Topics of Discussion:
Thomas: Hello and welcome to Opening Arguments, this is episode 350. Ah! What a nice landmark number, 350.
Andrew: [Laughs] If only there was a year zero we would have a fancy new introduction.
Thomas: [Laughs] Confusing, but no, new introduction next episode so patrons hop on, get your quotes suggested. I’m Thomas, that’s Andrew, how ya doing, Andrew?
Andrew: I am fantastic, excited about today’s episode.
Thomas: I’m always excited. I’m in a constant state of excitement about our episodes.
Thomas: We have an interview with Chris Armitage who is a candidate for Washington’s 5th Congressional District, challenging a very Trumpy person who we will talk about later.
Thomas: So that’s gonna be fun, I’m excited for that. Let’s see, any announcements? Law’d Awful Movies coming at you very soon!
Thomas: Go to Patreon!
Andrew: Super excited about that. Yeah, I think it’s very cool that a candidate for office is an OA listener, so I can’t wait for our interview.
Thomas: Awesome. Alright, then why don’t we get Chris on the line?
Interview with Chris Armitage
Thomas: And we are now joined by candidate in Washington’s 5th Congressional District, Chris Armitage. Chris, how ya doing?
Chris: Really great, I appreciate you having me on. I’ve been a fan for a while.
Thomas: Alright, cool! Well back at you, we’re rooting for you!
Chris: Yeah, we’re kinda like they Rudy of congressional campaigns, you really wanna see us in the fight. Everyone wants to see it, as long as we can raise enough money! [Laughs]
Thomas: Oh yeah, that is a problem.
Andrew: Is that the best analogy? I’m pretty sure that kid got killed, right?
Chris: [Laughs] That’s fair, that’s fair.
Andrew: Seriously, as a little background, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your district and about the incumbent which I think OA listeners will probably recognize.
Chris: Absolutely. So our district is a pretty interesting place, it’s 25% bigger than New Jersey, has 10 counties but more than half the population is in one of those 10 counties, so it’s economically diverse. Some of our counties have 30% of the people there below the poverty line, that’s triple the national average.
Chris: We have massive unemployment and underemployment while the Trump administration brags about the unemployment numbers, we have counties that have 10, 12% unemployment and those are the actively unemployed folks. Beyond that our housing costs are rising, there’s a lot of challenges out here. We have a Native American reservation, the Midnight Mine is a thing out there, there’s uranium that was just left out there and so cancer has completely devastated that community.
Chris: So a lot of the poorest counties in Washington State are right here in Eastern Washington, there are a lot of folks left behind.
Our incumbent, Cathy McMorris Rogers, she votes with Trump 95% of the time. She’s actually the chair of his Washington State fundraising committee. Our district is only +9 red so they shouldn’t feel so comfortable or like it’s a stronghold, they really shouldn’t. She hasn’t had a serious challenger, she’s been around since 2004 and most years it’s seen as a sacrificial lamb place to run where folks will jump into the race and walk it, not run it, then get offered some sort of a good position with the State or with the party.
I’m a unique challenger for her as well, she loves to talk about how much she loves veterans and how patriotic she is, well I served in the Air Force at our Air Force Base here in our district, Fairchild, for two enlistments. I deployed to the Middle East as security forces where I did security on the Iraq-Kuwait border and on the Oman-Emirates border where I was a base defense operations controller. While I was active duty I also earned a masters in homeland security and an undergrad in criminal justice and did law enforcement when I was stateside.
Andrew: Wow! I definitely want to delve into those questions because, obviously, I think you’re prepared for us to ask one or two foreign policy questions given the state of the world today and the fact that the United States has carried out an assassination in Iran. I guess I wanna stay on the thread of the district for just a little bit.
You said that it’s an R+9 district, right around in that area which seems to be kind of the sweet spot on Hofeller modelling for gerrymandering a district. I don’t know, when you look geographically at your district does it strike you as gerrymandering? Have the boundaries been recently redrawn or did it just kind of happen that way that it falls into that category of almost always safe but could be underwater in a wave election year?
Chris: This district is definitely – because there’s two congressional districts that cover more than half of the State when we have 10 congressional districts.
Chris: So they’re not really too gerrymandered. They could flip ‘em a different way if they wanted to help them lean blue for sure and guarantee one of them would be blue and one of them would be red, but as it is it’s not too bad. Washington might be a pretty blue State but something I really try to let people know too is we need to cast the net wide.
Chris: We need to fight every single race we can, especially somewhere like here and by the numbers we should’ve been able to win this district before. We actually had a Speaker of the House who was a Democrat from this district. He had it from ’64-’94, Speaker Foley.
Chris: The DCCC put us on the red to blue list in 2018, so that seems like it would definitely be possible with higher voter turnout in 2020 that we should be able to flip it.
