(Editor's note: One of the greatest powers Americans have is their right to vote. Patch respects that, and wants our readership to be as informed as possible before walking into that voting booth on Tuesday. With that in mind, this is the sixth and final in a series of in-depth interviews with candidates vying for Virginia’s 11th congressional District seat.)
Disgust with Congress, ridding America of it's dependence on foreign oil and the importance of third-party candidacies were just a few of the topics discussed recently between Patch and Peter Marchetti, the Independent Green candidate for Virginia's 11th congressional District seat. Marchetti spoke with Patch from the Starbucks coffee shop at the Bradlick Shopping Center in Annandale.
Marchetti, 37, has no funds in his campaign war chest and faces incumbent Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly (who has $1.5 million), Republican Chris Perkins ($45,000), Independent Green candidate Joe Galdo, Independent Mark Gibson and Independent Chris DeCarlo. This is Marchetti's second run for political office, his first being an unsuccessful bid for Fairfax County's Soil and Water Conservation Board last year.
Marchetti, 37, is an information technology government contractor at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital. He received his associates degree in computer systems analysis at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. A native of Columbus, Ohio, he is the son of a factory worker and was raised a Jehova's Witness. He left the faith when he was 20, and has been an atheist ever since. His hobbies include practicing Filipino martial arts, playing video games and reading.
Marchetti lives with his wife and two-year-old daughter in Springfield.
Patch: How much time are you devoting to the campaign?
Marchetti: Very little these days. I started collecting signatures Jan. 2, and I devoted a lot of time to the campaign at first, but a couple of things happened. I quickly discovered that campaigning for Congress is not something you can do on your own. You need organization, you need money and I had neither. If I want to do this again in 2014, I'll soon need to start organizing a group of volunteers and supporters.
The other reason I didn't spend a lot of time campaigning when I got on the ballot was because I was put in charge of a new project at work, and it required a lot of extra hours. From May to September, I was working 60-100 hours a week, and my priority had to be to my work and my family.
Patch: Have you ever been in a fistfight?
Marchetti: Yes. In middle school, when I was 12 or 13 years old.
Patch: Were your political beliefs influenced by your parents?
Marchetti: My parents are apolitical. I was raised a Jehova's Witness, and Jehova's Witnesses don't take part in the political process anywhere in the world. So, politics was not something I was involved in growing up. I am now an atheist.
Patch: What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Marchetti: An astrophysicist or cosmologist.
Patch: Why didn't you do that?
Marcetti: The religion. First, you need to understand a little about the doctrine of Jehova's Witnesses. Part of it is that we are all living in the end of times. Very soon, they believe, God is going to come and wipe out all the governments, get rid of all the bad people and create a paradise that everyone left can live in forever.
Patch: Do they have any idea of when this is going to happen?
Marcetti: No. They no longer make specific predictions. They say it can happen any day now, in the next five minutes, five years, 50 years. But, they think it's going to happen in our lifetimes, so don't worry about the things that you really want to do right now, because if you're faithful and it happens you'll have an eternity as a human being on a perfect paradise earth to do those things. That's why I didn't follow through with astrophysics and cosmology. Witnesses devote themselves to their religion, and not worldly pursuits.
Patch: Why did you leave the church?
Marcetti: I was actually being groomed for a leadership position in the church when I was 18-19 years old. But I'd had issues with the church for a while, and I left when I was 20. The main reason was that one of the things the Witnesses talk a lot about is truth. I was taught to love and seek truth, but I later started thinking for myself and realized that the religion itself was not true. It does not accurately reflect the reality that we share, and I am more concerned about what is real than anything else.
Patch: Describe what happened when you were 20.
Marcetti: I discovered that I was living two lives. At home, I was the good Witness kid saying the things I was supposed to say and do, and not doing what I wasn't supposed to do. Outside of home I was associated with people who were not in the religion, which is a no-no, which is very discouraged, because bad associations tend to lead people out of the religion. But their beliefs just don't add up. For one thing, Jehova's Witnesses accept the scientific attitude on the age of the earth, but they do not accept evolution.
Patch: Not good for a kid who wants to be a scientist.
