The Democrats in 2018, contrary to popular belief, are running on what they are for. Democrats across the United States are running on various versions of fairer wages, funding for education and infrastructure, and universal access to health care. However, there is one race where I am pleasantly invested in someone running against something: the man who humiliated himself, the state of South Carolina and the 2nd Congressional District he represents there when he shouted the words: “you lie” as the first African American president addressed a joint session of congress.
Majority 60 traveled down the road with one of his Democratic challengers in 2018—Sean Carrigan. The Army veteran who retired a First Sergeant in 2015 has decided that even after a 28 year career in the nation’s armed forces he would still like to serve the country. As Sean traveled down the road, he managed to provide some straight forward answers to several of the issues plaguing the country but we started with the elephant in the room.
“I did watch it live,” Carrigan said about the September 2009 address to congress where Joe Wilson heckled President Barack Obama. “How rude is that?” was Carrigan’s immediate response to the childish behavior of a Republican Congressman. There is a long and complicated history of racial tension in South Carolina from it being the first to secede from the Union in 1860 to protecting the right to own slaves to the removal of the “confederate flag” from the grounds of the SC state capital in 2015 following the murders of nine church goers in Charleston.
“Voters in South Carolina value stability and civility,” Carrigan said. “There was so much vitriol against our first Black president and no accountability. It’s time to hold [Wilson] accountable and send people to Congress who will work together and compromise.”
Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1968, South Carolina has been a reliable Republican state but there is something in the air since the rise of Donald Trump. In 2017, while the national media was focused on the Georgia 6th District special election, Democrat Archie Parnell ran a quiet but intrepid race in the South Carolina 5th District special election. The last midterm election in 2014 in the 5th CD had the Republican incumbent win by 40 points. In the 2017 special election, Parnell closed that gap to 3.2 points.
Carrigan is hoping to ride that Blue Wave to victory in 2018. “I’m out to look out for all citizens. I want to make sure everyone has access to the American Dream. I want to get away from rhetoric that villianizes Republican voters and build a big tent. When I was in the Army, we molded teams together through common goals.”
The retired Army First sergeant believes that even in the partisan environment we’re living in that many people can coalesce around common concerns. Carrigan hopes to lead on incredibly important issues once he gets to Washington; “Homelessness and poverty. In the 2nd Congressional District, there’s a gap between the haves and have-nots. There are things we can do to abate these issues. We can start by lifting the caps on Social Security so that Americans can retire with dignity and respect. Too many people are having to work past 65. While it’s a state issue, we need to expand Medicaid. On the federal side we can expand Medicare to offer a public option to people over 55. That will stabilize some of the issues with the ACA (Affordable Care Act).”
Carrigan rattles off the issues he wants to work on and possible solutions like an auctioneer. “We are not just a country,” he explains. “We are a society. I’m on Tricare for life because of my military service. But everyone needs to feel housing secure, food secure, and health secure.” That’s the commonality between Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between. “We need to move to a non-profit system. A recent survey conducted by Goldman Sachs came to the obvious conclusion that curing illness isn’t profitable.” There’s too much at stake to keep going like this. It’s the reason he supports Medicare for All. “We’ve had non-profit medicine here before in the 70’s. We can take actions to spark innovation but we can’t ignore that life expectancy is 3 yrs longer in Canada. Shifting to Medicare for all will allow us to focus on prevention instead of treatment and can equal significant cost savings for Americans. ”
The Democrat believes that the party shouldn’t run away from populist ideas. Carrigan wants to see the minimum wage begin to climb. While Carrigan supports the concept of a $15 minimum wage, “There needs to be an incremental change — $10 to $12 to $15. We have to make grant money available to small businesses.” He says that making sure people can make a living wage is a foundational part of reaching security in housing, food, and health and ensuring that people have the opportunity to pursue the happiness proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence.
Running in a Republican district can mean running into a great deal of opposition to these progressive ideas. But Carrigan believes his experience leading, training, and recruiting in the military gave him the necessary skills to really communicate to voters of all stripes. “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves. We’ll build relationships through public engagement, and by holding town halls. We need to start listening to each other again.”
We couldn’t just talk about domestic issues, unfortunately. Just a few days before we spoke—although it feels like years—more than 100 missiles were fired by an international coalition against the Assad regime in Syria. “I’m all for using missiles for a just cause,” Carrigan tells me. “The AUMF (Authorization for the Use of Military Force) of 2001 doesn’t apply here. The president needed to seek congressional approval. We probably should have done it but we should have done it the right way. Congress is abdicating its [Constitutional] role. We have 2,000 soldiers in Syria. We are there ostensibly to fight ISIS. We weren’t welcomed in that nation and so we invaded. Are we at war with Syria now? The president needs to communicate with Congress.” Carrigan is referring to the ambiguity in Donald Trump’s statements concerning the attack, including calling the strike on Syria as “sustained.” He argues that, “Yes, we should answer a chemical attack but not without a strategy. There was a sham attack a year ago. We gave notice so they could have time to move their equipment out of the way. We just wasted $220 million. There are homeless veterans, the water crisis in Flint, MI. . . we don’t have money for domestic spending but we’ve got $220 million for these missiles.” Carrigan is energized and sounds ready to be making his case on the House floor. “A fully staffed State Department would lead to more headway,” he says, echoing the words of Secretary of State James Mattis .
With the erratic behavior of Donald Trump and the scandals in his wake, it’s a real concern that Trump will use a variety of things including military action to distract from the indictments stemming from the Mueller investigation. Asked if Trump deserves impeachment, he gives a slightly more aggressive answer than most. “I would like to see the full results of the Mueller investigation,” he says. Then adds, “But it looks to me like Trump needs to be impeached.”
The place to start with that outside of the Mueller investigation, and even beyond Trump, may lie in the failure of Congressional Republicans to investigate a Republican President of the United States and the Russian Federation with the same level of scrutiny they gave to an American Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton). With a Democratic House of Representatives in 2019, Carrigan has confidence in the part’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in American elections. “We won’t be having a Devin Nunes (R-CA) mucking things up. We need a real investigation. This is a farce. Too many Republicans [were] ready to sweep everything under the rug.”
It’s about time South Carolina has representatives that will speak truth to power and hold the executive branch accountable. Sean Carrigan is ready to serve his country one more time and he’ll need a lot of support to ride that Blue Wave.
Sean Carrigan is a retired Army First Sergeant having served 28 years. He’s running for Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @VoteCarrigan