My Q&A with Aaron Pettigrew, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate

I recently had the opportunity to interview Aaron Pettigrew, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Tennessee. Aaron calls Rutherford County, Tennessee home, but he spends much of his time on the road as a professional commercial driver. Politically, Aaron is firmly right-wing, but has been critical of both Democrats and Republicans currently in office. 

Aaron is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and an advocate for a limited government. On climate change, he believes that “the climate changes,” but does not mention a belief in any human-caused impacts to the environment. He describes himself as “a Constitutional Patriot first, a conservative second, and a Republican last.” You can visit Aaron’s website to learn more about his platform and vision for office.

Aaron’s beliefs and opinions are his own and do not reflect my own personal political beliefs or the political leanings of this newsletter; if you’ve been reading Antidote for any length of time, you might be able to guess that Aaron and I don’t have many issues, if any, that we agree upon. However, I think it’s important to have a dialogue with the other side, especially those that could become our elected leaders.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity, but is presented in its entirety. My questions are in bold and thoughts I added after the interview are in italics. 

You're originally from Wyoming. What would you tell someone who has never been west about Wyoming? Is it as beautiful as the pictures make it seem?

Allow me to wax nostalgic a bit. Wyoming can be a paradise for outdoors enthusiasts, geologists, anthropologists and paleontologists alike. With the Continental Divide running through the middle of the state, mountain ranges, forests, high-altitude deserts and a super volcano that could cause an extinction-level event at Yellowstone. There is something to be said about a state over twice the size of Tennessee with a population smaller than either Memphis or Nashville, but it's that way for a reason. I have seen winter temperatures colder than 40° below and summer temperatures of 105°, and I have also seen sustained winds comparable to smaller tornadoes. I have even sat on the edge of a glacier cliff at 12,000 feet.

Politically, Wyoming was allowing all women and men of age, 21 at the time, to vote before they even became a state all the way back to 1869. They even had the first woman governor, though she was the widow of one that passed away in office. When such a large area deals with such harsh elements, equality is a necessary part of life.

As it gets closer to August, school reopening has been a major topic of discussion. Some experts don't think schools in coronavirus hotspots can safely reopen, but many may reopen anyway. What would your approach be to reopening schools in the fall?

It's perfectly understandable to take precautions with a new strain of coronavirus, but this is among the reasons I support school choice. If the money goes with the student, parents would be making or at least have a larger role in the decisions about it like they should.

On school choice: Public schools are already chronically underfunded, and using public funds to support school choice would only serve to exacerbate this problem. Students that could only afford a public school education would suffer the most. I don’t believe that how much money your parents have should determine the quality of your education, and, although it already does, we need to work on solving the problem, not compounding it.

Another federal stimulus bill is in the works. Democrats want to extend the extra federal unemployment benefits and President Trump was originally pushing for a payroll tax break that he says would incentivize Americans to get back to work. Which proposal do you favor, or do you see a need for another stimulus?

Because the government put these shutdowns in motion, some government easements are necessary. The problem with stimulus efforts is that they propagate yet more government dependence. I do believe that in emergency times like this, some relief is the right thing to do, but it must be targeted and specific to need as well as temporary. The problem with direct pay stimulus is that as a republic, we are already in a state of permanent structural debt, so it can only be done by creating more artificial money, making the dollar worth even less. Every time we do that, it's the working poor that lose the most.

On inflation: If the government stimulus bills cause inflation and for the dollar to be worth less, poor Americans could benefit if wages increased with inflation. Pre-existing debts, such as student loans, mortgages, and credit card debts, would effectively become less of a burden if the dollar were to drop in value. In other words, inflation could cause wages to go up, but pre-existing debt amounts are not indexed to inflation, so this would theoretically benefit poor workers.

On a lighter note, do you have any favorite sports teams you're looking forward to watching when we get major sports back?

With the way the woke culture has taken over sports, no. I refuse to waste my money on businesses that think they have a right to call me racist just because I believe in the Holy Bible and the Constitution of the United States of America. To add insult to that injury, they don't even pay for their stadiums and event centers, they use our tax dollars to do most or all of it, including Bill Hagerty with the soccer stadium using $250,000,000 of Nashville taxpayer money even though he could pay that himself.

A few months back, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld DACA, the program created by Barack Obama protecting undocumented students from deportation. President Trump has tried to end it but has so far been unsuccessful. When it comes to immigration, would you be in favor of allowing any undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, or offer them a path to citizenship?

Upholding DACA is clear proof that some SCOTUS justices need to face impeachment. That statement is not about the recipients of DACA, it is because Article 1, Section 8 clearly puts immigration and naturalization in the hands of Congress, not the Executive. Activist attorneys and judges have twisted the entire meaning of the 14th Amendment and Title 8 of the U.S. Code. This is a subject that really is not about me, it's about the American citizen. We must repair and secure the United States immigration system first! After that, and only after that, we can begin to adjudicate those here illegally, until then we must follow and enforce the law with deportation and other legal penalties, period.

On immigration: I do not believe in referring to undocumented immigrants as “illegal.” Immigrants contribute an enormous amount of money, labor, and culture to the U.S., and I believe in welcoming anyone searching for a better life into our country with open arms. I, like every other white person in America, am in this country because my ancestors were once immigrants looking for a better life. It would be cruel and hypocritical to deny others the same privileges that were afforded to my family.

In the wake of George Floyd's killing, there's been a renewed call to remove Confederate monuments from places of prominence. Should these monuments stay where they are, move to a museum, or somewhere else?

I do understand some of the feelings on both sides of this argument.  I do believe museums would be a logical solution, though I am not a fan of removing them, but if it is done by a vote of the community they're in and not just a mob of angry people...not because I support slavery, but because they can be used as a teaching tool. Ignorance of history can often be more harmful than most other things to the future of any society. Not only can they be used to teach young people about the Civil War and the evils of slavery, but they can also be used to teach broader concepts, such as how evil itself can be considered socially acceptable and how wars can be because of more than one issue. 

While slavery may have been the primary financiers' issue of the War, to most of the people fighting it in the South, it was about State Sovereignty and States’ Rights. We can teach others that people who often believe they are fighting for a just cause could in fact be fighting for something evil and not know it. These are some of the ugliest truths about human nature but they are truths nonetheless. I am a firm believer in teaching the lessons of history, including, and especially, the uncomfortable ones.

On States’ Rights: Confederates actually opposed states’ rights - they did not believe northern states had the right to not support slavery. Later generations have perpetuated the idea that the Civil War was fought over “states’ rights” in order to whitewash their ancestors’ crimes. At the time of the Civil War, southerners had no problem admitting slavery to be the cause of the conflict.

You don't have any big dollar donors or a web of elite political connections, which will probably make it harder for you to get elected. What needs to change so we get more candidates of the people and less "dynasty" candidates (like the Clintons, Kennedys, etc.)?

I have only one donor that has maxed out, though as a couple they haven't. She is an escapee from liberal New Jersey and is a fellow Constitutional Patriot. Before either this campaign or the last, I didn't seek the blessing of donors, I am in this fight for the Constitution of the United States of America.

Is there anything else you want voters to know about you before the August 6th primary?

I know that as a trucker and being self-educated beyond high school that I am not the typical candidate, but as a man that has strictly run on principles, being an underfunded candidate can give me a lot more political leverage to fight for those principles. Have you ever complained about politicians not honoring their oath of office? The best way to solve that is to vote for the only candidate that is running because of that oath! Every Tennessean is welcome to call me and talk. My cellphone number is (615) 869-8658 and I prefer texts go to my tablet at (615) 713-8448.

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