Marcetti: No. And then, when I got into high school I had an excellent freshman biology teacher who laid out for me the basics of evolutionary theory, and it just made sense. You can't deny it if you're honest with yourself. And without the existence of a literal fall from grace by Adam and Eve, and that leading to Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, their entire eschatology falls apart.
Patch: So, are Jehova's Witnesses willfully deluding themselves?
Marcetti: This is something that I probably should not say if I want to get elected to the Unites States Congress, but yes. My attitude is that religious faith is willful self-delusion.
Patch: All of it?
Marcetti: All of it. There is no God, especially any kind of God that humans have described. Notice I didn't said that religion wasn't useful. I said it's willful self-delusion.
We have self delusions that we find useful all the time. For one thing, we hold onto the delusion that we actually pick our elected leaders and that they aren't picked for us. It became obvious that Romney was the chosen one long before he got the nomination. Same thing with Barack Obama. The people who control the parties and control the largest concentration of wealth in history make those decisions for us. The easiest way to prove that: Unless I have millions of dollars, I have no realistic chance of winning.
Patch: About that. You don't have any cash in the bank. How do you expect to do on Tuesday?
Marchetti: I have not received a single donation. The only expenditures I've had are in making copies, buying ink pads and clipboards and mailing my signatures to the State Board of Elections.
If you look at congressional races across the country, it costs somewhere around $2.5 million to win a congressional seat. That's just what you have to spend to be competitive. I have no prospect of raising that kind of money, and I knew that going in and that the chances of my winning were slim to none. I really don't expect to get more than a few dozen to a few hundred votes. I really don't. And, when we start talking about positions and issues, you'll see why I may not get any votes.
Patch: Does the Independent Green party have any funds to throw your way?
Marchetti: They are a very small party and they don't have that kind of an organization with lots of donors to funnel money to campaigns. I'm a marginal candidate. I can get on the ballot, but I don't have the experience for people to take me seriously, so for the Independent Greens to devote their resources to me, a guy who has no shot at winning, probably wouldn't be a good move.
Patch: So, the Independent Green Party wants as many candidates as possible, regardless of their finances?
Marchetti: Yes. One of their slogans is 'Vote, Join, Run.' Let's get regular Americans on the ballot. The strategy is to increase the visibility of third-party candidates. The more you have, the more their presence enters the mind of voters and people start talking about them. And I do think it is important for this country to move away from two parties completely controlling the political process.
Patch: When and why did you decide to run?
Marchetti: I decided to run on New Year's Day. The reason was Congress passing the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act) and the president signing it. It says that Congress has the authority to lock anyone in the planet up without due process.
Obama says he's not going to use this authority, but it doesn't matter. How can the people we entrust with protecting our rights justify passing a law that so blatantly violates our constitutional guarantee? They'll use it if they want to. You don't pass a law that you don't intend to enforce. The truth is that the Republicans and Democrats are two sides of the same coin. They work for the same people.
Patch: Aren't those people us, the American people?
Marchetti: No. The people the two big parties work for are the rich contributors who give them the money they need to win a seat. There was a time when they were not professional politicians, like in the very beginnings of the country in the early 18th century.
Patch: The country was also polarized then, and not nearly as strong.
Marchetti: It was polarized, and for a number of reasons. But there weren't the large, modern organizations that could devote massive resources to changing the direction of the political attitude of the country. Now, I'm not saying being wealthy or having power are bad things. The issue is when it gets to the point where an organization like the Republican or Democratic National Committee has enough resources to control the conversation.
Let's look at the Republicans on Fox News. People can say all they want that it's not a mouthpiece of the Republican Party, but if you look at it honestly there's really no way to deny it. The majority stockholders are all Republican power players, and they are pretty much the propaganda wing of the Republican party. That gives them an immense amount of control over the conversation, and by concentrating control of the conversation and the way you discuss the issues, you can lead the political attitude of the country and the focus of the argument. And over the past 30 years, the Republicans have been moving that conversation more and more to the right.
Marchetti: Because you can't immediately get people behind the most extreme things the right wing desires. You have to start shifting people closer and closer.