Thomas: Yeah, you talk about ’94, that was the key to the Republican, I dunno, [Laughing] takeover of the House, right? Was challenging everywhere, so it’s good to hear that you’re gonna be a part of that effort going forward. Challenging everywhere, I think, is really the lesson that we should’ve learned by all of that.
Chris: Yeah. They’ve been at it for a long time and it was a big upset, obviously, for a Speaker to lose their seat. Especially since he was pretty beloved in this district. But we can take it back and I think it’s gonna be pretty poetic for it to happen in 2020 after the last time it was flipped in 1994.
Andrew: Well I think we’re rooting for you. I wanna talk about some of the specific strategies that you have, but why don’t we pick up on that thread. You described your national security background, it’s always good to shore up where you know your opponent has a political line that maybe isn’t necessarily borne out by the policy votes. We just discussed on Friday’s episode the 5th Circuit’s decision to allow Trump to raid $3.8 billion in authorized military spending and, under the guise of a national emergency redirect it to the big, dumb, impractical border wall. That’s gonna come out of direct military authorization, it’s gonna be stolen from couch cushions and pensions and the like, which doesn’t seem pro-troops to me.
But leaving aside the editorializing there, why don’t I get you to weigh in on the Trump-ordered drone strike killing General Soleimani in Iran. Describe your position on that, your position on the legality, and what you would do in Congress in response?
Chris: Well and I’ll say, too, as far as folks possibly changing their views in the military, you see what he does. I never doubt the depth of human delusion. People throughout history have experienced far worse things, folks in the USSR under Stalin were literally resorting to cannibalism and they would just hate and blame whoever he told them to hate and blame. Alright-
Andrew: [Sighs] Well that, wait wait wait. Sorry, I gotta pick on that one on a bit of a rabbit trail. Thomas is sometimes Negatron but that’s, um… pretty pessimistic. You were there, right? You were deployed, you were in the armed forces. What’s your view of the degree to which the Republican party and Trump specifically have co-opted, propagandized, persuaded, our military?
Chris: That probably sounded negative, but I don’t even need any view on this beyond what the polling shows. The majority of folks in the military, particularly officers, are not fans of Trump. They can see him for, especially the terrible leader that he is, plenty of enlisted folks that I know. We’re taught what good leaders are and he is not one. Blaming other people when you make mistakes and taking credit for other people’s successes? That’s what we were taught every day, it more surprises me that anyone in the military can go through that leadership training and see him as anything other than a weak, cowardly person.
Andrew: How would you reach out to service members, then?
Chris: Well some folks are gonna be a lost cause, but a big thing we do on this campaign when we see MAGA folks at protests or even white supremacists that protest, we ask ‘em how they’re doing and wish ‘em well. We were at a protest recently and there was a neo-Nazi there – this is a hot bed for armed white supremacy, in the whole country, right here in Eastern Washington. We actually have a State representative who was named by the FBI as a domestic terrorist, he wrote a manifesto telling people that we need religious warfare and that any man who is pro-choice should be killed. There are a lot of armed white supremacist militias out here and they show up at protests that we’re at.
I remember being at one and seeing this woman who was probably about 88 years old, maybe 4’10” and she was standing face to face with this 6-foot-tall guy, neo-Nazi guy, swastikas on his hands, shouting each other down. As former law enforcement I tried to talk to ‘em too and tried to get things to calm down but then we all got showed-up, my deputy campaign manager walked over and said to the neo-Nazi “hey bro, do you want a hug?” And the neo-Nazi was like sure, alright, they gave each other a hug and the neo-Nazi put his MAGA hat down by his side and said “well you can’t impeach somebody ‘cuz you don’t like them,” and then grumbled off and left. That was what diffused it and what got the guy to leave.
So at these protests when we see these people we’re nice to them. That’s really the best solution I have, I don’t know if it’s the right answer I just know it’s what’s stopped violence and they’re happier when we yell at them so maybe that’s not the most effective tactic.
Andrew: I love that story, [Laughing] I promise I wanna get back to the Iran question. Why is rural Washington sort of the hotbed of armed neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups? I mean I’ve never heard that.
Chris: Yeah, a lot of people are surprised. There’s a few different reasons, we actually received intelligence briefs about this when I was doing security at our Air Force base, about different groups out here. About one of your favorites, sovereign citizens, they’re also out here!
Chris: We’re close to Idaho and Idaho’s had the same issues. Over the last few decades it’s just been seen as a good place to camp out and do paramilitary training so for a long time they’ve just been inviting other folks out here and using this as training grounds. Cheap land, a lot of open room to roam, more privacy out here, so you know, it’s tough to nail down one specific reason but we’re fighting back.
Also, by the way, my opponent saw that State representatives endorsement and received it and had it on her website.
Andrew: … Wow. So let me do one follow-up on that which is other than the hugging them at rallies [Laughing] which I love, I gotta tell you that story is just so endearing to me. Do you favor any kind of public policy action with respect to growing organized white supremacist groups, neo-Nazis, that sort of thing? Is there anything you would do legislatively in Congress with respect to them?
