Editor’s Note: The Interview took place on 12/13/21.
Garrit: Can you introduce yourself?
Aditya: Yeah, my name is Aditya Atholi. My friends call me “AD,” and I run for US Congress Texas District 1.
Garrit: You have quite an impressive background. You went to Rice, served in the military as a captain in the Marines, and worked in the oil fields. Can you speak more about your background and your experiences?
Aditya: Sure, it’s a lot of varied experiences. I went to Rice—I graduated in 2009—but in 2008, I decided that I would be a Marine. This was when the wars were still going on. So, I was going to go kill some bad guys and get some combat experience. I was going to go into conflict resolution in war zones—that would be my trade. So, remember this is a 19-year-old thinking, my degree was in government and management, but what ended up happening is, for different reasons, that Marine application kept getting postponed. They said it would not work out this year and that we’ll have to try again next year. So for about eight years after I graduated college, I ended up doing a bunch of short-term jobs in various industries ranging from working in the DC office for Louie Gohmert to working for a small Christian nonprofit back in Shelby County. Most of my time was spent roughnecking in the oilfield. I did that for roughly four years; I started as a forehand, at the very bottom, and then worked my way up to a driller. As a driller, I was a manager in charge of rig operations and managing the crew. We have multiple 18,000-foot wells for oil and natural gas, which is why I’m such a huge supporter of energy. After that, I went to the Marine Corps and spent roughly three and a half years there as a Marine artillery officer. I got out last year, and now here we are.
Garrit: Can you speak on how those experiences will translate to Congress, particularly in the military and the oil field?
Aditya: Yes, sir. All of these different experiences I’ve had, have shown me what all segments of American society live like. I have all of these white-collar friends from Rice that have worked in all parts of the federal government and have now gone on to the fanciest business schools, medical schools, and law schools in the country. I have all my friends from the old field, and the people I grew up with that are very blue-collar—we’re talking about truckers, welders, and roughnecks. I also have friends that are ex-felons. I have buddies who are ex-addicts and ex-dealers, and I see their different life experiences. That’s why I think I’ll be a strong candidate because I understand what all segments of East Texas go through—not just the professional, managerial class like most politicians.
Garrit: Why are you running?
Aditya: It’s the disconnect and the way the country is headed. We know that the government does not work for middle-class people anymore. I see the disconnect between my East Texas roughneck friends and my buddies that work in federal agencies. The way that they see the country going is the opposite. I don’t see any practical solutions being presented to that problem. The problem is that DC does not work for middle-class people. That’s why I’m running. I think there’s a specific, practical, and simple solution to get our country back to working for the middle class, back to local self-government, back to conservative values, and back to being a conservative nation like we’ve been for hundreds of years.
Garrit: In what ways do you think we can remedy that disconnect?
Aditya: The most significant reason this disconnect is happening is the massive expansion of federal government power. With LBJ and the Great Society, we saw a roughly 5x expansion of government power just in that decade. Since then, we’ve seen an 18x expansion in federal government power. Because it’s so big, America was designed to be a locally self-governed society. We’re 330 million people—that’s roughly the size of Europe. Europe has, I think, 370 million. So we can’t run our country like you would Sweden or Denmark. The root cause of what we see happening is we have decided that we’re going to centralize all of our decision-making in one city: Washington DC. We started doing that in the 60s. The 70s is when you start seeing special interests moving into DC. In the 70s, you start seeing business associations leave New York and San Francisco and move into DC. In the 70s, you see massive amounts of money start getting put into political campaigns. What happened is big money interests realized, “Hey, the more the federal government starts getting involved in different societal activities, the more it makes sense for us to spend money to lobby them.” So, the 70s is when we start seeing all these trends of wage growth departing from GDP productivity, the stagnation of real wage growth, and the stagnation of middle-class household income. We’re only starting to see that now because we’re such a successful country. So, the solution to all of that is that you have to go back to how we ran the country for 200 years—local self-government. We have to decentralize federal government power and let the states and the counties handle most of the issues. That’s how you can return to a society that believes in conservative values like faith as a foundation for our society and family and community as the central institutions of our society—not the government.
Garrit: Going on with what you said about local government, you’ve talked about how we need to become the party of local government. Can you elaborate on what exactly that means?
