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[The following is excerpted from my new book Don’t Think Of A Republican – How I Won A Republican Primary As A Lefty Progressive And You Can Too, which recounts the rhetoric and strategy of satirical candidate H.F. Valentine’s unprecedented 2022 primary run. See the whole book here.]
Excerpt from H.F. Valentine’s Interview with Jen Brylowski on News 10 WYYB
Jen Brylowski: For the average voter who doesn’t follow politics that closely, what do you want them to know about your policy platform?
H.F. Valentine: What I want them to know is that, if you don’t have the time to read the detailed and thorough plans on my website, all you’ve got to understand is that my policies will always be in favor of the most vulnerable to harm and against any interest that benefits from and, because of that benefit, enables such harm.
And to be honest, you don’t even have to know what all my policies are. Because if I can get this one thing passed, the others are going to fall into place like they should anyway.
JB: And that one thing is?
HFV: Getting money out of politics. If you don’t get money out of politics, it doesn’t really matter where you stand on any of the issues. Because as long as there is a moneyed interest competing with what the people want, that moneyed interest is either going to win or water down your win until it doesn’t taste anything like victory. Every issue comes back to this one issue. You fix this, and you go a long way toward fixing the rest.
You know, it’s funny. Here we are in primary season, running our campaigns, hundreds of campaigns all across the country. And the truth is, it doesn’t really even matter what my stance is on any issue; it doesn’t matter what any of these candidates’ stances are on any of these issues. If there are donors and lobbyists and revolving doormen telling the majority of your politicians to vote the other way, they’re gonna do it.
You’re not going to make significant progress, you’re not going to find truly just solutions, on any of these issues, as long as there is an industry who has an interest in blocking it and those industries are allowed to fund the political or post-political aspirations of your representatives.
JB: But getting back to policy, do you not concede that your policies are closer to those of the Democrats?
HFV: Not until they get money out of politics. Until they get money out of politics, until they try to get money, in a real way, out of politics, I think the Democrats are far greater hypocrites than any of the Republicans.
They’re no better because they know better, or they at least claim to know better.
JB: But your policy platform looks nothing like any of the Republicans in the Congress.
HFV: You’re not getting what I’m saying.
The rest of my policies don’t mean a thing if this policy isn’t addressed. Until this problem is solved, none of them will get solved. So you can talk about whether someone looks like a Republican or Democrat or whatever label you want to put on them. But until we get money out of politics, I say that we should quit referring to anyone as either Republican or Democrat. Because it’s not really honest. You want to be honest, you’ll refer to them by the teams they really represent. Look up who their biggest donors are, and that’s the team they represent.
Diane Feinstein wasn’t Team Democrat; she was Team Real Estate and Team Wall Street. Joe Manchin isn’t Team Democrat; he’s Team Wall Street and Team Fossil Fuel. Just like Ted Cruz isn’t Team Republican; he’s Team Real Estate, Team Wall Street and Team Fossil Fuel.
Politicians can caucus under the Republican banner or the Democrat Banner, but if both Mitch McConnell and his Democratic opponent Amy McGrath were funded by Big Pharma, they’re Team Big Pharma.
You see what I’m saying? On any given issue, you’re not really a Republican or Democrat. You’re Team Donor or you’re Team People. And on every issue that comes before me, I want to be Team People.
But for that to matter, we have to get money out of politics. Because any debate we have over any of these policies on the House floor is some phony-ass baloney as long as everyone then leaves the House floor and gets on the phone to fundraise.
JB: What do you say to those, including your primary opponents, who insist that you’re just a Democrat?
HFV: I would say they’re as full of shit as the Democrats. And, in fact, for them to say that shows they don’t even know what the Democrats are.
It implies that the Democrats really have some kind of ideology. But I don’t believe that. I believe the individuals who hold office may have ideologies, but the Party as an institution is not allowed an ideology, unless it complies with the whims of the rich and powerful.
That’s why they want you to believe that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a corporate master is a good guy with a corporate master.
I know my policies aren’t what Republican voters are used to, but the reason why so many GOP voters have taken a shine to my ass is because I call the Democrats on their shit in a way my opponents can’t.
