This blog post is designed to introduce readers to Dr. Jeremy Teuton, a self-proclaimed Berniecrat who is currently campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat from the state of Washington.
Question 1: Since you identify yourself as a Berniecrat, can you define what that means for readers? More specifically, which high-profile candidates associated with the Sanders insurgency (e.g. Zephyr Teachout and Tim Canova) do you consider most similar to you?
Teuton: I didn’t start out as a Berniecrat. For years, I’ve held onto my policy positions and my belief that government can be fixed. I grew wary of waiting for a candidate I could support--one who I believed meant what s/he said and would work for the good of the nation’s people instead of donors or the politically expedient interests of a party. After watching many candidates talk out of both sides of their mouths (by calling for campaign finance reform while taking all the money they can and either not resisting SuperPacs or actively working to loosen regulations on money in politics), my wife and I finally decided that this was the election cycle when people were fed up enough to act. I credit Senator Sanders with waking the public up and focusing people's attention on the issues that drive candidates like Zephyr Teachout. Although I’m against political parties, I understand the calculation that drove Bernie to identify as a Democrat for his campaign, and I believe there are good people in the parties. However, I do not believe Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is one of them, and I wish Tim Canova all the best in removing her. I’m happy to call myself a Berniecrat to put a label on the values I proudly share with Senator (hopefully soon-to-be President) Sanders.
Question 2: Who are the most important competitors for the senate seat you are seeking, and what makes you think you can defeat them?
Teuton: While the incumbent Patty Murray is the obvious opponent, in Washington there are 17 people listed on the ballot. I have spent my efforts drawing a contrast between myself and the front-runner Republican candidate Chris Vance and the incumbent Democrat (while calling attention to the similarities between those two). I find it interesting that many of the other candidates were motivated to run and indeed champion some of the same issues that I do. I'm not impressed enough with any of them to believe they would do a better job, and to my knowledge none have spelled out as many positions and solutions as I have. I'm running to be a representative for all of Washington, to eliminate campaign finance corruption, and to break the stranglehold of the two national parties. I believe if I can win in Washington without taking the corrupt money, without the backing of the parties, and without forsaking my rational positions, it will help inspire other decent citizens to run. With just ten rational independents in the Senate, neither Rs nor Ds can have a majority that can bully through or block legislation, so only reasonable legislation will be passed.
Question 3: Your website includes a lot of information about your personal and professional history, but which of your experiences or qualities do you expect to be most helpful to you in the battle to fight political corruption?
Teuton: Our government was first and foremost supposed to be run by the people, by citizens. I do not think the current "farm league" method of having politicians work their way up the ladder to federal office serves the people. I'm a professional problem solver. I am a fighter; I chew on problems until I find a way to solve them. My tax code is one example. I also very much believe in practicing what one preaches, as I have solar panels on my home and commute in a plug-in hybrid. As I have lived all over Washington state from the rural east to the metropolitan west, I believe I have a broader experience with the people of Washington than the other candidates. While no one I know likes to be proven wrong, I very much value being challenged and corrected, so I go out of my way to critique my own assumptions. I find that my ability to enter new fields and rapidly acquire proficiency in them is partially due to my need to understand and my willingness to be wrong and ask the "stupid" question to be sure I understand.
Question 4: You have released a videotaped announcement of your candidacy in which you let viewers know that you don't want money from anyone who can't vote for you. The video explains your belief that elected officials should be accountable to their constituents instead of beholden to their donors, but it's less clear about your tax proposal. Some viewers might come away with the impression that you advocate a flat tax (i.e. an identical income tax for all American citizens regardless of income) instead of, say, a graduated income tax. Can you explain what sort of tax program you do advocate and why it's a mistake for potential supporters of yours to confuse that program with a flat tax?
Teuton: I regret that I failed to be clear in explaining my tax code proposal in the limited time available in the video. The code I propose would include many more brackets than we currently have with a slight increase in tax rate for each successive bracket. The increases get smaller and smaller until it effectively stops growing. In my proposal, all income taxes (including payroll and capital gains) are replaced with this single code, so any citizen's income is treated the same regardless of how that income was earned. If two people each make $60K/year (one through the stock market and the other through manual labor), they would pay the EXACT SAME TAX. If the world's richest American made an extra $10K from a particular investment, it would be taxed at whatever rate the highest bracket is. If the poorest American's only income was somehow $10K from that VERY SAME investment, it would be taxed in her/his current income bracket (likely the very lowest). For more details, please see: http://www.drjeremyteuton.com/#!ins-and-outs-tax-code/jcyhz.