Aditya: Yes, sir. The most important thing to understand is Republicans and Conservatives already believe in local government. We know this because if you look up a Republican Party platform anywhere from the 1950s till 2016, there’s roughly a 10–20-year gap in the 90s and 2000s, and you F Control “local” It pops up a dozen times. We believe in local control on every issue. What I’m proposing is very simple. We are known as a party of small government across the country, but that’s a defensive strategy. It tells people what we’re against, not what we’re for. We’re good at stopping or slowing down whatever we think the Democrats are doing incorrectly, but when the ball is in our hands, and it’s time to score touchdowns for middle-class problems, like bringing jobs back to the country, health care prices, and public schools, we do not have an offensive strategy to do so. We need to rebrand from the party of small government to the party of local government. You don’t have to change any policies. It’s only a rebranding because this tells your average person, your nonpolitical person who still votes, what we want to do for each of these issues, and what we want to do for each of these issues is we want to let the state governments or counties handle it—the best way to explain that in mass is rebranding. We need an offensive strategy that allows your average conservative voter to explain to their liberal family and friends what we want to do with healthcare—not just that we’re against socialized medicine, but how do we want to fix healthcare with a party of local government? It tells them how we want to improve education—yes, the public school system has failed many communities, but how do we want to fix it? Republicans are already the party of local government. What I’m suggesting is we just rebrand to make it that way.
Garrit: Yeah. Let’s move on to some key issues. You just mentioned healthcare. What do you think needs to be done regarding health care, and do you think the federal government has any role in health care?
Aditya: Excellent questions. What I want to do with healthcare is exactly repeal and replace Obamacare. Okay, but that thing failed because not a single person in the voting populace knew what we wanted to replace it with. That’s our problem as Republicans—we don’t brand as well. We don’t market as well. Democrats say, “Medicare for all.” It doesn’t matter if it’s a good policy or not because everyone understands what that means. So, what I want to do on healthcare is what we already tried to do with the repeal and replace Obamacare, but I want to say it simpler and market it a lot better. I want to do on healthcare, which is what Republicans already want to do, to return to a free market at the national level. Even liberals agree that free markets keep the prices lowest for everyone and the most choices for everyone. However, our “Achilles’ heel” as conservatives have always been what do you do with the people that cannot afford it? I know we can all agree that with society as wealthy as ours, just because you have a low-paying job does not mean you should be denied access to health care. So our solution is to let the local governments handle it. All of the money that Obamacare gives to Medicaid and all of the money that Obamacare gives to insurance companies as subsidies, we take it and block grant it to the states—that’s it. The states can devise whatever welfare/healthcare program they think serves their constituents the best. So, if California wants to try socialized medicine, they should be free to do it. Let them prove all of us wrong. If Texas believes in individual/self-government and communities helping others, we will create a program that allows us to do that. This is already what Republicans tried to pass with repeal and replace Obamacare, but they couldn’t explain to people what we stood for.
Garrit: The national debt, deficit, and inflation (in particular) have become pretty big issues. What do you think needs to be done? What precisely would you do, and what do you think needs to be done about programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security which are huge drivers of the national debt?
Aditya: Yeah. We know that the biggest driver of our national debt and spending right now is health care costs. A big part of the solution to the federal debt and spending is fixing the healthcare market. How do you do that? It’s exactly what we just talked about—return to a free market on the national level. Right now, we do not have a free market. We have nationally subsidized health care, which is basically like writing a blank check to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industry. So, if the government writes blank checks to these industries in the name of helping people, all that’s going to happen is you’re screwing up that market, and the prices are going to skyrocket. It’s exactly like if the government said, “Hey, we’re going to pay for free TVs for everyone.” What is the TV company industry going to do? They’re going to raise prices over time because it’s no longer a free market. Economists have been talking about this for hundreds of years. So, if we want to fix the federal debt and our spending problem, we need to do a lot of things. I’m also a big proponent of how we spend our defense budget—most of that money goes to contractors and not to the actual soldiers on the ground. So, I’m also a big proponent of fixing the problem that we call the military-industrial complex, but we know the number one driver is healthcare prices. How do you fix that? Repeal and replace Obamacare. First, we let the situation develop and then continue to see where we can make these markets more efficient.
Garrit: Continuing with something similar, the economy is always a big issue. What do you think needs to happen to ensure that we have a prosperous economy, that people can get jobs, and that people can work and provide for their families?
Aditya: Yes, sir. Excellent question. You know, it’s so easy to get involved in arguments and debates over what is the right way to do this. As conservatives, we have always believed in the practical over the theoretical. In other words, we will always lean towards what we know for sure has worked, and we will always go back to that as conservatives. Then from there, we can make small incremental changes with the economy. We know what’s worked, and we understand that a free-market system works. We know that when the government focuses only on playing referee, then that’s when the players develop the best—the player, in this case, is the market. We know that when the government steps out of the way, you see the ingenuity, the hard work, and the vision of the American people come to fruition. The number one thing that needs to happen is the government has to play referee. The government cannot step into the game to start saying, “Hey, this player, you haven’t been given a fair shot. So we’re going to change the rules for you. Okay, this player, you were born rich, so we’re going to change the rules for you.” This has never worked in American history. Every country that’s tried this has failed. So, as conservatives, if we believe in a prosperous nation that creates jobs and opportunity, all we have to do is go back to a free market. It’s already worked for hundreds and hundreds of years. It’s free-market capitalism. Every problem we see is because of crony capitalism. The best way to deal with crony capitalism is to shrink government power, or else the big players on the football field will start working with the referees to make rules in their favor. That’s what you see happening now because the government is in the mindset of “hey, it’s our job to go help the players.” Once the government gets in that mindset, it’s always the most prominent players who get the referees’ help.
