For the People Not the Powerful: An Interview with Senate Candidate Foster Campbell

Foster Campbell is the Democratic candidate in the final US Senate race in 2016, a contest to represent Louisiana. Millennial editor Robert Christian interviewed him on his approach to politics and public policy:

You’ve said, “Matthew 25 is my guide post. I’m on the side of the least of these.” Responding to a question about how he might describe his political philosophy, FDR once said, “I am a Christian and a Democrat, that’s all.” Is that similar to how you might describe your approach? What role does your faith play in your approach to politics and commitment to siding with the poor and vulnerable?

I have always had a message and goals that transcend party. This isn’t a race about Republicans and Democrats. I also don’t wear my religion on my sleeve. There’s no wrong way to do the right thing. I just wake up in the morning, informed by faith, and armed with the facts and make decisions that I think will help regular people. Government has a role to play in making people’s lives better. You can’t starve prosperity out of our nation. I don’t know any other way to be than the way I am.

You tweeted that you agreed with Pope Francis—that climate change is real and Louisiana is feeling the effects. Why is this such an important issue for Louisiana and how will you make protecting the environment a priority?

We lose a football field of land every hour. I’m the only person in this race who will admit we have global warming and that humans play a role, at least in part, in causing it. We have a Master Coastal Restoration Plan aimed at restoring and protecting our coast, but it’s $50 billion short. I believe our coast is a national treasure. We are America’s gas station. There are common sense, science-driven policies that can keep our businesses running and repair our coast at the same time. If we continue to fail on this front, Louisiana will soon disappear. We are the first state in the nation who has had to relocate our people due to land loss – a direct result of climate change. I’m fighting for our Louisiana way of life. Without our coast, we can’t be who we are. I’m fighting for commercial and recreational fisherman, for people who work offshore drilling oil, for generations of our people who know our identity is intimately linked to our coast.

There is some talk about Republicans privatizing core entitlements programs, which you oppose. Why is privatizing Medicare and Social Security a mistake? Why should young people be concerned about such plans?

Republicans were against the GI Bill of Rights. Against Social Security. Against Medicare. Now that most of them benefit from the programs they think they’re great. Privatizing Medicare and Social Security allows the players in the stock market to gamble with the retirement security of the entire nation. I will never support selling Medicare or Social Security to Wall Street because it will lower benefits and could destroy our economy overnight if our seniors, or an entire generation of people, lose their benefits in a crash like 2008. Privatization usually does save money – by making us pay for it. I won’t balance our federal budget on the backs of hardworking people who paid into the system their whole lives. It’s immoral. 

You’ve said, “Disability Rights are human rights.” Why is this issue a priority for you? What do you intend to do to improve the lives of those with disabilities?

As a person who lives with a disability myself (I have only one eye, having lost one in an accident years ago), I know that overcoming challenges is human nature. We have a duty to ensure that every person in our nation has opportunities to use their talents to succeed and contribute. People living with disabilities experience unnecessary challenges to their success every day, and the truth is we lose out. Our economy loses out and working families lose out when we don’t invest in infrastructure, housing, and education that can prevent discrimination and disparate treatment for people with disabilities. It makes good common sense to fix what is broken when it comes to disability rights.

Governor John Bel Edwards has been a big supporter of yours. What are your thoughts on the governor? Do you think his approach, which has focused on protecting life and dignity of every stage of life, offers a model for how the Democratic Party can start to win again in the South and other regions of the country where Democrats are struggling?

What I respect about our Governor when it comes to his position on valuing life is that, like me, he’s not just pro-birth. He’s actually pro-life. That is why he expanded Medicaid to cover 360,000 people who fell into the healthcare gap in Louisiana. That’s why he is fighting for reinvestment in our schools, our teachers, and our coast. Frankly, I’m not too concerned with what the Democratic Party does or doesn’t do. I’m not running this race to fix a party that has clearly lost touch. I’m running this race to prevent my opponent, who will gladly sell Social Security and Medicare to Wall Street, who will walk lock-step with people who want to cut the very best and most productive parts of government, and who generally don’t care about the American people, from becoming the next Senator of Louisiana. I’m running to represent the people not the powerful – I don’t really care what party they register with. My advice to “national” Democrats is to understand one thing very clearly. All politics is local.