Over the weekend, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) held the election for their chairperson. Former Labor Secretary for the Obama Administration, Tom Perez, came out victorious, with Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota as a close second. Among these players was a relatively unknown candidate from Ohio, Samuel Ronan.
Ronan, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran, describes himself as a progressive in the mold of 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. He ran for the U.S. House of Representatives then the Ohio legislature in 2016. His most recent run for DNC Chair received some national publicity.
Although his campaign website implies his views on #LGBTQ issues, Ronan now elaborates on his stance in more detail.
Fusion Magazine: For those who didn’t follow the DNC election, give us some background on who you are and your involvement in #politics so far.
Ronan: My military background is pretty much everything I’ve done as an adult and my political experience has been trying to run for office as a Democrat in a rural county in Ohio. So, you can imagine it didn’t go very well. I ended up getting pushed out of my congressional race into a state representative race, and I ended up losing the state rep. race mostly because I did not have the resources or the support structure that I needed. It wasn’t even because the party at the local level didn’t want to help me, but they literally couldn’t. They didn’t have the resources, the funds or the people.
Then I wanted to go back into active duty because once I lost and Trump became president, I was concerned that he would start doing some awful things through the military and I wanted to be in place to prevent that from happenging. But then I heard about the DNC chair race and I went to the Columbus meeting they had, and I wasn’t impressed with what I heard. They asked, “What will you do to bring people back,” and nobody answered the question. They just gave an elevator speech. I was waiting for somebody to get off the stage, walk to the crowd–which would have been all of five steps–hand them the microphone and ask them, “What have we done to let you down? What can we do better?” That simply didn’t happen. And that’s when I got involved with the race.
FM: What are your views on LGBTQ rights?
Ronan: It frustrates me that we even have to talk about it. LGBTQ rights–that sounds so obvious. You guys have a different sexual orientation than the “majority,” how does that in any way, form or fashion affect your civil liberties? Yet, apparently it does in the U.S., and it has been for such a long time. It saddens me, it makes me angry too because you guys have to fight the same battle that African-Americans had to fight, that Hispanics had to fight, that everybody had to fight for so long. It’s mind boggling to me that in 2017 we’re still fighting for equality.
FM: Ohio does not have a statewide law protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. How would you suggest people work to change that?
Ronan: It’s easy. Well, I guess it isn’t easy but the method is simple. You guys have to organize. You need to make it a big deal at the local and state level. Just protesting doesn’t work. Just trying to run a shot in the dark campaign isn’t going to work. You have to be organized and have people on your side. That doesn’t mean mainstream media, that doesn’t mean just the #Democratic Party, that doesn’t mean just one thing. It means combining all your efforts. If you want to affect change, you have to organize and you have to have some structure in order to organize. So, what I would suggest or even be willing to do, is be part of that structure, organization or catalyst. Reaching out to local newspapers and networks. A true inundation of info. Call until all the phones ring off the hook. Email until all their inboxes are full. This has to be an aggressive undertaking, otherwise it will simply be ignored.
FM: Since Trump’s election, some commentators have suggested that the Democratic Party back away from what they describe as “identity politics,” or social issues. What’s your view?
Ronan: Identity politics doesn’t necessarily help the argument but we can’t afford to completely ignore it either. It’s a catch-22. If we don’t talk about identity politics, then minorities tend to fall by the wayside. But if we do, then it comes off as forcing this one issue, when it really is all issues that need to be focused on equally. It was just like my question with caucuses and all these different committees: A women’s caucus, a black caucus, a military caucus; it’s not nearly enough. Because fundamentally, it implies that they do not have a strong or worthy enough voice to be at the table of the decision-making process to begin with. Therefore, they need to have their own organization to come up with the best few ideas to bring up for discussion in the first place. I think it’s intrinsically limiting.
But I also understand it’s an empowering agent that can force the discussion, and it should. We need to make it in such a way that it empowers and drives all of the discussion. We need true equity and equality. As far as identity politics goes, it hurts and helps at the same time. We have to start combining all of our movements: the Black Lives Matter, the LGBT march, the Women’s March, the no ban no wall. These need to be a unified force. Then it won’t and can’t be ignored.
FM: What do you think is the best way to unify those different movements?
Ronan: The frustrating thing is there are plenty of progressive leaders out there: Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, Nina Turner. Yet none of them have taken the initiative to truly reach out to these groups and organizations. I just ran for DNC chair and apparently people like what I had to say. I’m more than happy to be the catalyzing agent. But we have to come to the table. If all these groups want to continue to do their own thing, I’m going to have to figure out a different way to do it. Either starting my own or bringing those who are willing to unify their efforts into the fold, so we can build our network together. That’s actually what I’m currently working on. That’s what it has to come down to.
FM: Why did you run for DNC chair?
Ronan: Because I wasn’t seeing a leader emerge. Honestly, we don’t need another manager or administrator. Tom Perez being the next DNC chair and immediately appointing Keith Ellison to co-chair–it just reeks of platitudes. Tom Perez, I drove that narrative he’s currently using. We have to hold him accountable for it, we have to insure that he does it.
Thing is, they were in a position to be the leaders we needed. They could have embraced, said and meant the things I was saying, but they only used it once it became politically expedient. That’s not leadership. We lack a fundamental leader, that’s why I got involved. Not because I think I’m this great leader or anything. But I’m at least the only one willing to do the work, acknowledge the harsh truths and put forth the effort to fix them.
FM: What are the most important political issues to you?
Ronan: We should seriously focus on infrastructure and clean energy technology. It will bring back jobs, improve our economy, bring us into the 21st century, remove our dependence on foreign oil, etc. As far as social issues, we need to bury this damn hatchet of white people are the dominant race in the U.S. We are the multi-racial society, but we need to start embracing our diversity and cultures. The fact that we’re still having the argument over which bathrooms trans [people] can go to, are you effing kidding me? We need to come together as a country and quit focusing on demographics. We are American citizens first. The dash that preempts that American citizen part needs to be a focus for the sake of culture, not for the sake of value.
FM: What are your plans going forward?
Ronan: I certainly want to stay involved in politics. I definitely want to help the progressives combine. I guess unity is a trigger word now but the point is, we need to combine our efforts as progressives. LGBTQ, Black Lives Matter, Women’s March, all this needs to start coalescing now so we can start working on infrasturcture and be a force to be reckoned with in 2017 and ’18. I also intend to keep a foot in the door at the DNC, because I have the opportunity. The DNC is maybe a tainted party at the moment but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a supportive infrastructure that can be utilized. I have earned, if not the outright respect, the grudging respect, by quite a few of the establishment there. That will be extremely useful if and when I choose to run for Congress. I do intend to run for Congress. But I have to work on building my brand, so to speak. I don’t mean to sound arrogant when I say things like that but for me, this whole world of doing an interview for crying out loud, this was not the life I expected. I expected to do 20 years in the Air Force. But now I that I’ve apparently made a name for myself, I want to do it correctly. That means I have to start reaching out, doing these interviews, building a brand and following and making meaningful efforts to truly follow through with what I may run for Congress for.