Garrit: Absolutely! You’ve worked in the oil industry, and oil is vital for the country, but especially for Texas and probably very important for CD1. It’s been made apparent from the Biden administration that they are against natural gas and oil. What do you think needs to be done on the federal level in Congress to protect the oil industry, and what do you think needs to be the overall energy strategy for the country?
Aditya: Obviously, we need energy independence—that should be our strategy. How do you achieve energy independence? You need all of the above methods. Like I said, conservatives always lean on the practical. So, we know that the free-market system to help develop energy industries works because that’s what Texas has been doing. We have a free-market approach to help generate energy resources. Because of that, we are the number one provider of natural gas, oil, and wind. We’re the number two provider in solar. We were able to do all of this while ensuring that we keep middle-class jobs in Texas and keep energy prices low for the middle class. That’s not a theory. That’s not a debate. That’s a fact. We’ve proven that it works in Texas. So, anything that we do at the national level, as conservatives, we want to make sure that it works for sure before we expand it to the whole country. This is why we’re the party of local governments because we want to see it proven at the state level. So, the conservative path forward for energy independence is doing exactly what Texas has been doing. So, Congress should just try to replicate what the Texas Legislature has done.
Garrit: Moving on to education. With the elections in Virginia, we saw that CRT (critical race theory) was a vital issue to many parents. Of course, there’s the issue of the Department of Education and the student loan crisis. You spoke earlier about healthcare and how it’s like a blank check. That is very similar to how the student loan system is set up. Colleges continue to raise prices, and the federal government acts as an endless piggy bank. It’s leading to a crisis that’s hurting a lot of students. What do you think about the Department of Education? What do you think should be done on the federal level regarding education, and how do we improve our schools in CD1 and across the country?
Aditya: The Department of Education and most conservatives agree with me, does more harm than good. Again, the stats show it. The Department of Education was established in 1978, and our reading and math scores are lower than they were in the early 70s. We spend billions every year through the Department of Education to do different things, and still, here in 2021, roughly one out of five high school kids that graduated from high school cannot read at a 12th-grade level. That sounds crazy to us. At work in an old field, that stat is 100% correct. The reason kids are graduating from high school without having high school level skills is that we have a centralized, top-down approach from the federal government with how our schools are run. So, what ends up happening is our teachers and principals are more focused on looking up at the chain and making sure that they have satisfied all of their policies, procedures, checklists, and paperwork, instead of looking down and making sure that their curriculum and their teaching methods all work for their kids in their school in their classroom. If we want to solve this as conservatives, it’s straightforward—it’d be nice if we could get rid of the Department of Education, but we all know that’s not going to happen—we need school choice. School choice is explained very simply as “if a community likes their public school, then they should continue as they see fit. If the community does not like their public school, then the parents can take the money from the public school and then use that voucher to go take their kids to a charter or private school.” It’s that simple. We haven’t passed it on a mass scale because voters don’t understand what school choice is. But if we’re the local government party, then that’s very easy to explain. You just return to a free market on the national level, meaning as little involvement from the Department of Education as possible. Whatever money the Department of Education is spending, we take that, block grant it to the states, and decide to do as they see fit. Then the individual communities can decide.
Garrit: Moving away from the issues and now just talking about the actual race. What has been the response and reaction to your campaign?
Aditya: I think it’s been terrific. This plan that we’re running on—the program to get our country back on the right track towards conservative values—people love it. Everyone is so tired of hearing about the problems. We all know the issues. We all know what we don’t like. People want to know what the solutions are. I’ve worked in close to a dozen different industries. I’ve never been in an industry where you keep your job if you don’t have a solution to the problem. It was intuitively understood that if a problem popped up, we needed to fix it. We don’t just talk about it. We don’t give speeches about it. We don’t tweet about it. We look at the problem, and we figure out solutions. Sometimes the solutions don’t work, and then you try again. If that doesn’t work, then you try something else. We don’t see that at all. When I talk to voters, they are most excited about this plan to give the Republican Party an offensive strategy so that they can wrest cultural control back from the Marxists and get our country back on a conservative path to solve middle-class problems. They love the plan. It’s doable. It makes sense, it’s practical, and it’s simple. No one thinks it will be easy, but everyone understands that this could work. It might take a long time, but it is a specific practical passport. That’s why voters have loved it. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve never run for office. So, they feel like I’m one of them—which I am. I think exactly like the voters because I was a voter three months ago. I was working on a rig in Shelby County three months ago. So, I think that voters have been responsive to is we have an actual practical solution. They understand that it’s coming from a real person. It’s not another lawyer. It’s not another politician. It’s not someone that’s been training for years for a career in politics. It’s from someone that has been solving problems in different industries.
