Throughout 2017 my ancient Ford gobbled up 26,759 miles across eight counties in southwestern Ohio as I took the pulse of We the People. From Cincinnati to Portsmouth and Chillicothe to Mt. Healthy, citizens' fear, anger, and puzzlement were universally palpable to me, a physician candidate for U.S. Representative in Ohio's 2nd District.
In the late winter, fueled by anger over an ill-conceived Muslim travel ban, Cincinnati Boomers and Gen X Moms with full plates pushed aside their family duties to vociferously protest social injustice. This resistance shines a light on the lack of accountability and constituent neglect by elected officials. No public Town Halls since 2013? Prioritizing wealthy donors over constituents? The conventional wisdom concluded it is time to hand a pink slip to our "un-representatives."
In spring, a trucker at a Fayetteville Volunteer Fire Department fundraiser, etched face and silvery hair dangling to his shoulders, shared his anger over governmental regulations that limited his ability to choose his required rest time according to his aging biorhythms. Both his livelihood and his safety were being compromised. "Fight for me in Washington," he pleaded. We the People need advocates who listen, learn, and translate constituent concerns into public policy.
In summer, suburban Blue Ash and Anderson Township professionals signed my anti-gerrymandering initiative petitions and lamented that they felt personally betrayed by a lack of decency in the current administration. "I can never vote Republican again" became a familiar refrain. We the People yearn for integrity and fairness in elected officials and in each other.
Throughout the year, as collective hearts dropped with each massacre, We the People longed for public servants who could help keep our families safe. "Don't take away the guns we use for sport, hunting, and home protection. Just treat gun safety like automobile safety," I was advised in rural towns like Hillsboro, Beaver, and Peebles. Education, registration, research, mental health care, common sense. "Please fight for our family's security," they cried.
"I've worked hard my entire life, and I don't have much to show for it. I resent those who game the system at my expense. I don't understand why my taxes go to Walmart employees' food stamps." These laments were expressed everywhere I traveled in the District. We the People despair over decades of stagnant wages and collapse of job opportunity all around us. Could the real welfare abusers be corporate owners like Walmart’s Walton family?
We the People are astounded by multiple attempts to take healthcare access away from Americans and when our elected representatives voted against aid to hurricane victims. I heard "Why?" over and over, as I shook my head in an "I don't know." We the People need representatives who care, who have our backs in times of crisis.
The climax of the 2017 Washington attack on We the People was the passage of the Billionaires' Tax Cut in December. The response in the citizens of Ohio's Second to None District is visceral. No matter their political ideology, they knew they'd been conned by the people they had voted into power. Bystanders sought me out at the grocery store and local brewpub. "I'm confused", they admitted. We the People are puzzled by the consequences of our votes.
The shared wisdom of my neighbors has helped me evolve as a candidate. I've listened respectfully, taken a pulse, empathized to understand, and am starting to synthesize solutions based on the collective wisdom of We the People. I believe that even with diverse ideology, our common concerns and collective experience as neighbors can serve as the basis for pragmatic, smart solutions for our family's health, wealth, education, and security. Together we can demand that every single one of us deserves access to affordable quality healthcare. Together we can demand a living wage for working families. Together we can learn to tread lightly on the planet and finally realize our pledge of liberty and justice for all.
One thing is certain. We the People, no matter what our differences in political party or method, want accountability, integrity, fairness, and compassion from those who serve us. We want representatives who fight for us, not their wealthy donors.
We want to be heard.