Chris: I don’t know if we really need new laws to address it, I think we need to update the education system and also how we hire law enforcement officers. I’ve met many people in this district who, when they were young, they were young white men and they were approached by these groups and they tried to recruit them. That’s something these groups do, they actively try to get their members to become law enforcement and to become military.
At a lot of our protests the laws aren’t enforced against them. We have something out here called – well, I won’t give away their name, I don’t wanna give them free press, but they set up a church outside of a Planned Parenthood so that they’re allowed to be there and they just harass everybody going into it. That State representative is closely associated with them.
When I mention all these people, too, I want it to be clear. We’ll have 500 people at our impeachment rally, or 2,500 people at our climate strike and there’ll be 20 or 30 of these people, the other people, the white supremacists and the MAGA folks. They’re a very vocal but small subsect of our area. But yeah, it’s really just gonna take better hiring practices for our law enforcement and better education.
Thomas: Yeah, well, perhaps we should move on from them and not let them get any more air time with their nonsense.
Chris: [Laughs] That’s fair!
Thomas: Let’s get back to Andrew’s question about Iran. Do you have, again, views on what went down and what you would like to see done in the House if you’re a congressman to maybe check the President’s power?
Chris: Of course I support what Senator Sanders and Connor are working on. Personally my view on how we stop all these forever wars is a little bit different than what a lot of people are talking about. One, we need to have the government entirely divest at every single level from military industrial complex related organizations. Also, we need to comply with the international criminal court, which gives up a degree of our sovereignty military-wise.
I believe that any United States President, anyone at any level of this government, who sends our troops somewhere and participates in torture and other war crimes and crimes against peace? They should be held to those standards. If you can’t pass the Nuremberg Trial standards that put Nazis away you deserve the same fate. It’s responsibility at the highest level.
If we’re gonna move forward as a country we need to actually hold ourselves to the highest standards and for a long time we’ve been roughshod all over other countries, all these other countries, and the people who send us to these wars? They go jet skiing, they paint in their free time, they have nice retirements, while our streets out here, homelessness is a big problem. So many of these folks are veterans, they come back and they don’t have the resources they need, they end up turning to substance abuse or alcohol. So that’s how we stop it.
As far as Iran, we killed one of the highest ranking people for another country’s government, it’s not the same as killing Osama Bin Laden. We invited him for a parlez! The United States can never be trusted again to have a peaceful discussion because we had the Iraqi President invite him and then killed him at the airport. So it’s disgusting, it’s terrible.
Like I said, I’m a member of Veterans for Peace and I’m speaking to people who were in Vietnam and the Gulf War and Iraq and Afghanistan and we’re asking ourselves, how do we stop this? I’m friends with other veterans who are progressives running for the House, and we ask ourselves how do we stop this? I remember being at a protest in 2005 with my older brother where we were marching down a major street and doing everything we could to combat the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, just get them to stop and it didn’t work, so how do we get it to change this time? We have to hold politicians accountable.
Andrew: So let me push back and try and steel man the administration’s position as much as possible. You’ve described – this is a challenge, but you’ve described escalation-related harms. It would be really bad to go to war with Iran.
Assume, based on the statements that we have coming out of the Trump administration after the latest round of Iranian strikes on U.S. military bases in Iraq which [Sharp inhale] as far as we know as of the time of this record, there were no American fatalities associated with that. From my perspective, I don’t know, if you’ve heard please let me know if you have additional intel. Everything I’ve read is that our intelligence agencies are, at least in terms of their public-facing side, have not determined whether that was deliberate. In other words, whether Iran was pulling its punch in response or whether it was just fortuitous that there were no fatalities.
But assume that this doesn’t escalate. Assume that it ends where it is which is that Trump was able to assassinate somebody that, as far as we can tell, Mike Pompeo has been agitating for us to assassinate for months, Iran retaliated, did damage to material but no fatalities and then imagine it sort of simmers out. Is there still a unique harm in this particular situation? How do you view the situation assuming no escalation I guess is my question?
Chris: You know if someone decides to drive 100 miles per hour and blow through a stop sign and they don’t get hit? I dunno if I’d call that a victory, and that’s really what I see this as. If more violence was the key to peace we wouldn’t have been at war for the last 19 years, so that’s really my answer to that.
Andrew: Yeah, that’s fair. You mentioned the broader wars in the Middle East. Do you have concrete plans, steps that you would take if elected in terms of minimizing – in terms of bringing those wars to a close? Or let me not ask it as a leading question, sorry, I’ll step down the lawyer hat a little bit and just ask it as an open-ended. What would you do, what would your legislative priorities be?
Chris: No, I appreciate you being clear, I know you like to be clear. [Laughs]
Chris: So in my eyes we have to go upstream. This really guides a lot of my policy proposals, I also have some original ones that I really look forward to bringing out and have had some other representatives get on board for. Now, fortunately there’s a lot of pressure right now to end the AUMF and add safeguards, add rails to the President’s ability to unilaterally wage war and to assassinate people. But my upstream answer is we need to make sure that it’s not profitable to go to war anymore.
