Ten Reasons You Shouldn’t Vote For Me

Every other candidate tells you why you should vote for them. I’m weird: I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t. Too many candidates are afraid that if you find out their weaknesses or where they aren’t “normal” you won’t want to vote for them. I think the opposite: I want to get my differences and oddities out in the open, because I think you will relate to me better if you know me better.

1. I’m not terribly patriotic.

I am patriotic, don’t get me wrong. I like being an American, and I approve of most of what America does and I agree with much of what America represents, but I am not a “My country, right or wrong”-type of person. I don’t think that the United States of America is always the best country in the world. I don’t understand the need many Americans have with having children in school say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning starting in kindergarten, when most kids that age don’t understand what they are saying or even how important a pledge is. (I also don’t understand the need to repeat it every day: Does it expire?) I’m not sure I own an American flag, much less have one on display. (I had a European friend visit my house while touring the country. He said my house was the only one without a large American flag on display.)

Having said this, I want the U.S. to be the best country in the world. I think governments play important roles in improving the standards of living of their peoples, and our government has a critical role to play in areas such as education, the economy, and health care. I really want to always be proud of my country, but I see too many problems for that to happen.

2. I have failed. Often.

People are attracted to successful people, and I have had my share of successes. I have had many failures. I can’t seem to keep a relationship going for much more than six years. I had a really difficult time in college calculus, and I wasn’t very good in high school biology. I was an incompetent recruiter. Despite three years of golf lessons, I cannot drive a golf ball in anything approaching a straight line. My fashion sense is bad enough that my daughter once asked me if I even knew anyone with a sense of style.

3. My desire for fairness sometimes overrides self-interest.

I understand that part of a Representative’s job is to promote the interests of the district, but I will have a difficult time doing that in situations where there is a question of fairness. Having studied negotiations for many years, I am not a fan of win-lose scenarios where my side winning requires another side losing. I try to turn situations into win-win outcomes, where all sides get something they want out of a deal. In situations where I can help the 3rd District get government resources in a fair manner, I will push as hard as anyone, but I’m not going to be inclined to take resources from another district that really needs it. (Now, if that other district is already getting more than its fair share of help all bets are off.)

4. My mind will change.

I try to be very rational, and I gather information to the point of overload. Because of this, sometimes I will uncover a missing piece of a puzzle that completely changes my mind on an issue. For example, I was discussing a ballot measure in another state. I had read the measure–not what was on the ballot, but the full text of the measure–and I thought that it seemed reasonable. One of the other people in the discussion pointed out that the measure omitted an important safeguard, which could cause well-meaning people to be punished for acting in a responsible manner. As a result, I changed my position. In Congress, this would result in me introducing an amendment, but it might result in me voting against some bills that seem good on the surface, but where I see significant unintended consequences.

5. I am not a fan of tradition in government.

I am a fan of the USC Trojans, and I try to go to USC sporting events when they play within 500 miles of Chattanooga. One thing I really like about USC is the tradition. USC football doesn’t put names on the uniforms–they are the only school to have never put names on uniforms–and I like that tradition, because I think it puts the focus on the team over the individual. I like that USC has, mostly, the same uniforms that they had when I was there. The home field is an old stadium with a grass field, and a large marching band provides the music. I like that they play Notre Dame every year, and it bothers me that Notre Dame is now playing on field turf, blasts Ozzy over loudspeakers, changes its uniforms regularly, and moves the USC game to a night game because that’s how Comcast (NBC) wants it. I don’t like the World Series ending in November, night baseball at Wrigley, interleague regular season play, or multiple rounds of playoffs before the World Series. In sports, tradition matters.

In government, tradition is often used as an excuse to give one group preferential treatment. Conservatives use “Traditional marriage” to deny rights to LGBTQ people. The tradition of having elections on Tuesdays suppresses voter turnout. English isn’t the official language of the U.S. and Christianity isn’t the official religion, but lawmakers often legislate like they are, often as an excuse to deny rights to heavily restrict immigration or to base laws on their religious traditions while almost simultaneously screaming about Sharia. Traditions should be judged on their merit, and not simply maintained just because “this is the way we have always done things.” Traditions in education often hinder innovation, such as looping, where students get the same teacher for two years instead of one.

