Who The Folk?! Rep. Dean Phillips

Being a freshman Congressman is not too far removed from being a freshman in college, but Dean Phillips is learning the ropes is his first few months in office representing Minnesota’s 3rd District. Home on a brief Congressional recess, we were lucky enough to catch up with Rep. Phillips, where we discussed the expectations of the job versus reality, the perpetual campaigning, and if his mind changed on impeaching the president, on this week’s Who The Folk?! Podcast.

You can read an excerpt below, but for the whole interview, please listen or subscribe to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Stitcher, with more to come later soon. Please subscribe, rate, and review. And of course, if you have suggestions of others who would be great subjects, let us know!

Has your term been what you’ve expected so far?

It’s been surprising in a lot of ways, some disappointing ways, but more remarkable ways, and inspiring and hopeful. The biggest difference so far is how collegial members are in Congress on both sides of the aisle. You know if one is just watching MSNBC or Fox News or what looking at Twitter, you would think it is an unmitigated disaster in Congress, and the truth is there are thoughtful members of both parties working together in a bipartisan fashion and building friendships and relationships and you’ve got to be intentional about it. I’m one of them who is and it’s been a great blessing so.

How do you help them get beyond just what they see in their own little bubbles?

Well, I both encourage them and implore and invite them to get away from the screens whether they’re on walls or in your hand and get back to sitting down with people. Less time tweeting, more time talking and reaching out to people who might eat differently than you, look differently than you, you pray differently than you, think differently than you, live differently than you. That’s how we will reweave the quilt of the country and get back to it together because in a digital era we have to actually turn to some analog old fashion ways of getting together or else we or else we are at risk but I but I’m hopeful.

I noticed that one of the things during your campaign at least was the sort of the old-fashioned, retail politics where you drove around and you met people. You did the old school going to diners, going wherever the people work is that something that you think has paid off in terms of trying to get along with people from the other side of the aisle?

Absolutely. I was brought up in a family that was you know that that believed in hospitality and friendliness, and good-natured attitudes. When I was a young sales rep for the Philips Company I drove around five states and sold our products, and I remember my great grandfather telling me that when you sell something, you don’t use your mouth, use your ears. You listen. I remember those lessons and frankly, a lot of the stories a lot of the people I met in my early twenties driving around outstate Minnesota, in rural North Dakota and Nebraska are stories I remember to this day, and it’s very much the same template our employed in the campaign which was listening to people. If you’re gonna be a member of Congress it serves you well to listen to people and hear their stories. And I was also taught that if two people agree you only need one of them; I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true. I learned more from people who have different life experiences, have different perspectives, and see things differently. That is what makes campaigning fun.

So you really enjoy the campaign trail?

I love it. I thought there’s a better way to do this, in fact, we inspired such a wonderful community during our campaign that they’ve stuck together, and on their own accord are doing volunteer work in the Third District. We’re trying to show people that this can be not just fun but also create community, and that’s what we need more of.

Is the time on the job what you thought it was going to be when you were campaigning?

It’s a hard job. It’s a lot of travel, it’s long hours, it’s exhausting, you’ve got to be on all the time. The diversity of the work is extraordinary and in many ways, it’s very humbling. We recognize how much you have to learn both in terms of parliamentary procedure, navigating Washington, and of course the policy issue areas. I’m a freshman congressman, and in some ways, it’s akin to feeling like a freshman in college; You try to find your way around, it is new, and you also start recognizing how much there is to learn and I really relish that.

Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!