See, my opponents will give you every excuse under the sun why the Democrats vote the way they do. But the truth is if a Democrat gets a call from the same donor base that just gave a call to their Republican counterpart, they’re job is to ask how high they can jump and still tell everyone they’re better than the Republicans.
JB: And why can’t your opponents make that critique?
HFV: Because they’re ready to jump higher.
JB: So what do you say to Republican voters who don’t agree with you on the facts related to key issues?
HFV: It’s a good question. I run into voters all the time who see the world completely different than I do. And what I always keep in mind is that we may disagree on the surface of the issue, or maybe on every issue. But just below that surface is a place where we most definitely agree. And that is that money has corrupted our politics to the point where they don’t know who to trust. It’s the reason why Congress has such low approval ratings. It’s the reason why populists have done so well in recent showings.
It’s no coincidence getting money out of politics has such high numbers, no matter which party you poll. It’s because the average voter wants real democracy. But what the average politician tries to feed them is Santa Claus democracy. Where you can put all the shit you want to on your list, but come Christmas morning, your ass, once again, is at the mercy of some old white dude, who has more resources at his fingertips than you can imagine, who doesn’t live anywhere near you and who you ain’t never gonna meet, but will ultimately be the one making the decision about what does or does not go under your tree.
JB: But your main primary opponent is not an old white man, but rather a woman in her thirties.
HFV: I didn’t say the politicians were Santa. The politicians are the elves, or maybe a few lucky ones get to be the reindeer. They do what they’re told.
JB: Then who’s Santa?
HFV: Who do you think? The donors are, obviously.
JB: And you think it’s that simple?
HFV: And you don’t?
JB: I’m saying that there are a lot of people who don’t see it as being that simple.
HFV: And I’m saying that the only way to prove me wrong is to get money out of politics and see what happens. That’s all I’m asking.
Let’s get money out of politics and see what happens.
Because, see, I have faith that the average voter really does believe their views and their values can win in a fair fight. The problem is we haven’t had a fair political fight in decades. Not in the general elections, and not in the primaries.
So let’s get money out of politics and see what happens.
If the voters want me out after that, that’s fine. If I can help get us to the point where we can see what our democracy actually looks like, my job will be done anyway.
But we’ve got to get to that point.
Let’s get money out of politics and see what happens.
JB: All right, Mr. Valentine, I think we’ve got it.
HFV: Let’s get money out of politics and see what happens!
JB: That was H.F. Valentine, running for his district’s House seat in the GOP primary.
Note from H.F.:
When I started the campaign, I figured if I had any chance of winning, “Getting Money Out Of Politics” would have to be the cornerstone of my policy platform. No matter what political or economic issue was going to become hot during the run, chances were it could easily be connected back to this one theme. A theme that has wide support by all voters, including even the staunchest of the Republican base.
We’d already seen Republican voters ecstatically cheer on Donald Trump’s “Drain The Swamp” rhetoric. And, no, it doesn’t matter whether he delivered on the promise. What matters is that the one thing all voters (at least tell themselves they) hate is corruption. And if you can get Republican voters to focus on corruption as their key issue, and you can get them to believe you have a viable solution, or set of solutions, it may be your only chance in overcoming the other ideological obstacles your opponents are going to harp on throughout the campaign.
That’s why I used the slogan “Let’s get money out of politics and see what happens.” While I think you should be strategic in your messaging, it’s just as important to be honest. And the truth is if they would have elected a traditional Republican candidate that election and the next election and the next election and so on, shit wasn’t going to get better for them. The only way any of us have a chance at seeing what can get significantly better in our lives, and for our country, is if we first get money out of politics.
That’s why I told voters that they could vote me out afterwards. Because, at that point, you at least have a real shot at seeing what even traditional candidates might stand for once they are untethered to the pocketbooks of billionaires and multinational corporations. And that is something we have not seen in our lifetimes, and will not see unless we do this one thing.
That’s why I’m calling on others to follow my lead. If multiple candidates next time were to pull off these kinds of races by making “Getting Money Out Of Politics” their calling card, we might be able to make this issue a priority and turn that momentum into a mandate.