Andrew: What do you mean by that?
Chris: Well it comes from complete divestment and rooting out a lot of the corruption in the military. I remember seeing flashlights that were made in China for our guns, they cost about $5-$10 dollars to produce and we were paying $250 for them. I’ve known a lot of people who saw the blatant corruption in our military because it’s become a bottomless pit for self-enrichment for a lot of our politicians.
Thomas: Someone should come up with a phrase for that like, I dunno, like… industrial military comp- naw, something like that. Military, industrial?
Chris: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. We need to have more safeguards. I think it’s not that we can’t, it’s that we won’t, that we haven’t up to this point, but we can. We weren’t always this corrupt and, you know, my big thing is the incrementalism. I’ve seen things incrementally get worse, so clearly incrementalism hasn’t worked. So reducing war powers of the President.
Reducing the ability and the lack of oversight that allows corruption, auditing the Pentagon is one that especially my Libertarian friends like to hear me mention. Audit the Pentagon, audit the Fed, actually look at the books. Trillions of dollars go missing. And you know what? The people who are responsible for this? Right now they get to lead comfortable retirements and that’s part of, like I said, in Congress what I hope to bring is accountability at the absolute highest levels.
Andrew: Well our three Libertarian listeners, I think, are nodding along enthusiastically! Let me broaden that question a little bit. I had asked sort of what your top legislative priority would be with respect to foreign policy, with respect to the Iranian crisis, and you gave a systemic-change answer. I’m gonna ask you the Congressional equivalent of the Presidential “100 Days.” Chris Armitage, elected to Congress on a platform to do… fill in the blank. What’s your top legislative priority, what do you wanna be known for?
Chris: Well I think the most important one’s campaign finance reform.
Chris: So much stems from that and, I mean, it’s amazing. Senator Sanders really did something incredible in 2016 by showing the viability of a campaign that didn’t take corporate money. Now I’m on the 2020 slate for Brand New Congress, for anyone who isn’t familiar they help working class candidates get elected, they’re one of the first groups that found Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and helped guide her campaign and helped it grow. They received about 30,000 applications and picked about 30 candidates of which I’m one. That’s one of their core missions is getting corporate money out of politics.
If we do that we can return to a place of substantive discourse where, you know, Eisenhower Republicans can actually do good things. Nixon created the EPA and policies could actually be debated with an honest and sincere intent to find, not a middle ground that upsets everybody except for the 1%, but new and creative solutions that are fiscally responsible and take care of people.
Andrew: So let’s drill down on that a little bit. Obviously a lot of that is music to OA ears, as I think you well know. In light of Citizens United, what do you think Congress can do to try and eliminate or reduce the influence of corporate money in politics?
Chris: [Laughs] Well I’ll tell you a lot of my answer on this has been influenced by listening to this show and learning a lot more about the Supreme Court and the makeup of our justices.
Andrew: Flattery will get you everywhere, sir, but you still have to answer the question.
Chris: [Laughs] That’s fair, that’s fair. So I’m actually proposing something called the Marketplace of Ideas Act, I chose that name really deliberately because I know that it should have some broad appeal.
Chris: The Marketplace of Ideas Act intends to guarantee third and fourth party candidates ballot access at every single level of our government. [Sighs] I’m just looking for workarounds. We’re also looking to, with the Marketplace of Ideas Act, institute maximum caps on how much political campaigns can receive total. So even if you’re entirely corporate-funded there’s still a cap to how much you can receive.
Another part of the Marketplace of Ideas Act which, you know, ruffles some feathers, is ending political TV ads. There’s some people who aren’t happy about that one but in my eyes we need to do everything we can to make sure that a message is what spreads of its own merit and not just because someone has enough money to Michael Bloomberg the TV.
Thomas: Yeah I was watching the NFL playoffs last weekend and I saw Bloomberg ads and Steyer ads and it was just like yup, that sounds right. Those are the two candidates that I would expect to hear from on the NFL playoffs.
Chris: [Laughs] Those are my workarounds, you know. Exactly, I don’t want people to be able to buy elections so until we can have a Supreme Court that’s more fair and just that’s the law, the Marketplace of Ideas Act, that I believe could at least hedge a lot of the problems that we’re seeing right now.
Andrew: Feel free to punt on this because it’s a tough question that we’ve been wrestling with on the show, but the last clause that you said is “until we have a Supreme Court that is more fair and just,” what are your thoughts? Obviously that’s an incredibly difficult situation but I’d love to hear what thoughts you might have with respect to how to address the fact that even if there is a blue wave, which I think we all … believe is coming? And certainly hope is coming. Donald Trump has substantially remade the federal judiciary and that looks like an impending crisis, what are your thoughts on it?
