Transcript to: Ep 2 - A liberal in llama land
Sohan: We are here today with Brandon Peery. Brandon, thanks for joining us.
Brandon: Hey. Happy to be here guys.
Eric: Brandon, c an you tell us a little bit about your story?
Brandon: Yeah, so I grew up in Medina County, in Litchfield. I grew up on about 3 acres. My dad worked in Cleveland as a HVAC technician at some of the hospitals down there. My mom, for awhile, was a teacher and she left her job to raise myself and my sister.
Sohan: How many people live in Litchfield?
Brandon: Not a lot.
Sohan: It’s not a lot.
Brandon: It’s very, very small. More cows than people, I like to tell people.
Eric: There is a llama farm out there too.
Brandon: There is a llama farm.
Sohan: You know, when I first moved to the area, I remember, we were taking a bus ride and I saw my first llama. It was the most amazing thing.
Eric: Was it magical? Isn’t is called Magical Llama Farms?
Brandon: Yes, and you can ride the llamas there.
Eric: That’s an advertisement for them right there.
Sohan: (Laughter) We would like our free llama, please.
Brandon : Oh, yeah, if you go talk to them, they may let you ride a llama.
Sohan: That would be pretty amazing. I need to go back there.
Eric: That’s why people live here, right?
Brandon: Yeah. It’s mostly the llamas and the cows.
Sohan: It’s the hidden secret. When did you leave?
Brandon: When I graduated high school, I… Basically there were two schools that I was accepted to. I didn’t really apply to all that many. My ideal school was Syracuse up in up-state New York. I just fell in love with the campus when I toured up there. All of the degree programs I was kind of interested in at the time, they offered. And then obviously anybody that grows up in Ohio wants to go to Ohio State because all your friends are going there too. But it’s funny because it cost me less to out of state to Syracuse than it did in state to Ohio State, so that was kind of the deciding factor.
Sohan: And all that despite its terrible basketball team.
Brandon: I can’t disagree with you more, Sohan. I can’t disagree with you more
Sohan: That was a lot of fun because I went to Georgetown. They were massive rivals in the same conference.
Brandon: Yeah, that was a fun time.
Eric: Alright, this is a political podcast, so were going to talk about politics.
Eric: Where do you stand politically. Where do you stand on the extremist right, middle of the road, or lefty leftism? Where do you go?
Brandon: I’m pretty far left I would say. I’ve probably, since Bernie Sander’s campaign, moved even more left on some issues, particularly as Trump has gotten into office. I think that we almost need a stronger counter balance to everything that is going on on the right.
Eric: Were you always a lefty?
Brandon: Yeah. I always felt in high school that my family were closet liberals. I mean, because you can’t really put John Kerry signs up in your yard and expect them to stay up very long in the OH 7. My family has always been pretty left of the road. My mom, I’m pretty sure she was an old hippy. She went to Woodstock. She’s pretty left on a lot of issues.
Eric: If she went to Woodstock, I think that is just confirmed hippy.
Brandon: Yeah. And my dad…. It is always kind of tough to get a gage on where he is politically. I don’t think he was a politically motivated back in his day when….. Uh…. He idealizes Ross Perot, so I don’t know that that says a lot about where my dad is politically.
Sohan: Ross Perot? Remember when he was the crazy billionaire that wanted to run?
Eric: There’s so many. It’s hard to keep track of them all. So did you talk politics when you were growing up with your family?
Brandon: Not a whole lot. Not real in depth. I mean, if there was something on the television and I would ask about it a little inquisitively, they would talk about it, but it wasn’t a mainstay around the Thanksgiving table or anything like that. We never really...
Sohan: Do you find that you have changed how much you talk about it after 2016? I mean, it seems like it is on everyone's minds, but do you feel day to day that you have more conversations or is it something where you just get more frustrated by yourself?
Brandon: It’s funny. I talk with my wife Tiffany, a lot. She is pretty left of the road too. We line up pretty well politically so we talk a lot at home about it, but, you know, there is almost a fear where I live now, in the OH-7, that politics is not something I want to bring up with my neighbors. I’m afraid that if I put up a Hillary Clinton sign in my yard and then...
Sohan: Did you put up a sign?
