Originally published at https://ballotpedia.org/Nils_Palsson
Nils Palsson for Congress on Ballotpedia
Palsson received undergraduate degrees in history and English from New York University in 2006, a teaching certificate from Dominican University of California School of Education and Counseling Psychology in 2014, and an M.F.A. in writing and consciousness from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco in 2017. He is also a certified emergency first responder and permaculture designer. Palsson began working as the communications director of Transition US in 2015 and as a teacher of anatomy and physiology at World School, San Francisco in 2017.
Nils Palsson participated in Ballotpedia's candidate survey on May 11, 2018. The survey questions appear in bold, and Nils Palsson's responses follow below.
What would be your top three priorities, if elected?
1) Getting money out of politics and reclaiming our democracy.
2) Ensuring top-quality education, universal health care and affordable housing for all.
3) Bold leadership on the crises of climate change, wealth inequality and racial injustice. Achieving social, racial, environmental and economic justice for all.
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about? Why?
I am passionate about electoral reform, reclaiming our democracy, and eliminating the harmful effects of big money in the political system. My top priority is getting money out of politics. On most issues - student debt and high-cost education, unaffordable healthcare, income inequality, climate chaos, racial injustice and mass incarceration, endless war, and many more - the reason our needs are not being met is that Big Money has taken over politics.
We must get money out of politics and reclaim our democracy. Other top issues include education, health care and affordable housing for all, jobs with justice and ending income inequality, and powerfully addressing climate change. We can pay for this all by sharing better and adjusting our priorities.
I am passionate about addressing the climate crisis immediately, protecting our water, achieving Medicare for All, closing the wealth gap and creating economic justice for all, guaranteeing top-quality education including universal pre-K and tuition-free public college, ending racial injustice and the prison-industrial complex, ending empire and preventing the illegal occupation of sovereign nations, empowering women and an Equal Rights Amendment, supporting LGBTQ equal rights, fighting for immigrant rights and providing a path to citizenship to keep families together, securing quality veterans services, protecting Social Security, ending the gun violence epidemic, legalizing cannabis, honoring indigenous voices, and ensuring that all human beings are treated with dignity and respect, all basic needs are met, and that we create a system that works for all people.
I am passionate about ensuring that our government is truly of, by and for the people, and building a society with social, racial, environmental and economic justice for ALL.
Who do you look up to? Whose example would you like to follow, and why?
I look up to Bernie Sanders, Cornell West, Amy Goodman, Howard Zinn, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, John Lennon, Nina Turner, Medea Benjamin, and countless other leaders and teachers of vision and integrity who have set an example of standing up for what is right, speaking truth to power, and fighting peacefully, with honor and compassion, to create a world that treats all people with dignity, that honors the land and water, that cares for the most vulnerable and passes on a just, thriving and healthy world to future generations.
Is there a book, essay, film, or something else you would recommend to someone who wants to understand your political philosophy?
I recommend Naomi Klein's "This Changes Everything: Capitalism Versus the Climate," Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," Paul Hawken's "Blessed Unrest," Bill McKibben's "Deep Economy,"Cornell West's "The Radical King" and "Black Prophetic Fire," Bernie Sanders's "Rules for Revolutionaries," Amy Goodman's "Static," Russell Brand's "Revolution," and the autobiographies of Malcolm X, Mohandas Gandhi, and Assata Shakur.
What characteristics or principles are most important for an elected official?
Integrity, Vision, Courage, Authenticity, Service, Honor, and a deep, abiding Love for all people, for the community of life we belong to, and the home planet we all share.
What qualities do you possess that you believe would make you a successful officeholder?
I stand in service to the Movement of the People, and represent a bridge from everyday people to the halls of government. I do not pretend to have all the answers, but I have the integrity to stand with the people (not the big corporations and wealthy donors) and fight for the big changes we all need, including eliminating Big Money from politics, achieving educational and health care systems that work for everyone, addressing the climate crisis, and ensuring social, racial, environmental and economic justice for ALL.
What do you believe are the core responsibilities for someone elected to this office?
The chief responsibility of a Representative is to represent (to re-present) the needs and the voices of the voters in his or her district. A Representative must put the PEOPLE (not the donors or the lobbyists) first, and lead boldly and courageously for the things that matter most to us all: jobs, health, happiness, and dignity for all.
