The first night of U.S. Army Ranger School is one of the hardest. After a grueling day that tests your physical limits, you are left outside, given no instructions, and made to stand waiting in the dark.
It was well past 2 or 3 a.m. I was exhausted. At any point, you could drop out and quit, and I was tempted.
But a young soldier, who was probably no older than 19, saw the look on my face and my desire to give up and told me, “Quit tomorrow.”
When I told him, unconvincingly, I wasn’t going to quit at all, he simply replied, “Quit tomorrow and when tomorrow comes again, quit tomorrow, and repeat that until you actually finish.”
As simple as that idea was, his words helped me summon the courage to finish all 62 days of Ranger School and earn the Ranger Tab.
That lesson stayed with me when I served two combat tours in Iraq and later taught math in a high-needs middle school. Today, it is a feeling so many families across southern Minnesota share as the difficulties of daily life, particularly amid this pandemic, become overwhelming.
While we tell ourselves to “quit tomorrow,” politicians in D.C. like Jim Hagedorn have already quit on us. As COVID-19 struck our communities, Congressman Hagedorn did nothing to ensure there was sufficient personal protective equipment for our front-line workers or a nationwide testing and tracing plan to defeat this pandemic.
But long before COVID-19, Hagedorn quit working for us and started working to enrich himself and his wealthy donors instead. Earlier this year, we learned that his congressional office spent nearly $500,000 of our taxpayer money on franked mailers printed by companies owned by his staff and their families. Independent reporting shows his campaign potentially violated campaign finance law by getting an office rent-free for seven years from a wealthy donor, later paying that same donor with tens of thousands of dollars of our taxpayer money. Worse yet, when confronted about it, he hasn’t been honest with us or made any effort to repay the hardworking people of southern Minnesota.
Instead of working to make health care more affordable and accessible, congressman Hagedorn took donations from drug and insurance companies and then voted against lowering drug costs. Instead of working to protect people with pre-existing conditions, he joined a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act. Instead of fighting for our farmers, he stood idly by as big oil donors got the waivers they wanted. To Hagedorn, representing you is about making himself and his donors rich.
Hagedorn’s and Washington’s failures have real human consequences. Tens of thousands of southern Minnesotans can barely afford their health care plans and, in many cases, abandon their health care needs altogether. Our family farms have had a record number of bankruptcies. This is on top of the effects that the pandemic has had on all of our lives, whether we have had a friend or family member suffer or die from COVID-19, lost jobs or small businesses, or struggled with the immense daily challenges like child care and remote learning.
For too long, people have not come first in Washington, and with Jim Hagedorn, that is never going to change. I am running for Congress because we have to start putting people first. It is not only a slogan, but also a philosophy of leadership that I learned in the Army and as a teacher, which is why I will work to create a national plan to address and defeat COVID-19, make health care and prescription drugs affordable, and advocate for our farmers and our ag economy.
But underlying all of this is my desire to work on behalf of people, not corporate special interests. That is why I am rejecting all corporate PAC donations so I can serve the people of southern Minnesota, not the corporations who already wield too much power.
Amid these unprecedented challenges, farmers, teachers, small-business owners, parents and front-line workers all work hard and tell themselves, “Quit tomorrow.” We can no longer tolerate politicians like Jim Hagedorn who have long quit on us, and it is time to demand that the federal government and elected officials work as hard as we all are.
Dan Feehan is the Democratic candidate for Minnesota’s First Congressional District.