Citizens frustrated with the Democratic and Republican parties are running longshot campaigns for Congress. Meet one: John C. W. Shoop in Washington’s 2nd Congressional District.
EVERETT — With an easy smile and a wide gait, John C.W. Shoop tips his black cowboy hat to passers-by as he strides into a Hadian for Governor event at Forest Park in Everett.
“How’re you doing, John?” someone asks Shoop.
“Living the dream,” he replies. “Living the dream.”
The self-described filmmaker, pilot, real estate entrepreneur, and survivalist is asking for just five seconds of people’s time to check the box next to his name on the August 7 primary ballot.
He is a Republican-affiliated candidate for Congressional District 2, along with two other Republicans and a pair of third party candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Democrat Rick Larsen. The favorite for the Republican nod on Tuesday is Dan Matthews, who has a long list of names on his endorsements webpage. Shoop doesn’t have an endorsements page.
The names of two of these six candidates will make it onto the November ballot. If you give Shoop those five seconds he’s requesting, the ex-Marine promises to give you two years of his life as a U.S. Congressional representative. He’s a longshot, he knows.
Shoop places himself “to the right of Rush Limbaugh, but to the left of Attila the Hun” — claiming he’s more “God and country” than GOP opponent Matthews.
In many ways, Shoop’s platform echoes that of mainstream Republicans: less government, more individual freedoms, and lower federal taxes.
But he is set apart from those he calls “the Republican elite” by two things in particular. First, there are his foreign policy positions: Shoop’s advice for dealing with Arab countries is succinct, “Get out, get out, get out, get out, stay out!” Then there is his overt religious political approach: “I strongly urge you to pray about your vote before you cast it,” he says.
Shoop said he never planned to run for Congress. For the past two elections, he backed Republican John Koster. Then came the recent redrawing of district lines: legislative, county council, and congressional districts are revised every 10 years based on the most recent federal census data.
“The [new district] line literally comes down to the corner of our property and goes across the bridge, just barely cutting me out of John Koster’s district,” Shoop said. With Republican Koster running for Congress in the newly redrawn District 1 instead of the 2nd, Shoop found himself in what he called a “Koster-free safe zone.”
Back in 2000 when Larsen was first elected to Congress, Shoop said he thought Larsen was doing “a good job.” Larsen was the only Democrat for whom he has ever voted.
“But over the years, he has become just a rubber stamp. He no longer really represents us, and we need a representative,” Shoop said of Larsen, who lives north of Everett in the small town of Arlington. “There’s a joke going around that [Larsen] lives in Arlington…Virginia.”
Shoop said his political philosophy is where it was 20 years ago, stressing that he has not strayed from his party. Instead, he feels like the Republican party strayed from him.
“Consider a gentleman that’s blind that you know,” Shoop said, spinning a yarn. “He plays the piano, he prepares his own meals, he knows exactly where everything is. You come over to clean his house up one day, and you move the piano bench, you move the coffee table, you move everything around in the house, and [then you] yell ‘Fire!’ … Somebody is about to get hurt badly.
“You start moving the standards around, and you don’t know where you are and you don’t know where they are. We don’t have any [standards] anymore.”
Shoop is emblematic of a larger political shift in America. With partisan debates in Congress becoming more bitter, Americans are politically moving farther apart. Research shows Democrats and Republicans are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years.
Most of this polarization occurred during George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.
On issues like economic inequality, business and labor, foreign policy, social values, and immigration, Democrats are becoming more liberal and Republicans more conservative. For example, in today’s Republican party conservatives outnumber moderates by about two-to-one.
In response to disappointment with the parties, more citizens are claiming to be unaligned with either major party. Gallup reported that in 2011 a record 40% of us self-identified as political independents. In January 2012, independents made up the largest political group in America.
Yet when you count those independents who lean Republican and those who lean Democrat, the country is split straight down the middle according to Gallup: Republicans 47%; Democrats 45%.
Washington state politics, on the other hand, tilts left. Seven of Washington’s 11-member Congressional delegation are Democrats. The party holds seven of nine statewide offices, while dominating both the Washington State Senate (27-22) and House (56-42) in Olympia.
With other more Republican states, conservatives are pushing out moderates in the GOP to advance a more conservative agenda in state legislatures. Since the emergence of the Tea Party and the Ron Paul movement, the Republican party has been a reality only in name for many disenchanted conservatives like Shoop. He doesn’t see the various factions under this umbrella coming together anytime soon.
Shoop says his main motivation to run comes from from his deep conviction that this is “without a doubt the most important election in the history of this country.”
“We’ve just really gotta turn this thing around,” Shoop said. “We’re headed off a cliff like lemmings. That’s why I’m in it. I want to give people an option, and they’re either going to elect me or not. But I’ve shown up.”