Garrit: You’re running in this open seat, Congressman Louie Gohmert is vacating that, and many people will say that those are some pretty big shoes to fill in terms of conservatism. First off, if you’re given the opportunity, would you join the House Freedom Caucus?
Aditya: Absolutely. 100%. I mean, that’s the direction that our country needs to go. Those are the people who most understand our issues, and they’re fighting to do something about it. We’re so tired of politicians talking about how they’re conservatives and not fighting. It’s ridiculous because we’re fighting for the middle class. Without a doubt, the Freedom Caucus is most connected to the middle class. I’d love to work with them. I know for sure that they would love the plan because it’s what we’ve already been talking about, and it’s going on the offensive—instead of reacting to everything you hear.
Garrit: Secondly, how do you plan on taking on the establishment?
Aditya: This is an excellent question because this happens to many Congressmen. It even happened to Gohmert, which is, when you get to DC, you think, “oh, I’m in Congress now so I’m going to go fight for us, and the swamp better watch out.” Then you get there, you realize, you’re a fish in a high school of 435 people, and the seniors (maybe a dozen of them) run the entire show. What is a freshman supposed to do? You can’t do anything. So the seniors will say, “oh, you know, whatever ideas you have, that’s great. You seem like a nice person, but work with us, raise money for us, be good, and in 10 years we’ll give you a chairmanship, and then you can do what you think you should.” Okay, but by that time we already know you’re part of the problem. So, what we can do is we can work outside of that “high school.” So, for myself and other freshmen Freedom Caucus members, our task is to work with the people to have excellent marketing and branding strategies and go straight to the American people with policy ideas by making them very simple. That’s how you can affect the swamp that is DC. There’s a great analogy, and I’ll end with this, we all know politicians have a special interest like big money and lobbyists. Like many politicians have a special interest, so does a football player, but we call them laziness, ego, pride, and greed. So, as a coach, what do you do with a football player with all these issues? You have to make the play so clear that everyone in the stadium knows that. So, if the rest of the team knows, if all the coaches (which are the motivated voters) know, if the entire audience (which are the laissez-faire voters or the people that vote, but don’t participate), if everyone knows, “Hey, this player, when this play happens, should run 30 yards forward and then turn and catch the ball” then what is this player going to do? He knows he has to, or else he’s going to get benched, or he’s going to get fired. So, he’s going to get it together, and he’s going to find it in himself to do that one play because he knows, after that one play, I can continue to go sit down on the bench, and I can rake in my paycheck and be lazy, but I’ll perform this one play. That’s what we have to do as members of the Freedom Caucus or new conservatives to DC; we have to make these plays so simple that everyone in the country knows. That’s how you put pressure on people like Mitch McConnell and McCarthy to work for the middle class.
Garrit: Absolutely. The final thing I have for you is, do you have any final words or thoughts as we end the interview.
Aditya: Yeah, if I could say one thing. I know many people are terrified of the direction our country’s headed. They’re not wrong because we have very serious historians and economists that say the same. What we’re seeing right now is, since FDR first got elected In 1932, a steady pendulum swing towards big government, liberal values of the society that more and more leads away from the foundations of faith, the nuclear family, community, individual work ethic, and the American spirit. We’ve seen that since 1932, that pendulum has been swinging, and it’s to the left. The pendulum is ready to swing back towards conservative values local self-government, and the Republican Party will be the majority for the next 30-90 years. Still, it’s being held by the mainstream media and many Marxist organizations by lies. That’s why we’re seeing everything we see in the country. If they win, they will break the pendulum. So, it is our job as conservatives to know that history always has rhythms, history always has cycles, and, right now, the moment favors us. The momentum is already with us. It just requires us to now go on the offensive and let the pendulum swing back to the direction that it already wants to go. We do that by being the party of the local government.
Garrit Blizzard is the Editor-In-Chief of The Texas Horn. He is a senior studying government at the University of Texas at Austin. Garrit enjoys reading, listening to music, and discussing politics and economics.