for this job? It’s just astounding. And now he wants to be the Speaker of the House. It’s even worse if he doesn’t want to pass any bills. That means he wants to stymie anything that could get through Congress.
All he does is promote the gridlock that we have and foment fear. I was in a debate with him two days ago and he kept talking about Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters. And I reminded him four times that his opponent is Janet Garrett. He’s not running against any of those people and he’s not running against a generic Democrats, he’s running against me.
Tell me about your district — what have people told you over the years, what do they care about?
I believe that this district has been neglected for far too long. The average income in this district is about $40,000 a year for a household, which is not a lot of money to raise a family on. We need to give workers raises. We need to have health care for all of our people. We need to improve our educational system. We need to address our infrastructure problems. They’re just so many things that the government can and should be addressing. He’s a climate change denier, too.
They care about healthcare and social security. I think people are concerned about education as well. Whenever we talk about education, we hear people saying that we need to get a handle on the testing industry and the for profit-charter school movement. We need to get a handle on the amount of money in debt that a kid comes out of college with.
What did you learn in your first two runs about being a candidate and what it takes?
I learned a lot about how to present myself, because I am not an extrovert. And so I had to learn how just present myself as a candidate. That was huge and that continues all the time. The biggest thing that I try to communicate to people is that I care. I’m not in this for money, power, fame, or political advancement. I’m out here doing this because I care about the lives of the people in the district. And Jim Jordan is running because who wants to advance political career obviously because he’s running for speaker of the House now.
You are one of many, many teachers running for office this year nationwide. Why do you think teachers have gotten so politically involved, beyond even the protests?
People get into teaching because they are concerned about the future of our kids. I spent 35 years in the classroom preparing children for their future and now I’m running to make sure they have one. I think a lot of teachers get into these races because they are likewise concerned about the future. And quite frankly, we’re all getting very tired of the way that teachers are being kicked around. Education has become a political football and it’s not the benefit of the kids.
We just talked to three groups of high school kids this morning and I said to them that I want to severely limit the number of standardized tests that they are being subjected to and they were all smiling and nodding her heads. It’s become not about what’s best for the kids, it’s now about what’s best for the testing industry and their bottom line. And that’s not what we should be spending our money on for our educational instructional time.
It should be about the kids. If we don’t get this right and if we don’t educate our kids for the future, America’s not going to be able to compete in the long run. It’s not just about the kids, although that should be enough by itself, but it’s also about America’s future. A lot of teachers have gotten into this.
I’ve thought and said that if Democrats ran on eliminating student debt, it’d be the right thing to do, and they’d have a whole generation of voters loyal for life, like New Deal Democrats. It’s crippling.
My middle daughter came out with $30,000 in student debt. I could not convince her not to do that. She was convinced that if she didn’t do that, she wouldn’t be able to get a really well-paying job. She ended up working in a restaurant and then she went to Spain for three years to got her master’s degree over there. It’s way cheaper to get your degree in Europe than it is here.
She was studying Spanish translation, she got her degree there and she came back without adding anything to her debt, but then she got a job in a women’s shelter, which of course, that doesn’t pay very much and she’s got to make payments on her student debt before she can pay for rent or her car payment or any groceries or any of that. And it’s just horrifying. Luckily she’s got mom to fall back on if she gets an unexpected bill she can’t handle, but there are so many people that don’t.
So if you get elected, are there any other issues you plan on focusing on, along with education and climate change and healthcare?
I believe that the American workers deserve a raise. We need to raise the minimum wage and we need to strengthen unions. If you look at the graph that shows the decline of the unions, it exactly parallels the decline of the middle class and there’s a reason for that.
I was down in Marysville, where they’ve got the Honda plant, and they very proudly told me that when they first opened up they looked at what the union wages were and they gave him just a little bit more and they treat their workers well to make sure that they’re not going to unionized. I’m glad that they’re doing all of that, but the fact of the matter is if there weren’t union workers to compare the wages to there would be no standard and so there wouldn’t be any wage to try to shoot above.
We need strengthen the union movement and we need to treat our workers better. I look at our government and see millionaires serving billionaires. It can’t be just about serving the rich and the special interest groups. It has to be about the people and that’s why I’m running.