For one thing, the abortion issue: the right has moved this conversation to the extreme of allowing it for only cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother. They've gone from saying that your fundamental right to take control of your body isn't the argument. The argument is about a fetus, and they want as many fetuses as possible to become people. What about the woman?
Patch: What happens if abortion is outlawed?
Marchetti: The only thing you will accomplish is killing women. Many will abide by the law, and some won't and those who won't will resort to back-alley abortions, perforating their uteruses with coat hangers and things like that.
By having abortion legal and regulated, we can make sure it's safe and not something that will hurt the woman getting the abortion. But when you're not focusing on the rights of the individual to control their own body, you've lost that entire part of the argument. So, even the Democrats have to keep moving to the right to stay in the window of conversation on this issue.
Patch: People who don't believe in God have a much different idea of what life is. What does it mean to be an atheist politician?
Marchetti: Nobody is more concerned about the separation of church and state than those who have no religion. It terrifies me that in the next 10-20 years that this country could become a Christian theocratic fascistic dictatorship.
Patch: Do you really think that's a possibility? Don't you think Americans are independent enough to realize that's not what we want?
Marchetti: Look at the influence of the religious right on the Republican party. Do you really think it is impossible? Forty percent of this country still denies evolution. Half this country is of the opinion that we should base our laws on their Christian religious beliefs. Have you ever heard anyone argue against gay marriage where the argument is not based on a religious attitude? I haven't. Half this country wants their religion made law, and that terrifies me.
People look at Nazi Germany and they say it could never happen in America, but you should read some of the stuff people were writing in Germany before the Nazis gained power. They didn't believe such things could happen either. It can happen in America, and if our economic and social situations get bad enough, people will sacrifice liberty for the illusion of security. It's been proven to happen repeatedly through history, and history teaches us that we never learn from history.
Patch: Who are you going to vote for President on Tuesday?
Marchetti: Obama. A Romney presidency absolutely terrifies me, so it's a strategic vote. But I'd much rather vote for someone I really liked, because I'm rather disappointed in Obama. He had the potential to be the greatest president since Washington.
Patch: Does he not, still?
Marchetti: Yeah, he does, but I think I'm disappointed with him in the same way as a lot of his supporters before he was elected. We really wanted him to come in and shake things up, use the bully pulpit to start addressing issues that the middle class is really concerned about. He didn't. He basically towed the line for financial institutions in his first term.
Plus, Republicans were incredibly obstructionist and made sure that next to nothing got accomplished and they blamed Obama for that. Again, an example of the Republicans controlling the conversation.
Patch: Why aren't you voting for a third party candidate?
Marchetti: Because Libertarian Gary Johnson is just as corrupt as Romney and he may even be more dangerous. He says he's fiscally conservative and responsible, but look at the budgets he put forward when he was governor of New Mexico. He's forced the state to take on ridiculous amounts of debt and now he claims fiscal responsibility? No.
Patch: Describe to me your leadership style.
Marchetti: I am the kind of person who assumes the people working under me are responsible adults and are going to do the ob you pay them for. Right now I'm a mid-level manager and the way I like to do things is to outline a plan, ask for feedback and then go forth and do great things. Let me know if there are any problems and I'll check in with you every so often. I believe people work best when they are given the freedom to use the talents that you hired them for.
Patch: What's the job of the congressman representing Virginia's 11th congressional District?
Marchetti: Primarily, it is to represent the interests of the people in the district, but also to represent the interests of the American people as a whole. You can't only focus on your District, because so many of the problems that we have are at a macro level. There are times when you focus on specific issues, but looking at the larger picture ultimately helps people in the District. I think our representatives have forgotten that.
Patch: Most Americans are tired of the polarization in Congress. How do you think it will end, or will it?
Marchetti: I don't think the polarization will end, not until one or both parties implode. I honestly would not be surprised to see the Republican party shatter, because it has several competing power blocks. You have the religious right and you have the ultra-wealthy portion, and there's no way that they can be compatible.
Just looking at the way the party has conducted itself in the past three years, I really keep expecting the vast majority of Republicans in office to one day say, 'Wait a second. There's no way I'm supporting these guys anymore.'
