Mike Quigley: Candidate profile, U.S. House 5th District

Incumbent Democrat Mike Quigley of Chicago faces a challenge from Republican Tommy Hanson in the race for the 5th Congressional District, which includes parts of Hinsdale, Oak Brook, Schiller Park, and Chicago's North and Northwest sides.

Q: What has Donald Trump's unconventional leadership taught us about politics in the United States? What is the best thing his presidency has done? What is the most significant criticism you have of it?

A: The most important lesson Donald Trump's election taught us is that when people believe the government no longer has their interests at heart, they are willing to embrace drastic change and elect an unqualified outsider.

We've all experienced the consequences of that decision in Trump's failed response to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic collapse. We've also witnessed his stunning corruption by pressuring foreign leaders to aid his reelection and his efforts to profit personally at taxpayer expense.

He's also undermined the confidence in, and independence of, many of our government's democratic institutions, forcing executive agencies to prioritize his constant self-promotion and personal legal defense. Exposing the insufficiency of unspoken norms to rein in an executive branch unaccountable to the American people may be Trump's most lasting legacy.

No matter who our next president is, we must rethink how Congress exercises its oversight over the executive branch. President Trump believes he is above the law, plain and simple. By straining our institutions, in addition to his disastrous response to the many crises facing our country, he has brought America to a tipping point.

Q: Many critics of governmental process complain that both Barack Obama and Donald Trump governed too much through executive orders rather than in collaboration with Congress. Is our system in danger of veering toward authoritarianism? From a structural standpoint, does Congress need to place stronger limits on the power of the presidency? If so, be specific on what some of those limits might be. If not, please explain your view.

A: There are many consequences to the gridlock that has crippled Washington, both for public policy and for the very functioning of our system. Certainly, President Trump has displayed autocratic tendencies and taken numerous actions that would have previously been unthinkable in a functioning democracy to politicize his office, cement his power, and enrich himself personally.

But he's only been able to do these things because of his enablers in the House and Senate. Yes, Congress must place stronger limits on the executive by codifying ethics rules and other norms that have been destroyed by this president. But Congress must also assert itself as a coequal branch.

Legal protections and constitutional checks and balances are of no consequence if they aren't invoked and enforced. Sen. Mitch McConnell, through his unprecedented inaction on hundreds of pieces of important legislation, big and small, has prompted recent presidents to try to work around Congress to enact their agenda, with dubious legality. Worse, by enabling them to do so, and turning a blind eye to even the most egregious abuses, McConnell has eroded the democratic foundations of our government. He must be replaced.

Q: Protesters have massed in the streets throughout America calling for greater social justice. How significant a role does systemic racism play in limiting equal opportunity in America? To the degree that it exists, what should be done about it? Do you favor reparations? Should police be "defunded"?

A: To deny the role systemic racism plays in America is to deny reality. For decades, racist policies in zoning, housing, law enforcement, and education have concentrated poverty and disadvantaged whole communities. Black and brown children and families disproportionately face issues like hunger, low access to health care, limited economic opportunities, and gun violence. One of these factors would limit someone's equal opportunity, but together, it often makes these hurdles insurmountable.

To dismantle this system, we must face it honestly, not just settle for the status quo. I support nonviolent activism for change and I stand with the peaceful protesters who are calling on us to confront these issues and have the tough conversations we've been avoiding, like the one about the militarization of our local police.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I've worked with my Democratic colleagues to end these military to police pipelines in order to rebuild trust in our communities. I believe our public spending should reflect our values and that we must prioritize social and community programs that actually reduce crime, not tanks in city streets that merely escalate tensions.

Q: Does today's climate of polarization reflect a natural and necessary ebb and flow in the tone of civic debate? Or does it reflect a dangerous divide? What, if anything, should be done about it?

A: Throughout our nation's history, we've experienced times of relative harmony and of significant disagreement and division. Today's polarized public discourse isn't entirely out of step with the past. What is unique, and what concerns me greatly, are the systemic incentives to continued polarization. A combination of partisan gerrymandering, a zero-sum attitude toward politics, and a decentralized news media have eroded the necessity for compromise, and the shared set of facts necessary to make that happen.

What I've learned during my time in Congress is that the only things that get accomplished happen as a result of compromise. To accomplish what the American people sent us to Washington to do, we must be willing to work with others with different priorities and viewpoints.

Unfortunately, too many politicians choose only to speak to those who already agree with them, entrenching their support but in doing so, dividing the nation. To address this, we must realign political incentives to encourage politicians to speak to all Americans, not simply their most fervent supporters. If we can manage that, those seeking to influence policy will have to shift their approach too.

Q: Is there a "cancel culture" in America?

A: Americans have the right to free speech, but not the right to freedom from consequences of speech. Social repercussions for offensive, dangerous, or predatory speech are the way those things are rejected and kept from the mainstream of public discourse.

However, I encourage people to engage with points of view they may disagree with and have conversations with people who see things a different way. There is no value in shouting each other down, in person or online. That will only serve to entrench people's positions and undercut the potential for compromise, agreement, and ultimately progress. Political discussion is emotional and can be very personal - it's good when we bring our passion to bear on the problems in our society - but demonizing our opponents is not an effective way to get things done.

Q: What do you see as the most important issues to address regarding immigration reform? If you oppose funding for a wall, what steps do you support to try to control illegal immigration?

A: It's time for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform providing an earned pathway to citizenship, allowing undocumented immigrants to get in line to pay fines and taxes, earn legal status, and become productive members in our society. There's a strong moral and economic rationale to pass immigration reform. Immigrants have played a large role in growing our economy. They've founded Fortune 500 companies, helped build critical infrastructure and filled STEM jobs that create more prosperity.

