As a top Secret Service agent who had the distinction of serving under three U.S. Presidents, Dan Bongino lived in and observed “the DC bubble” for nearly ten years.
So when he told me, “You’ve been sold out,” I listened. In a recent web ad, he talks about how he watched the administration at work, silently observing in his role as a Secret Service agent: “Whether it was Obamacare, insider tax deals, or insider access to information, they live in an America that you don’t live in. There is zero accountability to you.”
“The interests of the American citizens that the government is designed to serve have been subordinated to the interest groups, both internal and external, to the government itself,” he said to me in a phone interview. “Whether that be the lobbyist on K Street or the bureaucratic insider who is loyal to the President and the administration before the people. Either way, you’ve been sold out.”
Although Bongino was in the DC world of corruption and cronyism, he was certainly not of it. He details in his book how he had to fight the bureaucracy and administration staffers just to ensure that he could effectively do his job—protecting the President.
“We’re turning into a country where people can buy and sell another person’s liberty,” Bongino said. “You see strange bedfellows like the Occupy Wall Street crowd and the Tea Party, which say similar things in different ways.”
I had also made the strange connection between the two movements, because of their shared sentiment that corporate welfare and crony capitalism corrupts the political system. The practice of politicians picking winners and losers is something that gets under the skin of most Americans.
“There are two types of people in Washington,” Bongino said in a recent interview. “Those who have sold out to lobbyists, and those who are getting ready to be lobbyists.”
It’s a message that resonated among Virginia voters. Conservative challenger Dave Brat shocked the political world earlier this summer when he defeated the Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor (a pro-amnesty figure who was known for his incestuous relationship with Silicon Valley).
I recently met Bongino at an event in my hometown (Cumberland, MD), and he immediately strikes you as a guy who doesn’t back down from a fight. A fitness publication that interviewed him lists him as 6 feet 1 inches and 210 pounds, but he certainly seems taller. He trained in boxing, wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and works out on a regular basis. He was runner-up for two mixed martial arts competitions: Grapplefest in New York and the New York State Police Olympics.
It’s hard not to draw a parallel between Bongino’s fighting prowess and his never-back-down, never-give-up attitude when it comes to fighting the ruling class in Washington.
“We had this expression in boxing whenever you sparred, if you were losing, you never wanted to stop,” he said at a recent event. “‘Just one more round.’ This is our ‘one more round.'”
Bongino is a born fighter. He rose out of an impoverished single-parent home and ascended to the top of his field. Now, having witnessed the cronyism that goes on inside Washington, Bongino is running for Congress in my home district with the goal to fight the DC culture that has so poisoned our political system.
He has the training. Now, he wants to have his shot in the ring.
Bongino embodies a growing sentiment within the populace that is disillusioned with both political parties, many of whom yearn for a third party. In fact, Bongino himself used to be “a liberty-based Independent.”
“I didn’t want to be told what to do,” he said, identifying with the sentiments of younger voters. “I had a bumper sticker on my car: ‘Question Authority.’ That is a strong, almost magnetic pull for younger voters now. We don’t want to be told what kind of health care plan we need to buy.”
Bongino describes himself as a “Conservatarian,” somewhere between a Conservative and a Libertarian, but firmly within “the liberty wing of the Republican Party.”
Drawing a distinction between the people and the elitists in Washington, Bongino sees the emergence of a “Renegade Republican Party that goes after sellouts on both sides.”
“Frankly, I think we’ve been sold out by members of both parties,” he told me. “One guy sells you out to big government, and the other sells you out to big business interests.”
Bongino rejects third parties, arguing that voters should harness that renegade spirit in order to restore the GOP to a party that truly stands for principles and people.
“I hear talk of a third party,” Bongino said in a recent speech. “Third party? We built this party. Kick these phonies out!”
The “phonies” he speaks of are elitist Republicans and lobbyists within establishment circles that have rendered the party virtually indistinguishable from the Democrat party at the federal level.
Bongino recognizes that too many Republican politicians have been corrupted by the DC bubble, caving to the interests of big business and big government while caring too little for the voice of the common man. Far from wanting to deepen the political divisions, Bongino thinks that Renegade Republicans can appeal to open-minded Democrats and Millennials who are wary of the government’s abuses of power.
“You get a wide swath of moderate Democrats and younger folks who have a home in the liberty wing of the Republican party,” he said.
To Bongino, America is in a state of identity crisis that could decide the fate of future generations, and it’s time for advocates of limited government to unite.
“We are losing our country,” Bongino states emphatically, alluding to the rise of authoritarianism in America. “These establishment sell-outs are not prepared for the fight ahead.”
He often points to the American flag in speeches and says, “That is special. That is different.” It’s the idea of America that motivates Bongino, and the realization that we may be losing it.
“This country was founded on the principle of rights endowed by God. For some liberals, that makes them feel uncomfortable, but they’re free to forfeit their rights anytime they want, we’re just asking that you leave everyone else’s alone.”