Patch: What happens when one of the major parties implodes?
Marchetti: We will have the development of two or three other parties, or we will see the Republican party re-brand itself with a new name and basically doing the same thing.
Patch: But then you'd have a powerhouse in the Democratic party, right?
Marchetti: I don't think so. The Democratic party's biggest problem is that they're not willing to play hardball. Take a look at what the Republican-controlled House has done this year. They have filibustered more bills than they have passed. The House has accomplished virtually nothing in this session. If a Democratic bill comes in from the House or the president, they filibuster it. Republicans don't even want it to get to a vote so that it looks like Obama hasn't done anything. And Democrats aren't coming back at all. If a vote comes up that's important to Republicans, every single one of them shows up.
Patch: On to a issue that has local and national implications - sequestration. Do we let that happen?
Marchetti: The whole budget issue in Congress has me really irritated right now. It's a side issue. The real issue is that Congress hasn't passed a budget in, what, 10 years? That's they're job. The House of Representatives controls the purse strings of the government for a reason - so that the people representing the common man will decide on how their tax dollars are spent. They're not doing the job. The solution to sequestration is in passing a budget.
Patch: Right, but Congress has to figure out how to reallocate $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction or it will severely impact Northern Virginia, especially defense contractors like you.
Marchetti: I know that. The answer is that we pass a budget and we do it during lame duck. What happened if I go to work and don't do my job? I lose that job. And strangely, Congress goes to work and they don't do their job. What happens? They get reelected.
Now, this $1.2 trillion; Congress is trying to reduce the deficit, which is so high because of entitlement programs. In 1980, we spent $53 billion on Medicare. In 2009, we spent $850 billion. In 2016, given that same rate of change, the requirement to pay for Medicare will be $1.6 trillion in 2016. In 2023, it will be $3.2 trillion - the entirety of the federal budget.
Now, obviously the economy is going to grow as well, but right now, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are 50 percent of the federal budget. Throw the military on top of it and we're at 80 percent. We can't fix Medicare and Medicaid without fixing the problems we have with the medical industry as a whole, and that means research development, pharmaceuticals and actual practice of care.
Patch: What do you think about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?
Marchetti: It does some good things, but what I disagree with is the individual mandate. I read the decision, but I do not understand the Supreme Court's reasoning for holding that up as constitutional. The individual mandate says that individual American citizens must enter into a contract with a third party. Where is the government given the authority in the Constitution to force me into an agreement with a third party?
Patch: On to your Democratic opponent Gerry Connolly. What's the verdict?
Marchetti: I have met him once, and I've got to say I like him. If I weren't on the ballot I'd probably vote for him. I didn't run because of any issues I had with Connolly. I'm running because I believe that you should run in the district you live in.
Patch: And you think Connolly is doing a good job?
Marchetti: I am not happy with everything he has done. He voted for NDAA twice, and basically he works within the Democratic party structure, which is owned by the ultra-rich, which means he still is not representing our interests.
Patch: You have some interesting ideas of how we should conduct business at home. What about abroad? What should we do about the Assad regime in Syria?
Marchetti: I am not an isolationist. What we need to get our energy solutions figured out and get the hell out of the Middle East, policing the world and making sure we have all the oil we need. For the last 40 years, American foreign policy has been about positioning ourselves to get as much oil as possible to allow our economy to function.
Patch: Aside from that, there is the moral question in Syria. Human rights violations are being committed. Innocent civilians are being killed. Do we intervene? You mentioned Nazi Germany earlier. Do we turn a blind eye, just as many did with the Holocaust?
Marchetti: No, I don't think that we just let it happen, but do we have the moral right to intervene in the affairs of a sovereign country?
Patch: That's what I'm asking you.
Marchetti: I'm not sure we should stay out of it, but who are we to decide what's best for those people?
Patch: Shouldn't people around the world look to the United States for leadership, look to it as a moral compass?
Marchetti: We certainly think that they do. But you know what, I don't think it's as true as we wish it was. We stick our nose in where it doesn't belong, we do things specifically to benefit corporations to the detriment of people working in the countries that we're supposedly rebuilding.
Patch: But should Assad be allowed to continue killing his people?