A Representative is also set with the task of creating laws for the entire United States of America; these legislators have the solemn responsibility of creating an economy and society with systems that actually work for us all -- education for all, health care, jobs with thriving wages for all, affordable housing for all, and more. Representatives create and approve a budget, so it is the responsibility of Congress to set tax policy in a way that equitably shares resources and respects the commons. It is the responsibility of Congress to set foreign policy and ensure that there is peace and security, with respect for all humans and the sovereignty of all nations. And it is the responsibility of Congress to protect our water, our, land and home planet for future generations, which includes addressing the crises of global warming and resource depletion.
What legacy would you like to leave?
I'd like to leave future generations with a just society and a healthy planet. I’d also like to leave the legacy of a human being who chose to speak out against injustice and stand up for what is right. I'd like to learn, and teach, how to live in harmony and integrity with my truth, with the diverse spectrum of other human beings, and with the home planet we all share.
What is the first historical event that happened in your lifetime that you remember? How old were you at the time?
I was a teenager when the Twin Towers collapsed and when George W. Bush began the illegal occupation of Iraq. I was then, and still am, a patriot who honors my country and my planet - and it is because of this honor that I began to protest, organize walk-outs at my high school, and speak out against the war.
What was your very first job? How long did you have it?
My first job was when I was a teenager; I worked afternoons and weekends at a local deli, slicing bagels and making sandwiches. The deli was owned by a humble and caring man named Ali, from Lebanon. I earned my own spending money and saved up to purchase my first car, a Chevy Lumina Euro. I worked at the deli through most of high school, before I graduated and moved to New York City.
What happened on your most awkward date?
I haven't done a whole lot of dating lately. I'm a busy father, working two jobs and attempting to run a successful campaign for US Congress while being present for my 5-year-old daughter. Maybe next time I fill out a survey like this, I'll have some juicer personal stuff for you ; )
What is your favorite holiday? Why?
I really enjoy Thanksgiving -- even since becoming a vegetarian a few years ago. I enjoy being together with my family and focusing on gratitude. I recognize the problematic nature of this holiday, given the empire, genocide and slavery that killed so many and displaced families from their homes in the early days of America, and I honor the movement to restore and uphold indigenous rights and sovereignty. And I am grateful to be here, on this land where I was born, in this country that has so much potential, and on this planet that is such a miracle. I enjoy being with family and giving thanks.
What is your favorite book? Why?
I have too many favorite books, and already listed many of them. I will say that, in addition to political/economic books like the ones listed above, I am kind of a productivity geek. I really enjoyed "The One Thing" by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, and attempt to live its principles daily. I also enjoy the work of Joseph Campbell, especially "The Power of Myth" and "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." In the realm of fiction, I was really struck by Orwell's "1984" (and am ever-vigilant to ensure that our society avoids an outcome like that.)
If you could be any fictional character, who would you want to be?
I identify with epic heroes like Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, Batman, Black Panther, Harry Potter, and Han Solo in Star Wars.
What is your favorite thing in your home or apartment? Why?
Aside from my family... I'd have to say my dog, Phoenix, a brilliant rescue mutt who has been with me for a full decade now!
What was the last song that got stuck in your head?
“Tomorrow" by Fredrika Stahl. I was literally singing it in my head while reading this question. Seriously, listen to it!
What is something that has been a struggle in your life?
Almost ten years ago, I lost my father to cancer. Then we lost our family home to medical debt. It has been a struggle to come to terms with losing my dad so young (he was 57), to teach myself to choose a healthier and more fit lifestyle, and to make my way as a man in this world without the counsel of my hero and best friend. His name was Ralf Irving Palsson and I still miss him every day.
What qualities does the U.S. House of Representatives possess that makes it unique as an institution?
It is pretty amazing that, even as our country has grown in so many ways, we still have proportional representation in Congress. And it's great that we have (at least theoretically) the ability to elect people from all around the country who care about the issues everyday citizens are dealing with on the ground in every single district in the country. All we need to do is actually *elect* those people who stand with our families and communities instead of the establishment politicians who represent big banks, lobbyists and the status quo. It might be hard to run for office and win as an independent, grassroots candidate for the people -- but I'm grateful that, in this country, we can try! I'm thankful for the ability to stand up, speak out, work in community, and do my best to make a real change. And I believe that, if we all do our best, we can succeed.
