There’s a Better Way: Remarks to the 2016 South Carolina Democratic Party Convention



Good afternoon. My name is Arik Bjorn.


When you find yourself preaching to the choir, sometimes you just have to sing your heart out. Let’s belt a bit, shall we?


When the dust of Campaign 2016 settles, I will be your next U.S. Congressman for South Carolina’s Second Congressional District.


I have been told multiple times that my campaign—which to my mind is our campaign—must be herculean to succeed. Truly, it is David versus Goliath.


People often forget that, with his slingshot, David was not a disadvantaged warrior. He was in fact an expert positioned to win. As such, the stones in my pouch are the true principles of the Democratic Party—the building blocks of Civilization.


With these stones, I am positioned to win. We all are positioned to win. For these stones have always felled giants and barbarians when thrown with precision and force. In the coming weeks, I will not hesitate to sling these stones. Philistines, take heed.


I am the only real Democrat running for South Carolina’s Second Congressional District. As many of you know, my JUNE 14 PRIMARY opponent ran as a Tea Party Republican in ’08, ’10, and ’12. In 2014, he defeated Mr. Ed Greenleaf, a true Democrat.


We the Voters of South Carolina Congressional District Two—including myself—share the blame for that egregious election outcome. We must never again let a Republican wolf in Democratic sheep’s clothing win a nomination in our state.


For a nomination for the Democratic Party is precious and beyond assignable value. It is worth its weight in the blood, sweat, and tears of our progressive ancestors and current leaders.


My time with you today is limited. In the space of a few minutes, I must begin the swift journey toward earning your trust and support. JUNE 14 is around the corner.


Some of you know me as ‘the Candidate with the Beard.’ I have been urged by some toward a clean-shaven path. Yet our campaign has assembled an advisory team that includes Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Socrates, and John Brown. We even reached across the aisle to Kirkman Finlay. The vote was unanimous: Policy trumps hair. (Just ask Bernie.) The beard stays.


As to policy and the path toward earning your trust and support: For all my days, I will wear my South Carolina AFL-CIO endorsement like a badge of honor.


Perhaps you have heard the rumor that politicians sometimes fudge on endorsement questionnaires. I can look each of you in the eye and swear on the holy labor names of Eugene V. Debs and Sacco & Vanzetti that the AFL-CIO Congressional Questionnaire and my personal political philosophy align to form a bright progressive light.


A SC AFL-CIO endorsement does not merely establish my support of Living Wage and Workers Rights. A SC AFL-CIO endorsement does not only mean that I abhor “fair trade” agreements that leave the U.S. middle class in the proverbial dust. By the way, Hillary and Bernie agree with me in opposing the TPP. Let’s make this part of our Democratic banner as well.


While I’m at it, let’s support The WAGE Act, introduced by Senator Murray (WA) and Representative Scott (VA). The WAGE Act strengthens worker protections and makes it easier for workers to fight for higher wages and improved workplace conditions. Colleagues, if we don’t rebuild collective bargaining, U.S. workers and families will continue to lose out on the economic progress their hard work creates.


A SC AFL-CIO endorsement means that I believe in the abolishment of Right-to-Work. It also means that I support human rights and ALL causes of justice.


A SC AFL-CIO endorsement means I stand before you a proud Ally of the LGBTQ community who supports same-sex marriage and who calls for a permanent flushing of barbaric bathroom bills. As your Congressman, I will strongly support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Since 1994, ENDA has remained the proverbial “lonely bill on Capitol Hill.” ENDA’s day has come.


A SC AFL-CIO endorsement means I say “Black Lives Matter”—and then pause. … Because the movement needs no qualification. Black. Lives. Matter. Period.


A SC AFL-CIO endorsement means I support immigration reform and recognize immigration as a cornerstone of our democracy. It means I will oppose legislative efforts to scapegoat immigrant groups. It means I will legislate from a position of: “Give me your tired, your poor.”


A SC AFL-CIO endorsement means that I will, in all ways possible, advance the cause of Dr. King’s “audacious hope”:


I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up.


The world is filled with self-centered men and women. But we are other-centered. We are the builders of Civilization. The work before us is monumental. When we retire this evening, after our long weekend of progressive politicking, let us remember:


  • —300,000 of our poorest neighbors in South Carolina remain in a state of unnecessary suffering—some will die this very day—because Governor Haley refuses to lift a pen to Expand Medicaid.
  • —Nearly 300,000 South Carolina children are considered “food insecure.”
  • —Nearly 20% of our South Carolina neighbors live in poverty.
  • —South Carolina’s household income is 20% lower than the U.S. average.
  • —We have enough high school dropouts in our state to overflow Williams-Brice Stadium.


Meanwhile, a phalanx of elephants, the likes of which we have not seen since the days of Hannibal, surrounds. Haley. Scott. Graham. Sanford. Duncan. Gowdy. Mulvaney. Rice. A Republican-controlled General Assembly. And worst of all, “Status Quo” Joe Wilson—the Legislative Henchman of the One Percent—who, after 8 terms and 15 years, has brought us nothing but shame and a nickname.


My fellow Democrats, the barbarians aren’t at the gate. They own the gate. But I am not going to sit around in a seersucker suit sipping sweet tea while my neighborhood, my city, my county, my district, my state, my environment—my home—is destroyed.


What separates Democrats from Republicans is our foundational belief that Government is Good. We are Government. And when “We the People” do our job—to link and protect individuals, communities, and industry—Government is a positive, powerful force.


Colleagues, the job before us is indeed herculean. It is epic.


Let us roll up our sleeves, now, and in the days leading up to the JUNE 14 PRIMARY—and then to November 8 and beyond.


“There’s a Better Way!” Let us blaze a trail of progress together.




{Originally published on the website Forward Progressives on April 29, 2016. The website recently closed down without maintaining an archive. The original article received more than 100,000 views.}



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