Marchetti: The only thing I'm comfortable with is providing humanitarian aid. Give the people living in this what they need to survive while the population figures out what they want to do. It's up to the people of Syria, not us. Supplying weapons is a tough one. I want to say yes, but with foreign affairs and internal issues, what business is it of ours? How would we feel if China said, 'Hey, the American government is a repressive regime and we're going to free them.' How would Americans feel about that?
Patch: I guess it would depend on if America was killing and starving its people.
Marchetti: One could make the argument that they are.
Patch: What's the solution with Israel? What do we do in the event of a nuclear Iran?
Marchetti: We helped extremist Muslim leaders overthrow the leadership in Iran, which was a much more progressive government. We did that, and we are responsible for that. The answer is that we solve our energy problems. On Israel, my attitude with Israel is going to be really unpopular. Just walk away.
Patch: Can you elaborate on that?
Marchetti: Calling it an island of Democracy is not something I agree with. It appears to be true, but then you look at what they do to their neighbors. They seem to rely very heavily on the preemptive strike, and the things they are doing to their own citizens - the Palestinians living in Israel - are human rights violations. I just don't think we have any business supporting Israel.
The issue is that Israel will one day be outnumbered by non-Jews living in their own country. That demographic shift will force a change in that country, and the state will either remain and become more brutal, or it will become more diverse and reflect its changing electorate.
Patch: How do we solve our energy problems?
Marchetti: We do it with liquid thorium fluoride reactors. Thorium is a radioactive material that we can find in coal, which is something the United States has a whole lot of… We've actually built these, but plans were abandoned because it could not be weaponized.
The thorium can only be used to generate power for peaceful purposes. The amount of energy we can get out of the coal is 13 times through nuclear reaction that just burning the coal. And there's no emissions, only waste that's radioactive for about 150 years. This reactor design can not melt down.
I completely agree with Obama that we need an all-of-the-above approach to solving our energy problems. We need it all - geothermal, wind, solar, drilling off Virginia's coast. We're going to have to drill somewhere, and it's hypocritical for us to not drill in our own back yard.
Patch: So, we leave the Middle East. What's the result?
Marchetti: We are no longer meddling in their affairs. We can downsize our military instead of them dying in the desert to ensure we have access to oil. Getting our toes out of the sandbox will solve a lot of the problems that America has in the Middle East, because for the most part that's all they want. They want us to go away and determine things for themselves.
Patch: What do you really think will happen?
Marchetti: World War III. As we start running out of oil, everyone will start fighting over it. And then a few years down the road everyone will start fighting over water, and we're going to wind up with World War III.
Patch: Who will be fighting who?
Marchetti: It's impossible to guess, but we're beginning to see an Asian-Pacific block of power emerging, and it's anchored on China. They may supplant the U.S. as a super power, but not for a while. And who knows what will happen with Russia.
Patch: Back to the home front. We've got some traffic problems in Northern Virginia. What do we do about it?
Marchetti: More trains. Better public transportation in Northern Virginia directly affects the federal government. The federal government should spend money on improving the infrastructure in Northern Virginia. It's a state responsibility, but building more roads is not the answer. What I would love to see is a metro that runs around the beltway, so you don't need a car. And it has to be around the whole D.C. Metro area.
Patch: Do we legalize drugs?
Marchetti: Yes. We should end the drug war. We can't win, we're wasting money and we're destroying lives. Treat all the drugs that are illegal like alcohol. Everybody's concerned about their kids doing drugs. Simply, drug dealers don't ask for ID, but your liquor store certainly does. It's easier for a teenager to get pot than it is to get liquor. Let's tax the living $#@* out of it, and treat it like alcohol.
Patch: Final question. What advice do you have for young people?
Marchetti: We're living in the future that I always dreamed of as a kid. I have in my hand my cell phone, a device with more computing power than was on the space shuttle and it was $100. Make the most of the opportunities you have to learn. The schools aren't going to teach you, but you have more of the human race's body of knowledge available to you in seconds than has ever been possible in any point in history. Make use of it and think for yourself. Don't just accept what you're told. Consider the evidence and make up your own mind.