Chris: Well I know, what, 25% roughly of our federal judges are now Trump-appointees? Around there, is that about right? [Laughs]
Andrew: Yeah, yeah.
Chris: Yeah, I think so.
Andrew: And it’s worse at the higher levels. Trump has appointed more Courts of Appeal judges in three years than Obama or Bush in eight and just as many Supreme Court Justices as both Obama and Bush. So it’s 173 at last count, District Court judges. Again, also not just numerically but distinctions in kind.
Andrew: You’re getting 32-year-old federalist society hacks who have never taken a deposition, argued a motion, and are unanimously rated unqualified by the American Bar Association. That’s asymmetric warfare.
Chris: One of the main things I support, from what would be my role in Congress, is a nonpartisan organization that evaluates the qualifications of future appointees. I think that’s another guardrail we could put in there.
Andrew: Well, but let me ask. In my view the ABA is nonpartisan, right? How do you, in an era of Trump where you just have to say, oh Robert Mueller, lifelong Republican, and his lifelong Republican staffers are all a cadre of Democrats, how do you stop the noisy right from just calling your nonpartisan commission a cadre of crazy socialists?
Chris: Yeah, you know, we cannot really allow those people to decide what we’re gonna do. I’m a constitutional hardball fan, I’m not gonna let those folks decide what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s what – I do believe in bringing folks over from the other side, I do believe in building bridges. That doesn’t mean I’m gonna let people toss us around, I’m not gonna let them try to destroy our sense of what’s right or wrong or degrade our republic. I’m not interested in doing that, I’m not interested in allowing that, I’m not interested in standing for it.
In Congress, part of why I’m running is because I think we need more table-pounders, more people who are gonna let these folks know, people like Lindsey Graham know, this is not okay. We know what right and wrong is, we know that Donald Trump deserves to be impeached, we know that his entire presidency has been one impeachable offense after the other, and so we’re not gonna let you gaslight us, we’re not gonna let you obstruct us. If you’re gonna try we’re gonna come right back at you and we’re gonna do it with truth, and with honesty, and with integrity, and I think that wins.
In my eyes, here, I think Democrats for so long have been focused on process instead of results. That is what has cost us a thousand seats over 10 years.
Andrew: Well, yeah, I would love to go down that rabbit trail with you, I think we are likely aligned or at least on the same side in terms of our previous discussions on contest everywhere. I don’t wanna pass lightly over the fact that we haven’t rehearsed out these questions and answers, and it’s nice to have a political candidate give direct, pretty unambiguous answers to tough questions, I know we really appreciate that.
Thomas: Let me ask a question here. We were talking about impeachment, I’m very curious how you’re managing the idea of balancing talking about big national issues that seem to take over everything now. I mean, I’ve heard it said and I’ve read that it does seem as though in today’s media environment, in today’s social media internet environment that while you are, of course, running for the House you also have a district and there should be issues that you would think would be very particular to your district and I know you’ve mentioned a few of them.
But it seems as though that’s kind of the fader, if you will, on how much do you talk about these local issues versus how much do national issues and talking about President Trump, how much the focus is and how much people at the rallies you’re going to care about what you’re doing for your district versus what you’re gonna do to stop Trump.
So what has been your view of that, being someone who’s running for office in the year 2020? Are you able to focus in on local issues, on things you wanna do to improve the quality of life in your district or is Trump just such an overbearing figure – because, in fairness, he’s such a disaster and he’s such a threat to everybody that it makes sense we’re focused on him. What’s been your experience of that dynamic, of balancing national issues versus issues that are very close to your district?
Chris: Bringing it down to the personal level is really what helps us survive it, but the thing is people can smell when you’re equivocating, when you’re dancing around things, when you don’t wanna say where you stand. I’ve found a lot more success by hearing people out, hearing what they have to say and that’s brought folks over. There’s people who have my bumper sticker next to their Trump bumper sticker and I tell them right to their face the exact same thing I told you there. What it comes down to is when they share their stories and I make it clear that I’m someone who’s for sale, I’m not gonna be bought and paid for.
For example I believe to attend public schools, there should be mandated vaccines but I met with a woman who, she was actually on a Libertarian friend’s Facebook comment section and she asked if I supported medical freedom, which I know is a buzzword for that or a dog whistle for that. I asked her if we could meet, we went to a public park, I met her kids, she talked about her feelings on vaccinations and why she’s against them and I let her know I disagreed but what I do believe, and what no other politician in this region is gonna give is that big pharma isn’t funding my campaign. They don’t get a seat at the table with me, and they’re not gonna be writing the laws that I pass, that I support. That Venn diagram overlap is what helped us agree.
Now when it comes to the local issues, the fact is I go out in any community in this district and I hear horror stories about healthcare. That’s affected me. I was doing security on the Iraq-Kuwait border, driving around in an armored Humvee and helping my mom with her copays because she has lupus. That’s not really fair and I knew that wasn’t fair. When I bring those stories to folks it connects and they share theirs with me, because we all have medical horror stories, and I think that’s kind of the path forward.