Brandon: I did not put up a sign. The guy across the street is a very proud Republican - Trump signs and every Republican running last year, he had signs up in his yard.
Sohan: Did you think before the election, because I heard this from a few people who were actually in the area, and they saw how many Trump signs there were, and sort of the energy, and they kind of knew. It was a shock for a lot of people that he won, but a lot of the people I talked to here said it was not a surprise if you actually looked around here.
Brandon: Yeah, I think in this area, just because it so deeply red, I don’t think it was a surprise that he won out here. Some of the more toss up districts, that was kind of a surprise that he won. But the OH7, I don’t necessarily think that was a surprise. But like I was saying, if you lean left of the road and you live in the OH7, you almost feel like there’s not much point in trying to bring up politics. I feel like I’m not going to change the guy-across-the-street’s mind to vote for Hillary Clinton. He’s probably not going to vote for Jim Harbaugh...
Sohan: Ken Harbaugh. We’ve got to be careful about that.
Brandon: Ken Harbaugh, yeah.
Eric: Isn’t Jim Harbaugh the football coach?
Sohan: Jim is the football coach. It’s going to be hard for him because of that.
Brandon: Ken Harbaugh….
Sohan: No one is voting for Jim Harbaugh.
Brandon: So it is kind of something that I tread rather lightly on, just because these are your neighbors and, you know, the next time I get a tree down or need to put a fence up or something like that, I don’t want him to thinking, “Oh, this liberal I live next to, I’m going to stick it to him.”
Eric: Do you think your politics will stop your neighbors from actually conversing with you or being friends with you.
Brandon: Not necessarily. I think it can be a barrier though. It’s something that, moving into a new neighborhood, you know I grew up in Litchfield, which is 20 minutes away, but you know small towns like that, like Valley City, it's a very tight knit community. I feel like my neighbors have all been very accepting and warm and welcoming, but I feel that, you know, maybe you don’t get invited to the next clam bake or something like that if you come off as an outsider.
Sohan: And do you think kind of feeling has hardened in recent years?
Sohan: I just moved back and remember growing up here, we used to get into huge discussions or arguments, whether it was at school or even with parents, and it wasn’t something that would…. I always got invited back to people’s houses and churches and got to talk to them. It was always spirited and everyone always had their very strong positions but it wasn’t as if they couldn’t eat at the dinner table after, but do you think changed in recent times?
Brandon: I do. I think recently, just kind of the national tone of the argument, and maybe I didn’t pay attention to it as much when I was younger, but a lot of the media outlets, you know, CNN, it is just a constant stream of politics, politics, politics. Trump is doing this. Trump said that. Part of that is Trump for setting the dialogue like that and being divisive in that way, but I think it just gets people thinking about it, and like you said before, you just kind of read something and get angry to yourself. You don’t want to hold that against your neighbor, but your like, “You voted for the guy. You’re part of the reason why he is in office.”
Sohan: I think I know the answer to this based on that, but I want to ask anyway. Do you feel optimistic or pessimistic about the 2018 election?
Brandon: 2018, I do feel optimistic, just because a lot of the outlets that I read, I’m a big reader of FiveThirtyEight.com. I kind of like to get into the analytics and the polling and stuff like that. Statistics… I find that really interesting, and a lot of tone, with the approval ratings the way they are kind of bode pretty well for Democrats. Obviously they need to pick up a lot of seats in the House to flip it.
Sohan: I suppose we have been burned on those statistics and polls in the past. I guess day to day, where you live, you say you don’t really see the ability to really change anyone’s mind. Do you think that 2018 will actually, at least in the 7th, see some kind of shift, or does it just seem impossible?
Brandon: I do. I think the 7the is going to be a hard hill to climb, but I’m a big believer in Ken. I think he kinda has the right message...
Brandon: Uh… I believe it is Ken. (Laughter)
Eric: Oh, thanks. (Laughter)
Sohan: No relation. (Laughter)
Brandon: But I think he is kind of the right candidate to maybe flip a district like the 7th. Particularly with the amount of distaste that Trump is sewing. It is only going to help the case. I don’t you explicitly want to just run against Trump and say, “Bob Gibbs votes for everything that Trump wants to pass.”
Eric: He does.
