William Ed Rushman is running for Congress in CA-46 as an independent.
Can you tell us a little bit about what office are you running for and why you are running as an independent?
I’m running for [Congressional] Representative, 46th District in California. My views don’t fit any existing party recognized by the state.
What are your thoughts on the current office-holder of this position?
He seems like an old-time politician, a master of the system, with a reputation for being very well connected. OpenSecrets.org reports his assets in the millions, and less than one percent of his funding comes from the people. In 2016, there were two Democrats running in the general election, and he won with 70 percent of the vote. He has a 100% rating according to Planned Parenthood’s Web site, although news articles erroneously report it much lower. Much of his funding comes from real estate sources, which is a big deal here because Disneyland is located in the district, so there is a lot of real estate development.
You’ve been very clear about not wanting to take financial contributions. Can you explain your thinking on this?
I believe strongly that money politics is the root of many problems we have, and that until we get the money out of politics, we cannot solve the issues facing the nation. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So I’ve dedicated myself to a campaign below federal reporting limits and have depended on good materials online and, ultimately, the people to spread the word.
What do you think it means to be pro-life?
There’s the most direct definition, to refuse to take a life except in self defense, from conception to natural death. That includes being against the death penalty, since this country has the ability to keep society safe from convicted murderers without it. It also includes being against euthanasia, in the sense of directly taking life. If measures taken to relieve pain hasten death, I wouldn’t count that because the objective is to relieve pain, not kill. It certainly includes not killing non-combatants in military action. I’d reduce or eliminate military action where the object is not protecting innocent life. It really comes down to weighing the value of life differently than [societal norms] today. It follows from that to treat all people with more respect, to protect the vulnerable, to work for a society where all are treated with equal dignity. But for now, the nation can’t even get the basics of “do not kill” right, and I believe that’s the right place to start in building a more just society. Some people appear to believe the key to a just society is to kill all the right people. I reject that.
Do you have any thoughts on the New California movement?
I doubt the backers will obtain enough signatures to even get it on a ballot. It demonstrates how divided we are, and how helpless some people feel.
Who do you look to for inspiration in politics?
The people, first. I have worked with people from all over the world. I naturally tend to talk with all sorts of people, at the store, restaurants, workers skilled and unskilled, students, anyone. They are rarely as polarized as those we hear about in the news, the loud voices. And they have no one to represent them. When I get discouraged with running, I give one of my flyers to some random person and they tell me, “this is what we need!” That never fails to get me going again.
Certainly, Lincoln inspires, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Bobby Kennedy. I have a wide variety of friends, and they have all been encouraging. At the same time, I don’t imitate anyone. I’m here in this time and place, no one else. I have to use everything in my experience to find a path forward for us.
What are some issues that few candidates or current office holders are addressing effectively?
Everything. Money has polluted the system so thoroughly that Congress cannot be effective. It’s not possible to satisfy so many donors and raise money all the time and get work done. They appear disorganized when it comes to the real work of governing, but great at raising money.
But to pick one, it’s the Dream Act. Seventeen years of getting nowhere, making excuses. No one with a lot of money is pushing for it, so it languishes. It is great for raising money, though. Democrats look good for saying they support it and Republicans get donations from those who oppose it. They can both stay on the gravy train indefinitely.
The virtue of being elected as the first true independent in a century is that I can parlay that brief fame into getting the Dream Act put into law. I’m great at leading complicated projects because I can see the path forward. The full plan is on the Web site, but in short, I’ll call the Democrats’ bluff and show the Republicans why it’s in their best interests. It will have to be done quickly, before someone starts a war or something to distract from it. The Dream Act is important because of the young people, but it would also be a victory for all the Americans who want it but are opposed by Congress.
What are some issues in your local district you’d like to raise attention for, and how do they affect your particular home district?
Our district is the poorest in Orange County. The economic recovery is more in Silicon Valley; wages here have fallen behind costs; housing costs keep rising; and we have a lot of homeless people here. Gang violence is still here, and we’ve had police shootings of unarmed people. Improving Congress, getting even some basics right, could be a game changer. We need to unblock Congress, and the first step is to break the financial hold of the parties.
What do you think it will take to empower voters to hold public officials accountable for their actions; what role can a third party play in helping build a climate of accountability to voters?
First, there has to be public will. Voters are apathetic: they don’t research the candidates well, or they vote on one issue or one factor. We need a good example to set expectations, someone to show what could be. The people would then be more likely to hold other officials to a higher standard, from council members to the president. We’ve become used to ‘honest crooks’ as someone put it recently. The people deserve better; they just don’t believe it’s possible.
What do you think is the biggest roadblock to independents gaining electoral success, and how can your campaign bring attention to those problems?
Independents have been viewed as cranks by the public, and with good reason. They rarely get good funding for a campaign unless they sell out like a party candidate. The media won’t give any attention. The biggest roadblock is all the special interest non-profits that say they support some cause, e.g. pro-life, DACA, the environment, electoral reform. These are often fronts for a party. Like the media, they all depend on access to the system, to one or both parties, and if they endorse an independent, they jeopardize their relationship with their main squeeze. Given my positions, nobody wants to endorse me, neither the DACA supporters nor the pro-life advocates. They would rather put their stated objective aside than lose the favor of a party. Again, only electing an independent is going to break that, provided that independent is effective and gets amazing public support. And then calls them out on it.