It’s precisely Bongino’s “renegade” outlook that defines his limited government, pro-liberty, pro-Constitution philosophy. Bongino earned a masters degree in business administration and has taken a key interest in economics, drawing inspiration from the writings of Thomas Sowell.
Along with lower taxation, second amendment rights, and repealing Obamacare, Bongino has emphasized the need for school choice.
“This is the civil rights fight of our time,” said Bongino, who has two young daughters with his wife Paula. Bongino makes this pitch often, arguing that school choice will lead to competition, which means better education and training for young people. The Democrat party has rejected this idea, instead throwing their support behind teacher unions.
“We’re going to need a world class education system, and the status quo is unacceptable,” he said. “This is an area where moderate Democrats are turning en masse against the special interest groups.”
Bongino went on to call the current education system “unfair.” When he was young, Bongino was taken on as a charity case by a local private Catholic school that helped put him on a path toward his true potential.
Bongino uses Facebook much like a personal blog where he often posts a few paragraphs on a given subject. A recent post included a photo of a President Obama posing with a supporter in a bar. Within the text of the post, Bongino contrasted the sacrificial work ethic of military personnel with Obama’s endless stream of fundraisers, photo-ops, and golf outings.
“Get serious, get out of the bar, and get down to the border,” Bongino said, directing his comments to the President he had previously been assigned to protect.
The post has netted an impressive 18,000 shares and an astounding four million viewers.
“Apparently it struck a nerve,” he told me. “People want to know that the President cares.”
I was interested in Bongino’s unique perspective, coming from a law enforcement and international security background.
“The national security ramifications are obvious to anyone who isn’t locked inside an ideological box,” he said. “Every country on earth has borders, every home has a front door. This is obviously a security nightmare. We’ve already seen a murder that’s come from this, and you’re going to see more of it.”
He alluded to the realities of a post-9/11 world where there exists the possibility of suitcase nukes, dirty bombs, and biological weapons being available to various terrorist groups.
“This isn’t the day of Ellis Island,” he said. Bongino’s wife, who was born in Colombia, came to America with her parents at age 11, giving him another interesting angle on the issue.
“She’s a shining example of how it should be done,” he said, explaining that her parents played by the rules and immigrated to America legally. He said that Paula is bilingual but has no noticeable accent, alluding to the melting pot principle.
He expressed disdain for the demagogic tactics often utilized by leftists who seek to project, exaggerate, or otherwise fabricate racial divisions.
“There’s this divide-and-conquer crowd out there that traffics in fear and anger and division,” he said. “Those are the people that need to be soundly defeated.”
Even establishment Republicans are beginning to employ race-baiting tactics to defeat more conservative challengers, including the Mississippi Senate race wherein the GOP spent $27 million in a state that is safely Republican. Establishment groups crafted racialist, misleading ads and robocalls that appealed to Democrats with big government entitlements instead of pro-liberty principles.
“The real fight is not Republican versus Democrat,” Bongino said in a televised interview. “It’s DC insiders versus the rest of us.”
‘Brat the Vote’
By my count, Bongino has been to Cumberland three times in the past few weeks, while his opponent has been nowhere to be seen. Bongino told me that he is outworking his opponent by a wide margin and has personally knocked on 5,000 doors so far.
“Getting out there and shaking hands with people is absolutely pivotal. I think it’s unusual that other candidates don’t do this. You just don’t see (my opponent) anywhere. It’s no wonder that folks in Garrett and Allegany (counties) feel neglected.”
Finding Bongino’s Democrat opponent may be like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo?” However, residents in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District are getting plenty of opportunities to meet the Renegade Republican that believes in fighting for a state that is considered to be one of the largest Democrat strongholds.
His message of fighting insider cronyism, lowering taxes, free market health care solutions, and school choice seems to be resonating. Individual donations are far outpacing those of his opponent, a Democrat incumbent and a millionaire who oftentimes makes large loans to his own campaign.
Maryland’s 6th Congressional District had been a Republican stronghold for two decades before the state’s Democrat leadership gerrymandered the district lines to give themselves an advantage. In 2012, a Democrat won the district for the first time since the 1990 election.
When I first met Bongino (or Dan, as he insisted I call him) he recognized me immediately from our interactions on Twitter, despite the fact that he has nearly 20,000 Twitter followers and over 60,000 Facebook fans. There is a real sense that this guy is “one of us,” as one supporter said in an interview. He’s not an insider, and he’s not likely to ever become one given his fighting libertarian streak and outsider mentality.
In the tradition of Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Trey Gowdy, Justin Amash, and Allen West, Bongino would make an excellent liberty-focused Congressman that will fight for the people rather than cater to the wishes of DC lobbyists.
Some analysts are calling the district a safe win for the Democrat, given that he won by more than ten points in the 2012 election. However, if Bongino continues to work hard and generate excitement at the grassroots level, the advantage will be all his.
“Cede no more ground,” he said at a rally. “Don’t give up. This is our home, and it’s worth fighting for.”