Question 5: Jill Stein and the Green Party have long contended that it's "very difficult to have a revolutionary campaign within a counterrevolutionary party." Do you think it's fair to characterize the Democratic Party as "counterrevolutionary"? And is it more realistic for Berniecrats to think they can build a bridge to a brighter political future via the Democratic Party or for Hillary Clinton to build a bridge to a greener economy via the fracked natural gas that she touts as clean?
Teuton: I believe that when parties began as "bottom up" collections of like-minded people pushing a candidate they believed in, they were a good thing for the country. However, I am convinced that the two entrenched national parties are so rigidly hierarchical that they are a detriment to our government, holding too much sway over not only their members but the very mechanics of government. Although I believe it is possible to transition to a green economy while we use natural gas, the tendency to forever postpone true solutions is just like what we see with the parties themselves. It's the transition from the current model to the new one that I think is being blocked in both cases. Reform of the party seems to always be "in the works" or "on the way," and we just have to put up with the mess "for now." I think the effort to greenwash natural gas (especially fracked natural gas) is like carbon capture from "clean coal": a stall tactic instead of a genuine effort to make the necessary transition, which should be seen as a giant economic opportunity (not a burden).
Question 6: Most Sanders supporters agree that getting big money out of politics is the key to solving a litany of other problems that stem from racial, economic, social, and environmental injustice. But isn't it possible that one or more of those problems will actually spiral catastrophically out of control before we can solve the money problem? Can you make a case for addressing any specific problem (from demilitarizing police forces to preserving net neutrality to reducing carbon emissions) before we have eliminated big money from politics?
Teuton: I do not believe you have to wait for any one solution to work on the others because there are good people in both parties. Although I believe in fighting for the country on all fronts, I also believe that some structural things (such as gerrymandering and voter suppression) will not be addressed by the parties and candidates that benefit from them. Ballot access laws in Washington, for example, were written to protect the two-party system and the incumbents from challengers. If I do not finish the primary as one of the top two candidates, the law prohibits me from being elected even if I receive the most votes as a write-in candidate (something I may challenge in the courts if it becomes necessary).
Question 7: If you weren't running for political office, what actions would you be taking right now as a private citizen to fight political corruption? Would your efforts focus on the local, state, or national levels—or do you see an effective way for ordinary people to fight on all three fronts at once?
Teuton: Washington State is currently pushing initiatives to overturn Citizens United and to get corrupt money/practices out of our state politics. I've supported both of these efforts, which correspond to some of my own proposals. I am careful with my spending to avoid supporting business practices I oppose and would like to see some kind of consumer information system to make it easier for people to vote with their dollars. I will continue to fight to restore function to the federal government even if I am not elected.
Question 8: You were responsive to Twitter DMs during the preparation of this blog post. Is that your preferred method of communication, or should readers with questions reach out to you via a different social media platform?
Teuton: I take and answer questions via E-mail (email@example.com), through my campaign page, and on Facebook, I try to reply to tweets and DMs as rapidly as I can. I welcome all questions concerning my policies/candidacy and will answer them. I will likely make the question and answer public unless the questioner requests that I don't. E-mail is probably best for detailed questions. It is also easier to keep track if the questioner wants to follow up.
Question 9: What sort of events and outreach do you currently have planned for your campaign, and how can readers pitch in?
Teuton: I'm working mostly through word of mouth and social media. I had hoped to get more media attention, but the mainstream media seems to have very little interest, which makes it difficult for outsiders like me to achieve a top-2 finish in the primary. If I can pull off such a finish, I would expect to receive enough attention to promote the idea of running without taking any money from non-constituents. I would like to see a day when candidates compete to see how much money people give to charities in the name of their candidacy as an indicator of public support--a much better use of the money than yard signs and robocalls.
Question 10: Will you be in Philadelphia later this month to protest the DNC convention? If not, will you be participating in protest activities closer to home?
Teuton: Professional constraints will prevent me from going to Philadelphia. I'm intrigued by the suggestion for those who can't get to Philly to abstain from commercial activities wherever they happen to be during the protest, but I'm not sure that is really an effective protest and worry what it would do to local workers and small businesses. Because the Democratic convention is just days before the deadline to turn in ballots for the primary, I assume I will be working for last-minute support here in Washington.
The Inevita-Hillary blog extends its thanks to Dr. Jeremy Teuton for taking the time to answer these questions--and wishes him the best of luck in his campaign to become a Berniecratic senator from Washington.