Brandon: (Laughter) He does, but I don’t think that that is necessarily a winning strategy, but I think Ken kind of has the whole package with his background and everything like that. A lot of people out here could kind of take a look at him… you know, if they are moderate Republicans, and say a lot of the things he supports, I can be a believer in that.
Eric: But how bridge that divide because you said yourself that you don’t want to talk to your neighbors about it. You didn’t even want to put a sign out in your front yard. And I am not just calling you out…
Brandon: Sure, sure.
Eric I just mean liberals in general: how do we start bridging that divide with these people and having that conversation to even introduce the idea that it is OK to vote for our candidates. They are not lunatics.
Eric: There some lunatics... but not all of them.
Sohan: I think there's plenty more on their side.
Brandon: You know, I think it has got to be a matter of opportunity, and time and place. I think that if it maybe gets brought up at a cookout or something like that, and somebody is maybe talking about it a little bit, you’ve got to start slow and say, “Hey, you know, I think Ken is alright. He may have some alright ideas.” Obviously I am a big supporter of him and I hope he carries the campaign very far, but I am not going to come out and say, “I love this guy. He is awesome.” You know, you kind of got to start slow so people don’t just brush you off right away.
Sohan: You mentioned the running against Trump thing and whether that is a good idea or not, and I’m curious about the issues you care about, because I think a lot of times, people with our political beliefs, we get really riled up about Russia stories or sometimes gun control after a mass shooting… healthcare certainly… What do you think affects your life the most and what do you care about the most as this news cycle keeps turning?
Brandon: I guess to kind of answer the question, some of the big reasons that I lean the way I do is because a lot of Bernie Sander’s platform really kind of resonated with me. Everything from taking on big corporations, healthcare… those type of issues and the way he wanted to go with them really resonated with me.
Sohan: Do you believe in litmus tests for Democratic candidates? Bernie is obviously a big proponent of single payer healthcare and it is sort of turning into the litmus test that certain candidates in certain districts need to meet otherwise the Bernie core won’t come out and support them.
Brandon: I am not a firm believer in necessarily one issue litmus tests. I don’t think that is how you get control of the levers of power in the federal government.
Eric: But, I’m going to throw a devil’s advocate here, look at the Republicans and the way they have used gun control and abortion rights to bring out those single issue people in droves to continuously vote. Do the Democrats need that, or should they be the big umbrella party that can talk about all these politics, all these different agendas all the time?
Brandon: Yeah, it's an interesting question. I mean, you can kind of bang the drum the other way on abortion and gun control and try to get people to come out, but I kind of think the Democratic base is very different from the Republican base. I think you are talking two different animals in just the kind of the thought process and what concerns them. I think there is a much larger demographic on the left that is a lot more interested in politics and are politics junkies… And I am not saying there is no equivalent to that on the right, but I think the pool of people is a lot bigger. I mean, if you look at the pool of colleges and academics like that, and it skews to the left.
Sohan: I think that is one of the things that Eric and I have talked about a lot. It just seems like when people talk about the liberal bubble, it is a problem where the Democratic party is becoming a big city party and doesn’t really have a lot to say about rural issues and fighting for those types of places. Do you actually envision a time where you can see the democratic party bringing that type of population in? Because if it does go down the road that you are talking about, following those very Bernie style ideas, it is going to be very hard for them to make that argument and win in places that are so red.
Brandon: Yeah, I think, and this is kind of a larger idea that I have had, that the idea of kind of a left-right spectrum may kind of be falling apart. I think if you look at more populist candidates like Bernie and you kind of got Trump almost on the other side of that, that is kind of the direction that you need to be going. And maybe some of these kind of melt together, and it is less of a left-right thing and more of a populist message that you need to be getting out there.
Sohan: If during the primary and you met a Bernie voter, and you were on the same page and you were supporting the same candidate, then comes the general and they went and voted for Trump, which a fair amount of Bernie voters did do actually… Do you understand that, then, because of that populist message that both of them had?
Brandon: I mean, when you sit down and look at it logically, which is kind of the way my brain is wired, I can’t. I like to vote on the issues and they were very far apart. (Laughter) Clearly, on a lot of issues, but they both kind of had that populist tone to both of their campaigns. So, if you look at someone that is not a politics junkie, that is barely going to skim a candidate’s website for president, I can see that. I can see them just listening to Bernie and saying, “Oh, I like some of the things he is saying.” And then listening to Trump and saying, “Oh, I like….”