Thomas: Well, yeah. This is a hobbyhorse of mine and forgive me, I don’t wanna turn into the candidate running here, but I really do have to ask perhaps a leading, easy question. What does it mean to say that Republicans support the troops?
Thomas: Because I really don’t know what that means. It seems to mean that they get really mad at Colin Kaepernick, that’s like the extent of “supporting the troops,” and then they send troops to their deaths and often don’t provide good healthcare or at least not good mental healthcare. It’s that they sign bills into law or, rather, sign trillions of dollars to build toys or to overpay for flashlights on the guns or something, but I don’t see what that does to actually support the troops. So with that leading question, what would it mean to you to actually support the troops?
Chris: The mainstream media has tried to control what we talk about, because they know that things like supporting the troops are what divide us up at our Thanksgiving dinners. Supporting the troops means not sending them to war, we agree on that and when I talk – I was with a conservative friend of mine the other night, whenever we meet up I know he’s gonna come to me with a few very pointed questions and he was asking about this and about the Iran situation.
[Laughs] I just let him know, I’m done with war. I’ve been there. One of my friends posted on Twitter the other day of his flak jacket and vest covered in blood. It was his friend’s blood. We’ve been at war for so long and it’s part of why Tulsi Gabbard has so much bipartisan support because actually the vast majority of Americans don’t want more war.
Deciding what we talk about and what the conversation is is important, because that’s the path forward. The mainstream media takes these divisive subjects, they know it’s gonna tear us apart because it’s an ephemeral concept, support the troops. They’ve destroyed the real meaning of those words. When you talk to people and you say “I don’t want my friends to die anymore, I don’t think this is worth it, I don’t want any more of my friends to be in harm’s way.” For so long these forever wars have meant a flag hanging from a windowsill or a flag draped over a coffin, but more war increases our danger. We can end up with it coming to this nation, too.
It breaks through the Fox News bubble. That’s the best I have, that’s the best answer I have is that you can break through the Fox News bubble, but it’s about talking about your experiences and speaking honestly from the heart. Low information voters are people that are deciding with their gut. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If you really look at that people are just trying to decide, who do I trust? They might be wrong sometimes, because sometimes we trust the person who’s the most confident and that’s not always the right person, but you know, you can either work with that or let it work against you.
Thomas: We mentioned at the top that you’re in an R +9 district and that certainly seems attainable in a wave election, but who in your mind and in your campaign’s mind maybe, who’s the target to bridge that gap? Is it about converting Trump voters or is it about… For example, how is voter turnout in your district and is that gonna be the key? Getting people who maybe were just sitting it out ‘cuz they don’t feel inspired or whatever, what do you see as the best route to bridge that gap?
Chris: We have half a dozen colleges and most of the students are from out of the area and campaigns haven’t effectively been able to get those students to transfer their residency. We do mail in ballots in Washington State. So staying on top of people and letting them know, hey, did you get your ballot? We’re working on text-trees and text-chains, we have a lot of student leaders. I’m younger than most of the people who’ve been in this race before, so that helps too connecting with those young folks.
Honestly I just meet people even in the most rural parts of this district who are tired of having politicians show up who won’t say where they stand on things. There’s a lot of people in this district who’re ready to vote for the first time ever because they- Oh, go ahead.
Andrew: I was just gonna ask, does Washington have same-day registration?
Andrew: Okay. So it sounds like your answers are very much on the mobilize previously non-voters side as opposed to trying to win over maybe moderate Republicans. Is that a fair summary?
Chris: I mean, I hate to say we’re doing both, but we are doing both. [Laughs]
Andrew: [Laughs] Alright, I knew you were gonna give that!
Chris: Yeah, we’re holding town halls, we’re going to some of the reddest areas in our district and saying hey, I’ve been told that I shouldn’t come here and support the green new deal, but you know what? How many people in this room haven’t had a job for at least a year, how many people in this room make less than $15 dollars an hour? How many people in this room have had warnings not to drink the water in their community in the last five years? That’s a thing that happens out here!
Chris: We’re struggling with poverty, unemployment, underemployment. Whatever area you go to these people are really hungry for some change, so whether it’s the young folks or the older folks, they see oh wow this person’s just being honest with us and it’s amazing how low the bar is that that’s the quality that people admire in someone running.
I think this is a special time in U.S. history, this is the first time you can run for office in U.S. history and you don’t have to say “I’m a white man and here’s my wife and kids and here’s our church.” In a lot of the country you don’t have to do that anymore, the times are changing. People are ready for honesty, they’re ready for getting rid of political gamesmanship.
Chris: It wins ya a lot more votes, a lot more people who say, “I don’t agree with what they have to say but I think they’re a good leader.”
