Finally, election day is upon us. As I get ready to go vote myself, I take this moment to reflect about this arduous yet wonderful journey that I have been on for the past 8 months after I decided to run for Congress. Tired of complaining about the ills of the world and pointing out how our politics is geared to inciting tribalism and pitting us against one another, I made a decision to offer an alternative and present solutions instead of gripping on the sidelines.
I knew from the outset that the path before me was going to be full of challenges and obstacles. I am not under any illusion; I know how it’s nearly impossible for an independent candidate to get elected. Not only do the Democrat and Republican parties collude to prevent competition, too many people have bought into the self-fulfilling prophecy of voting for the lesser of two evils based on fear mongering, gaslighting and emotional manipulation.
Instead of letting the roadblocks that prevent independents from fielding competitive campaigns stop me from running, I used the barriers to entry erected by the status quo as a source of inspiration. My dad used to always tell me that when treated unfairly, do not play the part of a victim but work even harder to succeed. That is precisely what I did as I gathered 1508 signatures on my own in order to qualify for the ballot and then worked with a group of volunteers to run a campaign with only $450 in contributions and minimal resources.
While my opponents were busy raising fortunes from the very same corporations, special interests and oligarchs that have turned our democracy into a kleptocracy, I kept working full-time and driving Uber part time while campaigning in between. I’m sure if I had a high-priced political consultant on my staff, he or she would have quit the minute I made it a point to openly discuss the difficulties I faced being homeless 7 years ago and how I drive Uber part-time to make ends meet.
I’ve been advised time and time again to stop talking about the challenges I’ve overcome and the difficulties I’m navigating in the current moment as I work multiple jobs.
“Teddy, people don’t want to vote for other people who resemble their experiences, they want to line up behind glitz and glamour so focus on the fact that you have an MBA and your successful career as a business consultant”.
I understood where they were going with these words of advice; too many have a tendency to look up to the rich and famous while neglecting so many wonderfully talented people who walk among us. If my objective was to win at all cost, I might have heeded their advice and would have also ran under the banner of one of the political parties while raising money from corporations and special interests.
However, my aim was never to be a career politician and to join the country club that is the US Capitol at any cost, my objective was to plant a seed that We the People can empower ourselves instead of waiting for political saviors to come from millionaires who are working for billionaires.
What has occurred over the past month alone has affirmed my faith that people will turn away from toxic and tribal politics if they are given an alternative. What started with one has become many as countless people have reached out to me over the past month to tell me that they voted for me and many more have rallied behind my campaign.
My campaign ends today but the journey continues. Whatever the outcome of the election this evening, I am deeply grateful for 1,508 who signed my ballot petition, the thousands of people I’ve met and talked to over the past 8 months and for the legions of people online and in person who have inspired me to keep going with words of encouragement.
We are facing challenging times as a country and as humanity writ large, after enduring nearly three years of a pandemic and crises overseas that could lead to the unthinkable, we stand at the precipice of an economic reckoning that will require us to unite beyond our differences in order to mend our country. The days of blaming others must come to an end in order for us to work together for the sake of future generations.
What I have known from the beginning was proven true through this campaign, the endless social and political divisions that are put before us in order to imbue a soft Apartheid in America can be overcome if only we put aside labels and honor what we have in common. May the seed that was planted with this campaign continue to grow and may more and more people reject the politics of tribe and instead embrace our common humanity.