Trump's treatment of immigrants is counter to the foundations of America. Instead of seeking solutions, he's used immigration as a "red meat" issue, rooted in fear and xenophobia. We should secure a permanent solution for DACA recipients, reinstate policies limiting the amount of time families, especially children, are detained at the border, fund and staff our asylum courts, and refocus our policing efforts toward dangerous actors, rather than separating children from their parents.

Democrats have never supported an open border policy. What I support is humane immigration enforcement that limits the flow of undocumented persons while upholding American values.

Q: Please define your position on health care reform, especially as it relates to the Affordable Care Act.

A: Health care is a human right. I was proud one of my earliest votes in Congress was for the Affordable Care Act. A decade later, and despite intense political pressure, ACA remains the law of the land and has helped tens of millions of Americans access health coverage.

The ACA has fundamentally changed what Americans are willing to accept when it comes to their health. What were once political talking points are now the most popular, nonpartisan portions of the law, and will prove impossible to roll back: coverage for preexisting conditions, free preventive medical screenings and tests, caps on lifetime payments, protections for vulnerable populations, and subsidies on the marketplace.

Despite all the good it's done, instead of building on its legacy and improving the ACA, President Trump continues to fight in court to overturn the law. This is particularly egregious as we continue to suffer through the COVID-19 pandemic. We still have work to do to reach universal coverage and to continue driving costs down. I believe the ACA was a critical first step to achieving this goal and look forward to serious work being done by a future Biden administration to strengthen ACA and beyond.

Q: Should everyone wear a mask? Should our schools be open? What has the country done right about the pandemic? What has it done wrong? How optimistic are you that we'll ever get back to "normal"?

A: Yes, everyone should wear a mask. Wearing a mask isn't just about personal protection, it's about respect for your neighbors and your community. Masks are the easiest, lowest cost way to slow the spread of the coronavirus and refusing to wear one is to place your temporary comfort over the lives and livelihoods of everyone around you. Wear a mask.

I understand the appeal of reopening schools, and I am confident that eventually we will get back to normal. However I am concerned that by rushing that process, we will continue to delay it.

Thanks in large part to an utter failure of leadership by President Trump, the U.S. has 22% of the world's coronavirus cases despite having just 4% of the population. We have no national testing and the FDA and CDC are more concerned with trying to validate the president's latest miracle cure than providing guidance to the American people.

Fortunately, we've seen many cities and states, including Chicago, step up and get the virus under control, but until we recognize that science, not politics, must guide our response to the pandemic, we will continue to have to live with the consequences.

Q: What do you consider America's role in world affairs? What are we doing correctly to fill that role? What else should we be doing?

A: Since the end of World War II, the United States has led a global coalition focused on peace, security and prosperity. History has shown that isolationism never strengthened our economy or security. Unfortunately, under President' Trump's leadership, we have abdicated the moral high ground and actively undermined our allies, international organizations and weakened our trading relationships.

I've always supported a values-based foreign policy that engages our partners, be that at the U.N., the World Health Organization, NATO or the World Trade Organization. These institutions are not perfect, but without our participation in them, we forfeit our role on the world stage. When we fail to lead by example, the world is less stable and we create vacuums filled by those who do not share our goals and values. Rising authoritarianism, degradation of a free press and violent crackdowns on demonstrations are all symptoms of failed U.S. leadership at home and abroad.

As a member of the Intelligence Committee, I've seen the threats we face as well as the consequences of how these choices play out across our national security apparatus. Put simply, the world is less safe with Donald Trump as president.

Q: Do you believe climate change is caused by human activity? What steps should government be taking to address the issue?

A: The rapid changes we've witnessed in our climate are without a doubt the result of human activity, and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere constitutes the single greatest long-term threat we face. Climate change has the potential to affect the lives of nearly every living thing on the planet and every day we fail to act brings us closer to the point when we are no longer able to limit climate impacts.

The government should be leading the effort to drive down greenhouse gas emissions across our economy and the world. First, the U.S. must rejoin the Paris Agreement and reassert itself as a global leader in sustainable development and long-term growth. We should demonstrate this commitment by taking immediate steps to reduce emissions in line with what science demands.

This means reinstating aggressive vehicle economy standards that reduce pollution and save consumers money at the pump, regulating industrial and power sector emissions, committing to clean, renewable power sources, and placing a price on carbon to leverage the power of the free market to meet our emissions reductions goals. Our future, and that of our descendants, depends on not missing this moment.

Q: What role does Congress play with regards to the growth of conspiracy theory groups like QAnon?

A: QAnon is a dangerous conspiracy theory that has inspired its adherents to take violent actions in communities across the country. During the COVID-19 pandemic, QAnon has also been among the largest purveyors of public health disinformation, which puts us all at risk. Because he is naturally drawn to conspiracy theories, the president and his campaign have been unwilling to disavow the movement. President Trump has even retweeted QAnon theories and embraced its followers because they feed his ego and because he believes it offers political benefit.

Even more dangerously, numerous Republican candidates for congress openly embrace QAnon and some will be elected this fall. Republican leadership must take a hard line with any QAnon followers elected to Congress by withholding committee assignments and other party benefits. We must also reconsider whether those members should have access to sensitive national security information. We simply can't allow this delusional conspiracy theory to become a part of mainstream political debate. Finally, Congress must also weigh what regulations may be necessary to force social media companies to combat QAnon's proliferation on their platforms.

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