Andrew: And you know, you’ve woven into some of your answers stories about protesting and marching going back from, I think you said to 2005 so it sounds like you’ve been politically active for pretty much your entire adult life. Talk a little bit about how you made that decision to run for Congress. One of the things I always find really interesting, I love trying to share on the show. [Sighs] We cover some pretty dark stories, but empowering people to feel like they can do something and can make a difference. Certainly a normal person of average means I think was the pack you were describing. How did you come to run for Congress? Tell us a little bit about that.
Chris: I don’t come from money or power. My dad had a few different jobs, worked for the railroad and did HVAC repair, my grandfather was a union delivery driver. I remember being a kid and watching, in 1999 when my dad got laid off and we were a family of 5 without healthcare, watching our car get repossessed through the screen window out front, but we were always really engaged in politics. That was, from a very young age we would have really intense discussions. I knew who Bernie Sanders was when I was probably 5 years old! [Laughs]
But also from a young age my parents encouraged me and my brothers to share our opinions and form our own beliefs about how the world could be a better place. When I joined the military I was a little concerned that maybe since we weren’t big on war, I’d been out there protesting the same war I was about to go enlist in as security forces. But they were happy because they said he’s gonna have a living wage, he’s gonna have universal healthcare, he’s gonna have debt-free college. I did that, I went out, I got my education, I’ve always been involved.
When I left the military I decided to pursue something I’d been doing for a really long time, stand-up comedy, and have done that professionally for the last two years.
Chris: Yup, yup! Well, I’m 5’3” former law enforcement with two brothers who are almost a foot taller than me, so I’ve had to get people to laugh to avoid getting [Laughs] avoid getting hit before, so comedy is something I love.
When it came to getting involved in politics though, the bench isn’t really deep out here in Eastern Washington. There aren’t a lot of obvious establishment players to jump into a race, even a Congressional race, and I remember talking to a friend of mine and he said “who do you want to vote for? I know who you don’t wanna vote for but who do you want to vote for?” and I said preferably someone young, someone preferably a veteran, someone who knows what it’s like to make minimum wage, someone who knows what it’s like to be uninsured and underinsured, someone working class. He said, “well why don’t you?” and I said oh well I can’t, I’m working class, I’m an outsider [Laughs] all these other things I had admired, all these things I really wanted to vote for.
The type of representative I always wished I had was just… one of us.
Chris: You know, straightforward, working class person who really cares.
We have a full staff now! [Laughs] We have headquarters and people are jealous of my campaign manager and they’re like how did you get someone so amazing? The answer is, she’s a single mother with two three-year-old twins and was working in customer service before. The answer is I didn’t look at her resume, we just had an open door and have tried to be a place where people can really grow and be straightforward and honest.
I’m the only Democrat in this race. We’ve got some really amazing endorsements, national endorsements and local too, we’ve gotten some really great establishment nods which is crazy as a 27-year-old, LGBT, never run for office before person we’re really building kind of a movement out here in Eastern Washington.
Andrew: Well that is inspiring and thanks for sharing. If we have potential Chris Armitages listening in the audience and thinking “well maybe I’d like to run for Congress,” what would your advice to them be? What’s the first step? It’s maybe too late for 2020, but the 2022 cycle is gonna be important. How did you get started? What was the first thing you did that for you felt like that “okay, now I’m doing something official to make this happen,” to go from the conversation at the barstool, “if I was in Congress I would do X” to- which I’m making fun of myself there, right? I have those all the time. I have a show in which I do that, but to actually running? What’s your suggestion?
Chris: Well it’s not the most exciting answer. Find out if you have a neighborhood council and go to that first. I mean it’s amazing some of the things I’ve seen voted on at neighborhood councils. Attend your city council meetings if you have ‘em, if there’s a seat that’s open that nobody’s jumping into jump into it.
Show up to organizations, there’s so many nonprofits and volunteer-based organizations that I learned about over the last few years and I realized wow, if you just show up you can really rise through the ranks! They need people really bad, they need reliable people and they do great work, so it’s also about more than just holding office, you can become a deeply influential person in your community if you just show up to the volunteer events. If you offer to staff a table for somebody, if you get involved or find an open seat. Build those connections and be a positive force in your community.
Andrew: I love that answer and I love reminding folks that oftentimes 90% is just showing up and that it is doing the legwork and putting in the time with community organizations and groups. I think that’s great advice!
Chris: Can I give a shout out to some of our stuff?
Chris: Excellent. So we’re not taking a cent of corporate money and we have a winning message out here but it’s gonna take some work to get it out to every single person in this district, so if anybody has a chance to go to Act Blue, if you have an Act Blue account, it’s Armitage and if every listener who heard this just threw in a few dollars, especially recurring monthly, we would topple Trump’s Washington State fundraising chair. She is in a winnable district and has really betrayed the ideals of our nation, has betrayed the people of this district.