Do you believe that it’s beneficial for representatives to have previous experience in government or politics?
Experience comes in many shapes and sizes. And I'd rather have a Representative with "experience" being a grassroots community organizer and an average working-class citizen than someone with decades of "experience" serving lobbyists and preserving the status quo.
What do you perceive to be the United States’ greatest challenges as a nation over the next decade?
I perceive the climate crisis, resource depletion and ecological decline to be a major challenge we face. There are many issues we need to take action on, from education and health care to the supremely huge task of closing the wealth gap and addressing economic and racial inequality -- and we CAN do it all at once.
And it must be noted here that, in order for any of this stuff to matter at all, we need to be living on this planet in a way that honors natural limits to growth, pollution and use of resources. In addition to creating a society in which we all can THRIVE, we need to actually SURVIVE. So we need to place a strong emphasis on solutions to the climate crisis and environmental justice, as well as peace and preventing nuclear war.
At the same time, we need to address the menace of Big Money in Politics and truly reclaim our democracy in order to make progress on ANY of these issues, so I feel that is the real starting point. It's kind of a complex mess, this system. But I trust that, if everyday working-class people are in power, we'll do just fine at addressing all these pressing issues gracefully and justly.
If you are not a current representative, are there certain committees that you would want to be a part of?
I will serve with honor on ay committee I am appointed to. With that said, I could see being especially helpful on several committees, including: Oversight and Government Reform, Appropriations, Education and Workforce, and Energy and Commerce.
If you are a current representative, why did you join your current committees?
I am not a current Representative. Yet.
Do you believe that two years is the right term length for representatives?
What are your thoughts on term limits?
I am in favor of setting standards for more limited service in Congress so that the same entrenched establishment politicians aren't able to spend decades usurping the same seat and blocking progress on the things that matter most to the everyday citizens (and in the everyday reality) with which most long-reigning Representatives have become out-of-touch...
What process do you favor for redistricting?
I support a system that allows voters to choose their politicians instead of politicians choosing their voters. One thoughtful strategy would be to require states to form non-partisan, independent commissions to create an algorithm to draw legislative districts after each census for the task of redistricting. The algorithm must draw optimally compact, equal-population congressional districts that respect the boundaries of census blocks, the smallest geographic units used by the Census Bureau. This would put an end to partisan and politically-motivated gerrymandering and create common-sense districts that actually represent the population.
If you are not currently a member of your party’s leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, would you be interested in joining the leadership? If so, in what role?
I am a citizen-leader, and believe we must each place ourselves in service to the whole of constituents we represent (including future generations).
Is there a particular representative, past or present, whom you want to model yourself after?
Some of my favorite elected officials include Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner, Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard.
Both sitting representatives and candidates for office hear many personal stories from the residents of their district. Is there a story that you’ve heard that you found particularly touching, memorable, or impactful?
After the 2015 Valley Fire in Lake County, I met a rancher who lost his home and barely escaped with his wife before flames consumed their property in the town of Hidden Valley Lake. A couple of days later, when roads opened for residents to feed their livestock, this man went to check on his 180 head of cattle. The cows were able to survive the fire by getting in the pond (...because Water is Life) - and when this rancher went to feed the animals, something strange happened.
Under normal circumstances, come feeding time, the big steers and alpha-males bully their way into the front and knock the smaller females and the littlest runts aside violently. But this time, after the traumatic fire (this cowboy told me with tears in his eyes), the cattle approached the feed trough with zen-like calm, and the larger animals even seemed to be helping the smaller and weaker ones to get the nourishment they needed. They were working together peacefully, with no regard for their status or their place in the social hierarchy. They were like a family, a tribe, and they seemed to really care for one another.
In my experience with the recent, record-breaking wildfires in this district, both in 2015 and 2017 (and ever since), I've seen something similar from the people: these crises somehow seem to bring out the best in us. It doesn't matter what party you're in, what religion you belong to, what your sex or gender is, what color your skin is or what language you speak: people come together around what matters most: caring for each other, making sure everyone has what they need. We all need shelter, clean water, healthy food - and there is much more that unites us than divides us.
All we need to do is remember.