By James Mackler. Op-ed originally ran in The Tennessean on March 16, 2019

A sense of duty compelled me to join the U.S. Army after we were attacked on 9/11. I had to do more to serve.

A 30-year-old attorney, I closed my law practice, enlisted, earned an age waiver to fly Black Hawk helicopters, and became a Screaming Eagle serving in the 101st Airborne Division. In Iraq, I saw what happens when the rule of law breaks down.

Today, with our own rule of law under siege, that same sense of duty compels me to run for U.S. Senate.

I have to do more to change a broken political system that fosters divisions and rewards conflict. Compromise – even as we in face an opioid epidemic and a steady stream of rural hospital closures – isn’t happening. I’m running because the outsized influence of corporate special interests has contaminated our democracy.

Our system works best when people vote, volunteer, and make their voices heard. When our voices are drowned out by floods of corporate cash, we all suffer.

Focused and well-funded efforts to suppress voting makes matters worse. One million voters have been purged from Tennessee’s voter rolls in the decade since the legislature approved removing voters for not casting ballots in consecutive elections.

A change to that law and high-profile registration efforts haven’t made up the difference. Another provision requiring citizens give their complete nine-digit Social Security number on paper registrations doesn’t help – and should alarm privacy and voting rights advocates.

By design, our legislatures are filled with politicians more accountable to, and focused on pleasing, their biggest bankrollers – not their constituents. Today in Tennessee, instead of discussions how to expand Medicaid and saving at-risk rural hospitals, our gerrymandered majority is focused on taking away the rights of women, our LGBTQ neighbors, and defunding public education.

None of this helps create jobs or strengthen the economy. Having started a small business and helped others grow, I know it’s unlikely entrepreneurs will be drawn to communities without highly-skilled workers, modern infrastructure or available medical services.

Changing our broken political system is essential to starting conversations about fixing healthcare, how to give small businesses a break and a boost to hire their neighbors, decide which investments will foster the growth of the next economic boom, and how to expand 21st century infrastructure to rural Tennessee.

Across Tennessee, people ask how one person can change a broken system. It’s a tall task, and I find the answer in my faith.

The most important voice in my life is my wife, Rabbi Shana Goldstein Mackler. She often cites the Jewish tradition of Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew phrase meaning repair the world. “The fact that you cannot change everything doesn’t absolve you of an obligation to try,” she’ll say.

It’s my duty, and my mission, to try.

Change starts with me, and that’s why my campaign doesn’t accept corporate PAC contributions. I’ll work with employers and corporations that employ Tennesseans to help strengthen our economy, not fund my campaigns. My campaign is, and will continue to be, fueled by individuals wanting to fix a system that’s been rigged against us.

When elected, I’ll be a senator for all Tennesseans – not only people that vote for me. That’s what we ought to expect. When the influence of corporate special interests turns that simple mission into an aspirational goal, it’s time for new people to step forward.

Join the team! Sign up for emails at www.JamesMackler.com, talk and share things about the campaign on social media, volunteer, and donate what you can. It’s an uphill battle, and we need everyone wanting change on our team to make it happen.

Iraq war combat veteran James Mackler is a Nashville attorney running for U.S. Senate in 2020.