I Am Not A Politician
Hello, fellow Ohio-87 residents. My name is Nick Barnes and I am running to be your representative in the Ohio General Assembly this November. My primary motivations for doing so are to bring government closer to the people it represents, to increase transparency in our state legislature, and to put an end to lobbyist and corporate influence in politics. I believe that only when we address these foundational issues can we create the type of government our nation's founders envisioned -- one that is truly of, by, and for the people.
I, like many of you, have become disenchanted with the Two-Party Establishment that dominates our politics. Founding visionaries George Washington, John Adams, and Alexander Hamilton respectively warned us of its proliferation, describing such a system as "a frightful despotism, "the greatest political evil under our Constitution," and “the most fatal disease” of popular governments.
In short, we have become a society in which nearly all governance and political dialogue must first be filtered through a gauntlet of factional tribalism before anyone is permitted to take a position, even in the most minuscule matters. As we have seen, such a constrained structure renders party-sanctioned viewpoints ever more rigid, while seemingly requiring the wholesale dismissal, even demonization, of opposing opinions; and of opponents themselves. But this phenomenon serves a more dastardly purpose -- it keeps the majority of American citizens, who otherwise have common interests, bickering among themselves while the legacy elites dance blithely above the fray, relishing -- often inducing -- further conflict. The renowned linguist Noam Chomsky said, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." In most cases, we play our part to perfection -- distracted, divided, and entangled in all manner of manufactured contempt while our resources and agencies are unceremoniously drawn from us in a stream so gradual and insidious that we either don't notice, or worse, thank them for allowing our participation in the transaction.
It is chiefly in the spirit of breaking these restraints and manipulations that I submit my candidacy. I feel we must turn the mechanisms and rhetoric of politics back toward an era when the capital letter after one's name did not define the entirety of a person, did not categorize her automatically acceptable or unacceptable, did not subjugate his particular philosophical nuances to the dominion of Party; when robust debate was informed by solution-oriented cooperation, intellectual integrity, and genuine intentions as opposed to party-approved platitudes, self-service, and deference to moneyed interests and their lobbyists. Indeed, the absence of such capital letters would serve us even better. Of course, running for office as an independent is extremely difficult, as I discovered two years ago. As well, the state of Ohio recognizes NO minor political parties, therefore ballot access is limited to one of two corporate monopolies, otherwise known as Democrats and Republicans.
Nonetheless, Americans are charged with the solemn task self-governance, and we should not conform to, or remain confined by, a strictly limited spectrum of acceptable opinion. Our "very lively debate" should be spirited yet respectful, ambitious yet rational; but never, ever, limited.
A final word on special interests: The United States has become, by every objective measure, an oligarchy, wherein the unlimited exchange of corporate cash and political favors has transformed our government into one not by and for the people, but by and for wealthy, self-interested donors who prey on politicians' lust for enrichment and power. It is no accident that as corporate and lobbyist influence on our government has skyrocketed over the last five decades, the viability, buying power, and economic security of everyday working Americans has plummeted. Our political representatives literally spend more time working to raise money for their campaigns than they do working to solve problems for their constituents, in practice more closely resembling salespeople than public stewards. Clearly, this reality could not have been part of the founders' vision for our nation.
With the preceding in mind, I pledge never to accept a single penny from political parties, lobbyists, corporations, or political action committees, whether I agree with what they advocate or not. That's not how government is supposed to work. My opinions are my own, and I feel that once money is introduced into the equation, I lose the authority to make such a claim. To the extent that funding is necessary to run a political campaign, I will rely on friends and family, on like-minded strangers, and on whatever change I can find in the couch cushions. Mostly, however, I will rely on communicating directly with OH-87 constituents, being open and honest, and being accessible. And of course a record of all political donations is available in great detail on websites such as OpenSecrets.org, FollowTheMoney.org, and others, so this is not something that can be hidden from the public. In fact I encourage everyone to peruse such outlets to better understand the degree to which money infiltrates government, even on a local level.
I am not a politician. I'm bad at public speaking and abhor photo ops. I am doing this out of a genuine desire to improve our politics and to serve the community in which my family has lived and worked for six generations. I have recently started a new business slinging ribs and red beans out of my Louisiana Barbecue food truck. That's my job, and it will continue to be my job even if elected. I view politics as a part-time service, not a career opportunity.
I plan on publishing periodic essays in the months leading up to the election in which I will elaborate on specific policy positions and ideas concerning issues that face us here in OH-87 and across the state of Ohio, but briefly, a few of the issues I care about include renewing the financial and cultural viability of family farms; living wages and guaranteed health care for working class Ohioans; revitalization of small towns through incentivizing local shopping and production; cleaning up Lake Erie shores and waters in order to restore the area to its former "Vacationland" economic and cultural glory; reducing and simplifying regulations for cottage industries in order to encourage small entrepreneurial business startups; reforming and restoring funding to our education system, including libraries, rural broadband access, and vocational training; and making college more affordable for all who seek it, not a cost-prohibitive loan shark scam built on crushing, interest-bearing debt.
I am a social libertarian who believes in personal freedom, inclusiveness, and using our collective resources efficiently and accountably, but not intrusively.
So that's a general overview of who I am and how I view my responsibility as a citizen-representative. All of this is predicated on talking with as many of you as possible, learning about your concerns, and attempting to arrive at a shared understanding of where we are and where we need to go. You will be my partners and advisers, and I sincerely hope that the underlying ideas I have put forth here provide a foundation of commonality that buttresses the quality of our communication and foments a spirit of trust and collaboration. I welcome correspondence and promise to always be transparent, accessible, open, and honest. I wouldn't know how to do it any other way.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to speaking with you.
Nick Barnes, candidate for Ohio General Assembly, 87th District