Q&A With Congressional Hopeful Erin Schrode
by Fadel Allassan
At 24, California Democrat would be the youngest woman ever elected into Congress. Identified as a citizen activist, community organizer and a vocal advocate for environmental action, social justice, public health and responsible consumption. In 2005, Schrode founded Turning Green, a nonprofit devoted to education and advocacy regarding environmentally sustainable and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities. Schrode has been recognized for her accomplishments for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, ABC, CNN and a variety of media outlets. Schrode has traveled from her hometown of Marin, California to New York University to seventy nations across the globe.
You refer to yourself as an “activist, educator and mobilizer”. What makes you want to switch into the field of politics, especially at a time when so many Americans are turned off by politics and congress has an 11 percent approval rating, according to the latest Gallup poll?
I’m crazy right? (laughs) I still believe in the institution of government. I want to reinvigorate a culture of public service. I have seen such remarkable work done in the private sector and the nonprofit sector that the most powerful, capable people I know are not going to government, so I believe so fervently that we need that spark, that dynamism to enter the political sphere today if we really wanna accomplish these massive, sweeping changes that we’re talking about. When did we stop thinking change was going to happen? When did we lose that notion of what’s possible? Getting back to the spirit of politics decades ago when people coalesced and were able to actually accomplish pretty remarkable change.
If elected you will make history as the youngest woman to ever be elected into congress. At 25 you would be five years younger than the current representative to hold that title, current Congresswoman Elise Stefanik. How is it coming to grips with that reality?
You know, we didn’t set out to make history, we set out to make an impact. I believe in representative democracy, the constitution doesn’t say you need to be 30 years old to be in congress. It says you need to be 30 years old to be in the senate and 35 years old to be president. But in a country where 51 percent of our population is female and 35 percent is under 30, where is that? Don’t vote for me because I’m a woman don’t vote for me because I’m young but progressive female voices result in better policy and young people better have a pulse in the future of the state. It’s a crazy notion to be the first of anything, but it’s about purpose not position.
You have said you wanted to change the face of the typical politician. What does that face look like to you right now? What are you hoping it will one day look like?
When I think politician, I think male, I think middle aged, i think state legislature experience because that’s what we’ve come to see, that’s our congress today. I don’t want there to be a standard face of politician. I want our elected officials to represent the beauty that is the diversity of the United States of America. That means all races that means all races that means all ethnicities that means all ages that means all demographics. I also add to that what i said before as well, that it takes money to run for congress and a lot of people wait until they’ve accrued wealth or have personal wealth. I want politicians to represent the fabric of America.
Congress has a reputation for moving very slowly and many would blame partisanship and gridlock for that. How do you plan on reaching across the aisle and tackling that divisiveness if elected?
I have not been entrenched in this power structure for decades. I don’t have strong allegiances to party lines, to donors, to corporations. I am coming in because I believe we can affect change. I also believe our generation is more cooperative. I was on the phone with Elise Stefanik’s chief of staff the other day talking about the importance of young women in politics and how excited we are to see my candidacy and her congressional seat represent something for a generation. The freshman class of congress this year is working together. What I really think it comes down to is that I spent my life building coalitions to accomplish change in the nonprofit stage with policy leaders, business and people. I am an organizer, I bring people to the table and thankfully I don’t have decades of being entrenched in the power structure. I’m an outsider and in that regard, very effective.
You said the centerpieces of your platform are “global and environmental health, learning and the future of work and human rights.” What does that mean specifically and how do you plan to transform your platform into policy?
Learning and the future of work, that’s my way of saying education and jobs. We don’t just need reform, we need a revolution in our education system. That’s making education more accessible and closing achievement gaps, which we have here in California. The affordability of higher education, my peers are feeling the unbelievable burden of astronomical student loan rates and relevant skills training.
The future of work — how do we, we’re architecting new industries, but how do we as government invest in the development of that now so that we don’t have to deal with striking unemployment later? Tax incentives, enterprise-friendly regulations, startup incubators to cultivate our talent domestically so that we’re able to fill job openings with people coming out of our education system.
Global and environmental health is climate action. We don’t just need to mitigate further environmental degradation we actually have to seek to reverse it. There’s something called carbon farming, carbon sequestration — and the technology of that is already in existence, so how do we mandate and incentivize that to actually take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere to help reverse the some of detrimental impacts of climate change right now?
The human rights perspective there’s many components, one of them is women’s rights. Around paid leave, around equal pay and around access to reproductive health and these are the things we have to ensure at the federal level. We’re the only industrialized country does not have paid leave right now. And then gender equality, marriage equality and rights. The bathroom laws that have been passed in North Carolina are reprehensible.
Are you prepared to endorse a candidate for the presidency?
I’m hugely proud to be a democrat, where we have two viable candidates standing up for the issues that matter most. They’re speaking out about education and gender equality and jobs and pushing our country in a better direction. I believe that this process of ideas and policy around change is democracy in action.
I have huge respect for Bernie’s views, particularly on environmental issues and how he’s been consistent for decades. The way in which his campaign has inspired millions, many in our generation, with the revolution thinking our country needs. That power, that grassroots energy.
I hold tremendous respect for Hillary Clinton, I think that she is a exceptional human being. She’s a dynamo who has an unbelievable breadth of experience that will serve our country incredibly well, particularly when national security is at the utmost importance.
I believe that both men and women can and will fight for women’s rights. I think she’s also uniquely poised to lead that charge. I’m really proud to hold up Sanders and Clinton as champions of social causes.
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