6. I will usually listen to people who disagree with me more than people who agree with me.

I don’t like being wrong, and I have found that the best way for me to figure out if I’m about to do something stupid is to have someone who thinks I’m wrong to try to convince me that I am. They will often do a better job of finding the flaws in my arguments than those who agree with me. In the end, I find that I make better decisions by listening to dissenting arguments than surrounding myself with yes-men.

7. I’m not from Chattanooga.

I moved here after my first divorce in 1996, then left from 2000 to 2003. I have lived in Chattanooga longer than I have lived anywhere else. I think that because I have lived other places I sometimes have a better perspective on what works and what doesn’t work here, but I’m not completely culturally integrated with Chattanooga. I have joked for years that I will move away the first time I catch myself saying “Y’all,” not because I have anything against it for others, but because I like that I speak pretty formally. It’s similar to my feelings on gun ownership: I fully support the right of responsible people to own and use guns, but I don’t particularly care to own one myself.

Is being a native better than being here by choice? I honestly don’t know, but some people prefer natives.

8. I prefer to make decisions based on verifiable information rather than gut feelings.

I have been a fan of science for as long as I can remember. Until I got my first pair of glasses, my dream was to be an astronaut, at which time I changed to wanting to build spacecraft instead. (I reluctantly gave up on that when I realized that I really wasn’t very good at advanced math.) Conversely, when I have made important decisions based on instinct rather than information, I have often made bad decisions. I know that, on almost every subject, there’s someone out there who knows more than I do, and they can point me to the best information on all sides of a debate.

For one example, due to twenty-four hour news channels and easy access to information online, most people think that crime is much worse today than it used to be. The actual evidence, however, shows the exact opposite: Violent and property crime has dropped by about half in the past twenty-five years. If you trust your gut, you might think that we need harsher laws, penalties, and much more law enforcement on the streets. If you look at the research, you might learn that the drop in crime is not really affected by any of that, but rather by other social and environmental factors.

9. I am not easy to compartmentalize.

Unlike Chuck Fleischmann and Melody Shekari, I am not a party loyalist. My views are my own–literally. If you agree with all of my views, you are probably crazy, because I am certain some of my views are wrong–I just wish I knew which ones. So, if you agree with the Republican or Democratic platforms in their entirety, then you should vote for Chuck or Melody. I won’t ever vote for or against a bill based on its title, author, or sponsors. Whenever possible, I will read the bill in its entirety. If that’s not possible because of time constraints, I’ll have my staff split it up and read and summarize it for me. If that’s not possible, I won’t vote for it. I’m not willing to blindly support anything.

10. I have behaved inappropriately.

In sixth grade, I snapped a classmate’s bra strap. I was a frequent underage drinker in college. I’ve told racist, homophobic, and sexist jokes and done racist, homophobic, and sexist things. I made spending money in college by betting on tape-delayed sporting events. I almost always drive five miles per hour over the speed limit. I helped get someone fired in an attempt to get their job. (I was desperate, and I didn’t get the job.) I’ve said bad things about other people because of beliefs I didn’t like, and I’ve said offensive things about their beliefs.

I like to think that I’ve learned from these mistakes, and I have apologized when possible. I do my best to treat everyone with respect, even when I disagree with them and especially when they don’t respect me. But I also know that I’m not perfect, and I am going to make mistakes.


So, those are ten very good reasons to not vote for me. I hope that you find my honesty, desire to improve myself, and thoughtfulness to be sufficient reasons to vote for me, but if they aren’t, I get that too. No candidate is, or should be, right for everyone.

Thanks for reading.

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12 Comments

Filed under Stuff About Me

12 responses to “Ten Reasons You Shouldn’t Vote For Me

  1. jan persson

    How about religion?

  2. I appreciate your unique approach to running for office. Very genuine! You’ve earned my vote.

  3. Tim Robinson

    Topher, I’m glad you’ve decided to stand for what you believe in rather than what’s convenient. You are truly an oddball in a conservative place; hopefully you’ll get enough votes from your fellow oddballs! Too bad I’m not there to vote for you. Good luck on November 8!

  4. Heather

    Got my vote based on this piece alone! ✅

  5. Alan Smithee

    I was going to write in a friend but I am forced to reconsider! What a breath of fresh air!

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