In Congress I can be counted on as someone who hasn’t taken corporate money and is here to support single-payer Medicare for all and paid-through-16 education, aggressive climate action. I hope people are willing to cast the net wide and help us win everywhere possible.
Thomas: Awesome. Solid pitch, we support you. Thanks so much for coming on and we really do wish you the best of luck and hopefully we’ll be able to regroup later on once you’re, you know, once you’re in the House!
Thomas: We can correspond.
Chris: Look forward to it, thank you!
Thomas: And now it’s time to thank our top patrons, our hall of famers, our all-time greats since it is Top Patron Tuesday. These are folks who are at the hall of fame level on patreon.com/law, enjoying all the goodies.
[Patron Shout Outs]
Thomas: Also, obviously Brian will only punch it when I tell him to punch it.
Andrew: Oh I thought that was a shout out to you, not trying to hijack your “Brian punch it” skills.
Thomas: I was just making very clear, I have security protocols installed in Brian’s brain! Only one person can instruct Brian to punch it on this show!
Andrew: I’ve tried, I say Brian punch it all the time.
Thomas: I don’t trust Andrew with that power, are you kidding me? [Laughs] There can be only one! Alright well it’s time to punch the – keep punching at it and punching at it until we get the bar exam question right, it’s T3BE! Here we go, Brian hit it! [Laughs] He’s gonna totally change it.
T3BE – Answer
Andrew: Alright Thomas, this was a straightforward question. Congress enacted a statute prohibiting discrimination on the rental of residential property on the basis of sexual orientation or preference by any person or entity public or private. Which of the following provisions provides the strongest basis for Congress’ authority to enact the statute?
You narrowed it down to the enforcement clause of the 14th Amendment or the commerce clause, Article I, Section 8. I am here to tell you, Thomas, you go this one exactly right!
Andrew: It is in fact the commerce clause.
Thomas: Always the commerce clause.
Andrew: The enforcement clause of the 14th Amendment, that was meant to be the attractive distractor. If you’re just sort of looking through and you’re your average person you’re like oh yeah, 14th Amendment, that’s about equality and stuff so I’m gonna pick that one.
Andrew: Good job not picking that one, because the 14th Amendment’s enforcement clause only applies when Congress regulates State action. It does not apply to private action, so in order to regulate private action Congress has to have an independent justification for it. That is found in the enumerated powers in Congress in Article I, Section 8.
You kinda laughed at the “promote the general welfare,” but that’s a thing.
Thomas: No I didn’t laugh at it, I just didn’t think it was it, I dunno.
Andrew: Fair enough, fair enough.
Thomas: Eh, it’s a little too general! [Laughs]
Andrew: [Laughs] The case law on the general welfare clause, that is Congress has the power to make legislation, to regulate commerce between the States (that’s the commerce clause) and among other stuff to promote the general welfare, that applies when Congress either taxes or spends money.
Andrew: It does so under the rubric of the general welfare clause, but when it regulates-
Andrew: That’s got to find a power somewhere else. This is neither taxing nor spending, this is a regulation and the regulation is 100% constitutional under the commerce clause. Congratulations, you got it exactly right.
Thomas: Nailed it! [Sighs] Yup! Mm-kay, well, victory lap. Yeah, that was fortunate. Alright well I’m back on my way to still staying constantly around 54% or whatever I’m at, but that’s okay. Better than failing.
Andrew: Exactly 54% with this. It’s like 54.06%.
Thomas: Oh really?
Thomas: Oh jeez. [Sighs] I remember when I dreamed of 60.
Andrew: You could still – we’re on the right trajectory.
Thomas: I’m too old now. When I was back in my youth I dreamed of 60% but I passed it. Your average professional lawyer, you know, is already out of the game by 29, right?
Thomas: Isn’t that how it works? Alright, well I got it right, let’s hop in our limited use time machine and find out who is this week’s big T3BE winner!
Andrew: Well Thomas this week’s winner is Ryan on Twitter who says “C, commerce clause. Rentals aren’t person/place/thing in commerce, but being able to rent and live in areas has an aggregate effect on commerce in that area.” That is exactly correct and Ryan a lot of people got this one right but Ryan was the only person that we saw that really delved into the specifics on the commerce clause analysis. He’s exactly correct and everyone should give @theyarnmcaky a follow on Twitter and congratulations Ryan on being this week’s winner!
Thomas: Alright thanks so much for listening! Thanks so much to our guest, Chris Armitage. I really do believe in that challenge everywhere thing and it’s awesome that he’s doing this. It’s really cool, by the way, that he was one of only 30 candidates to be selected by – was it Act Blue? I think that’s what it was, but anyway, whichever thing he said that’s super cool and it’s an opportunity to take out a Trump supporter in that district.
Andrew: A 97% Trump loyalist. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is Matt Gaetz without the punchable face. She’s way up there.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely.
Thomas: So awesome, good on Chris and we’re rootin’ for him. Thanks so much for listening, we will see you folks for Rapid Response Friday.