Our Series on Progressives at the Local Level
You know that you’re dealing with a serious grassroots candidate when you do research on them one night with plans to contact them for an interview, and then run into them the next day canvassing on the street. This is how I met Benjamin Thomas Wolf, a progressive Democrat running for Illinois 5th Congressional district.
Wolf knew he had to run back in February 2016 when the Chicago Tribune failed to endorse Democratic incumbent Mike Quigley for the 5th district. He has the proof hanging by tape in his office, the words “no endorsement” highlighted. The Tribune was looking for somebody new, but more importantly, he could tell the people of the Illinois 5th were as well. Every day since the launch of his campaign, a year later, he has been actively connecting with his neighbors and the larger community, listening to what they want in a Representative. You can find him Tuesday nights at his restaurant “Park and Feild’s” having a political conversation and a beer with guests till late.
Democrat Mike Quigley, a centrist Democrat, is serving his 5th term as a Congressman and was entirely unopposed until Benjamin Wolf announced his candidacy. The two met once according to Wolf, but Quigley said nothing to him.
Truth be told, Wolf really has his eyes on every day after the vote. “This election is the obstacle, then you get to Washington and that’s when the real work begins.”
His first time in Washington at 18 was to complete a university fellowship. This led to an interview and job with the FBI as a foreign service officer. Wolf claimed to have worked on some of the most classified investigations. He claims to be the first FBI responder when disaster struck at the Pentagon on 9/11.
Wolf later talked about serving as a foreign service officer on various diplomatic missions in the State Department. He lived for several years throughout the Middle East and North Africa. He chose to forgo his safety to address human rights and security issues from the war zone itself. Serving in Iraq, he admits that he and others began questioning America’s real intent behind the occupation and could not help but understand the distaste that local populations have for American imperialism.
When he gets back to Washington, Wolf says that he will advocate for the progressive agenda that an increasing number of Americans are calling for but much fewer politicians have embraced. The role of America abroad, environmental protection, single-payer health care, proper funding for education, unionized labor, privacy rights, and plenty more make the core of his platform. He is more progressive than Senator Bernie Sanders when it comes to Iraq and Afghanistan, calling for the immediate disengagement of all U.S. military personnel deployed there.
Benjamin Wolf is running his campaign how they are meant to be: getting out on the street to talk to voters, going door to door, phone banking, attending neighborhood meetings, asking for small donations, and sticking values even when it’s hard. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) will only make it harder for him by flooding Mike Quigley’s campaign with money as the race heats up. Wolf’s response to that is “we can’t outspend him, so we’re going to outwork him.”
The barrier between the public and public servants must be brought crashing down. Our laws are being made by this separate class which deals with money and power. We are doing ourselves a disservice if we allow any seat to go unchallenged in 2018. Failing to erase the Republican majority in the house locks us in with two more years of Trump’s catastrophic steamroller. The Democratic Party establishment has proven its inability to govern as it has lost 1,000 seats during the Obama years. It’s time for us as citizens not just to ask for what we need, but to take what we need. The Illinois 5th Congressional district needs Benjamin Wolf and the whole country needs hundreds more like him.