John Anderson is backpacking across the 16-county district he is campaigning in, meeting with voters along the 700 mile journey. Photo submitted
John Anderson pushes political revolution as he backpacks across the 16-county 4th Congressional District on a self-described “Journey to Congress.”
Flashing peace signs, he doesn’t look like a typical Republican on his way to the Aug. 7 GOP primary. Rather than a suit or golf shirt, he sports a scruffy beard, faded “Anderson for Congress” T-shirt and U.S. flag cap with a protective cloth that drapes down over his neck to protect it from the July sun.
The Bell Buckle resident, who teaches math, Spanish and English at Shelbyville’s alternative school, says he’s running as a Republican because the 4th District was gerrymandered four years ago to ensure the GOP primary winner would win the seat. But the nation doesn’t need to move further to the right or left, he says, because the battle between blue and red isn’t working.
It doesn’t need to look toward Washington, D.C., for answers, either, he contends, which is why he’s walking across the district – from Cleveland to Murfreesboro – sleeping in his tent on the roadside and talking to people he meets.
“I’m doing over 700 miles and not going to Washington because Congress is not in Washington,” says Anderson, who trekked through Murfreesboro recently. “The people of America are Congress, so I’m on the road meeting the real Congress. We’re meant to be a self-governing nation, and we’re going to be.”
Anderson believes the nation faces inner threats to its existence, including the “federalization of education” through Common Core, newly-adopted academic standards in math and language arts that outline what students should know at the end of each grade to prepare them for college or a career when they graduate from high school.
“We are going to kill Common Core,” says Anderson.
He also believes the national debt – now at $17.5 trillion – is an “existential threat” to the nation, one that politicians can’t solve because they “don’t have a clue” how to get at the root of the problem.
First, he says, he would start with a budget of zero, then eliminate the income tax and as the budget is built, design a set of flat-rate non-income taxes to bring in funds. At some point, the level of taxation would determine the budget’s ceiling, he says.
Major reductions would involve eliminating the U.S. Agriculture and Education departments, he says, and anything else the nation can’t afford.
Immigration is another threat and a “complex issue,” he says, one that requires a secure Mexican border and greater effort to stop the flow of people into the country illegally. The nation must determine who’s here illegally and repatriate them, but only “on a case-by-case basis because we are a compassionate people,” he notes. He adds that he has seen the problems firsthand while motorcycling and camping along the Mexican border.
“None of this is easy, and that’s why it’s a revolution,” he says. “We’re going to get the politicians out of Congress, and it’s not because they’re bad people. The problem is with the process we use. We allow people to go to Congress and they campaign and fundraise when they get there.”
The solution to stop immediate campaigning is to elect only those candidates who pledge to serve one term, he says, noting his campaign accepts no donations. The right candidates also must pledge to report to the U.S. Capitol five to six days a week and work eight to 10 hours a day for 50 weeks a year.
“That way they will be working on solving problems … more than a typical congressman works in 10 to 12 years,” he contends.
Anderson says the idea that Congress needs experienced politicians is “hog wash.”
“It’s something sensible, dedicated citizens can go do perfectly well,” he says. “So it’s a revolutionary approach, and it’s something Americans want right now.”
While walking through Middle and East Tennessee, he tells people, “The revolution has begun.”
The University of California-Santa Barbara graduate emphasizes that many people, including little, old ladies, respond that only armed, violent revolution will reclaim the country.
“I say, ‘No, we’re not going to do that because my grandchildren aren’t bullet-proof,” he says.
But he believes a revolution is necessary to return American to its roots. He describes it as a race to the cross, of sorts.
“We are going to save the nation,” he says, “and we’re going to see growth, prosperity, security and personal liberty that we have never known.”