Anthony Clark intends to win a Congressman’s honorific representing Illinois’ seventh district. He will do so to inspire young people, specifically his students, and to have the opportunity to offer solutions to the problems in his community in a deeper way than he has been able to do through community organizing.
Brand New Congress (BNC) and the Justice Democrats (JD) seek to challenge corporate Democrats in primaries, and to flip conservative constituencies across the country with outsider candidates running under a progressive platform. They want to hijack the Democratic Party and reform it from a party for obscenely wealthy donors to an inclusive party representing popular interests.
“To see my students’ faces when they know I’m running for office, to see the students that reach out to me, or go door-to-door knocking with me, or hand out my information. They’re the future. It’s going, essentially, from looking into their eyes and seeing hopelessness because they feel like nobody represents them, to looking into their eyes and seeing that they view me as a role model,” said Clark on how his students have inspired him.
As a disabled military veteran, special education teacher and community organizer Clark takes service seriously. In the words of Muhammad Ali and Clark’s Grandfather, “service to others is the rent you pay for room on this earth.” While active in the military Clark developed PTSD and contracted a rare autoimmune condition from chemical exposure.
His top legislative priorities were single-payer healthcare, criminal justice reform, and education reform. Other issues he expected to confront in IL-7 included gun violence, homelessness prevention, community policing and free college tuition.
Clark doesn’t have long-term career ambitions in the Nation’s Capital.
“I believe in term limits so if I get in there and only have one term or two terms. If I’m truly making systemic change, then that’s worth more than a twenty or thirty year career as a Congressman doing nothing,” he said.
He spent the last nine years as a Special Education Teacher and community organizer in his district before deciding to run for office. Members of Clark’s community suggested him to BNC and JD.
He launched his campaign because he was tired of organizing relentlessly with his community organization in order to just meet some of the needs that capitalism and corporate governance wouldn’t. Being a congressman, he decided, would allow him to confront the root causes of issues and to pursue comprehensive legislative solutions.
The BNC candidates don’t accept corporate donations. They are following in the path of the 2016 Democratic Primary Campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Democratic Incumbent, Rep. Danny K. Davis, accepts corporate donations reluctantly. Clark quoted him as saying, “Money in politics is wrong, but because money is in politics I’m going to take it.” This stance confounded Clark who believes in acting on principle.
“People are my only special interest,” he said, ”I’m not going to allow Super PACs or corporations to write my bills for me. The people should be writing the bills and the people should be the ones who are impacting change.”
This is another corollary between Clark’s campaign and that of Sen. Sanders. His campaign opens its ears to the people who American Democracy ignores, the sub-27 dollar donor class.
“It’s not just me going into office, there’s going to be dozens and dozens of us going to office as Justice Democrat, Brand New Congress representatives that believe in the same values that I believe in, that are fighting for the same change that I want,” said Clark about the progressive campaign to commandeer the DNC. If they are able to get dozens of representatives into Congress it will be harder for the establishment to ignore their platform.
Clark advised anybody with an interest in running for public office or starting an issue campaign to study and understand their abilities. Make a skill and resource inventory. Organize with your strengths and mitigate problems caused by your shortcomings. Find people who share your goals, and skills that complement your weaknesses.
“One of my strengths is my energy and passion, so I felt like looking back that overcame many of my weaknesses in regards to never being an organizer before or not understanding how to succinctly structure something,” he said.
Clark’s energy and passion attracted others to volunteer on his campaign. Building this team connected him to people with the skills he didn’t have.
One tool that every campaign needs is a short, persuasive speech that campaign workers can use to attract constituents when they just have a minute to talk. It is often called an ‘elevator pitch.’ Clark’s pitch is about how the country is currently failing to meet the promise of liberty and justice for his students.
He ended the pitch by saying, “I’m running for office to fight for the liberty, justice, and opportunity of all people, so the next time that I’m teaching, the next time my students stand up and recite the ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ it’s genuine and they truly believe in it.”