Most of our safe seats in Congress, and especially in PA, are occupied by politicians who just aren’t that interested in pushing forward the boundaries of the possible.
Daylin Leach would not be one of those politicians. He has a proven track record of leading on issues, in the truest sense of the word: taking up issues that are not yet popular, and teaching people about why they are important.
Leadership is not putting your name on bills that are popular. Leadership is sponsoring bills that are unpopular, and being willing to take on fire until they become popular.
I thought this segment from our interview was worth highlighting because it really gets at Daylin’s idea of what this job is all about, and why he would be a force for paradigm-shifting change in American politics.
The extreme difficulty of unseating incumbent politicians in America means that you have so much leeway to do what you want. And if doing what you think is right means you get unseated, so what? You don’t see too many homeless former members of Congress.
JG: Why are you running for Congress?
DL: Number one, there are some issues that I care about that we don’t get to deal with at the state level, like foreign policy. But more than that, I have found that you can give a great speech, learn everything there is to know about an issue, write a great editorial, debate brilliantly, and you don’t change a single one of your colleague’s votes. And you get frustrated. You feel like they’re not listening.
What I’ve learned over time is that it’s not about changing their votes. It’s about changing the minds of the public. If you change the minds of the public, the votes will follow. Look at marriage equality – when I introduced Pennsylvania’s first marriage equality bill I got one co-sponsor.
JG: What year was that?
DL: That was 2009. People said “you gotta be crazy.” Now in just a few short years, everyone’s flipped on that. “Oh I was really for that the whole time.” So the same thing will happen on a lot of issues. Congress gives me a much bigger platform to use whatever talents I have to try to change the conversation, win the intellectual argument, and change the minds of the voters so that our colleagues will follow suit. I mean when people start losing elections over gerrymandering, the gerrymandering will stop. It’s my job to make sure people are voting on issues like gerrymandering and voter suppression or whatever else it is – that is what I view my role in Congress to be.
JG: That’s a good outlook. I listen to a lot of politicians talk about the job and I hear “well my voters aren’t there, so I can’t go there” but I think that mistakes how it works. Most voters are taking their cues on policy issues from politicians they like, or advocacy organizations and media outlets that they trust, and other influential people in their lives.
DL: When President Obama “evolved” on marriage equality, overnight polls moved 10-15 points. Some people won’t like this, and if they don’t, there are other candidates to vote for. My role is not to follow the voters, my role is to lead. My role is to do what Wayne Gretzky said: “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it is.” It’s to get out there and take unpopular positions, which I’ve done over and over again in the Senate and the House. Take unpopular positions, take the heat, get yelled at for it, and usually – not every time but usually – the public moves in my direction on that. I’m happy to be the sherpa of new issues, and I’ve tried to do that on a wide variety of issues. We need more people like that, which is why I’m running.