Eric: Was it kind of a “screw the man” kind of situation for either or?
Brandon: I think it was. Yeah. I think it was. People just upset and angry. I mean, you look at wage stagnation in this country and what it has been doing over the past several decades, you know, since the 70s. People are kind of upset about that and whatever tool they are going to try to use, whether it is big corporations or big government, they want some stick to hit somebody with. (Laughter) You know, they are just kind of mad. So those messages from Trump and Bernie, those guys were the stick. Either one will do, just give me something to hit something with right now, politically.
Sohan: And now people want sticks more than ever, I think.
Sohan: I did want to bring up… You are technically a government worker, right?
Brandon: Right. So we’ve got to be careful. I can’t say what sort of agency I am with, you know, because all 6 of the listeners out there…
Eric: (Whispers) He’s a spy.
Brandon: (Laughter)... But I think we can safely say that I am a government employee, yes.
Sohan: Do you think that has been affected since 2016? It seems like the breakdown of bureaucracy and sort of the…
Brandon: Uh… It is very interesting. One thing I have noticed is that government employees really do take their job very seriously. And when you are part of a government agency, you are very non-partisan. So when you are on the clock, you do not have a party, you are just supporting your mission and that is what you do. Those missions come down from the people in Congress and the White House and sometimes you agree with it and sometimes you don’t, but it is your job to carry out that mission. So it has just been, a kind of, keep the wheels turning. I was kind of astonished because I was at my agency for only a year when Trump got elected, so I was looking around like, “What’s going to happen? Is he going to slash the federal government to nothing? And are we going to be furloughed forever? What’s going to happen?” You know, I’m looking around at some of the people who have been here for 30 years and they were just kind of like, “Well, you know, we survived so far.” A lot of people just kind of shrugged it off and it is just going to be business as usual for the next four years. You know, some fads and programs may get cut, some priorities might get realigned, but in the general sense, everyone is going to keep their jobs. Nobody is going to go anywhere. Everyone seemed kind of mellow about the whole thing, so seeing that, I was pretty happy to see it.
Eric: What do you think it is going to take to really… What kind of issues need to be talked about here, locally, to get people to start paying attention to this, more than just, I am going to vote for the person or party I always vote for?
Sohan: Rights for llamas.
Brandon: (Laughter) Rights for llamas would be a big one. Voting rights for llamas...
Sohan: They need I.D. tho.
Brandon: I mean, I don’t want to go back and play what ifs, but if Bernie…. I really feel that if Bernie would have won the nomination, I think he would have had a chance in districts like out here against Trump. I think he would have been a very strong candidate versus where Hillary was kind of the old guard and it is politics as usual. And well, politics as usual in the Ohio 7th has been red since God knows when. I feel like a different message from the Democrats, kind of along the lines of what Bernie had, could stand a real chance out here.
Sohan: One last question for you.
Sohan: 2020 - Who would you want to run? Is it Bernie again, or is it someone else?
Brandon: The Democratic Party is too old, man.
Sohan: Isn’t it?
Brandon: I love Bernie to death, but he is going to be damn near 80 by the time he is going to be done with his first term.
Sohan: So you are not a Biden guy either?
Brandon: Right. I love Joe Biden. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, so…
Sohan: Let’s get Hillary back in there. One more time!
Eric: Pass. Hard pass for me. (Laughter)
Brandon: But still, I can’t… A guy like Biden, I think he would play really well out here, but he’s old, man.
Eric: He is going to be 78 at the next election.
Brandon: Yeah. I don’t think that is viable. I don’t think that is a good idea. I think there is a lot of people within the Democratic Party that really like Joe Biden and I think that could lead to another issue just like we had between Bernie and Hillary. There are a lot of people that want to pull the party in a different direction and we kind of stick with this old guard kind of mentality and it didn’t work out so well last time.
Sohan: That’s very true. Thanks so much for taking the time today.
Eric: Thank you, Brandon.
Brandon: Yeah. Absolutely.
Sohan: If we could ask you, I think what we are going to try to do is come back and talk to you sometime in the future and see where your head's at as we get closer to 2018 and the next election.
Brandon: Absolutely. I’d love to.