- With all the pettiness going on on the Hill, it’s easy to see why Congress doesn’t get anything done.
- I come from a background where I had to work with people to get the change we needed.
- I’m running for Congress in California’s 4th district.
- Brynne Kennedy is a tech founder and CEO who is currently running for Congress in California’s fourth congressional district. She lives in Roseville.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
If you had told me two years ago that in September of 2020, I’d be in my apartment, spending 10 hours or more each day doing video conferences on Zoom, I’d have asked what I did to get put under house arrest.
And yet, here I am, mostly quarantined, in a community battling a deadly pandemic while surrounded by devastating wildfires and choking smoke. And I’m running for Congress.
Given the wild circumstances — in the world, the country, the state — people ask me “why” all the time. Why run for Congress? Why subject yourself to the unfair criticism, the constant fundraising? Why step down from a startup you founded and loved to enter the political arena?
My answer is simple: we can’t fix politics from outside that arena. The challenges we face require new leadership, and a change in approach.
The problems we face
I grew up in a rural community that struggled to adapt to economic changes. Plants closed, crime grew, schools deteriorated, and people lost hope.
My mom is a conservative who runs a small town store. My late father, a military veteran and the first in our family to go to college, was a liberal and a teacher. Both fought tough battles with cancer and a broken healthcare system.
Politics was something we discussed at the dinner table because it mattered in our lives. We didn’t get hung up on the spectacle or on partisan differences. Above all, we believed in the system and in the American Dream. I was taught to work hard, to accept personal responsibility, to give back to the community.
At the business I started, Topia, we were doing well and doing good: we created new solutions to help companies adapt to changes in the way people work, and even before the pandemic, made it easier for employees to work from anywhere and create more prosperity outside of coastal cities. Our mission–years before COVID-19–was to enable people to work from anywhere, to have the flexibility to take care of a child or elderly parent, to live in more affordable places, or to work on the go.
As our solutions gained traction, I talked to members of Congress and other lawmakers about the policy implications, and how the government could be more responsive—on everything from STEM education and universal broadband, to tax and regulatory policy.
What I saw in Washington appalled me. I knew we were polarized, but I had no idea that partisanship and pettiness consumed almost everything. Members of Congress in both parties agreed with the ideas but had to check with party leaders to make sure they could support them. Politicians wouldn’t even sit down with folks from the other party. And very few understood that while they were fiddling and fighting, the world was changing—profoundly.
In business, I was told “groupthink” was the enemy, that you always want to surround yourself with a diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds and opinions. In Washington, “groupthink” seems to be a way of life. The more I saw, the more I thought: we can’t go on like this.
The question became not just: what are we going to do about it? It was also: what am I going to do about it? That’s why I’ve decided that I had to jump in and offer a different perspective—a middle class millennial, a businesswoman, and someone committed to bringing people together and getting things done.
How to fix them
Since I announced my candidacy, the historic health, economic, and environmental crises we face have only strengthened my view that the perspective of a problem-solver and consensus-builder is sorely needed.
Look at where we are:
- No COVID relief package even as schools are struggling to safely reopen,people need to get back to work and states and localities are having trouble funding basic services like public safety,
- No new aid to small business—the lifeblood of our economy—which is facing the greatest crisis since the Great Depression,
- No national strategy on masks and PPE so that we can not only safely re-open—but sustain it,
- No plan to train and equip people for the more mobile economy that COVID has accelerated, or to build the physical and digital infrastructure we need to support job growth in this new environment,
- No aggressive federal plan to manage our public lands, our energy system, or the fire-prone urban-wildland interface that is destroying communities across the West in real time.
This is unacceptable. It has to change. When I’m in Congress I will work to bring people together to support real COVID relief for our workers and small businesses, aid for our state and local governments to fund schools and first responders, and a national strategy to reopen better than before — with training to prepare our workers for high paying jobs, the broadband and transportation infrastructure our economy needs, and a plan to protect our forests and communities.
That’s why I’m in my apartment all day on Zoom calls, making my case, and asking everybody I’ve ever met for their support.
I hope not just to win but to inspire others to run—even if you’re a different age, or in a different party, or from a different background. If you are tired of toxic partisanship and brain-dead politics, I’m rooting for you.
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