Hi. I’m Joel. I’m 33, married for 11 years and the father of 3 elementary aged kids, and I live in South Nashville. I’m a United Methodist minister, a small business owner, and a singer-songwriter, like about 97.2% of this town.
I’m running for Congress because I believe in this nation, and I believe we can be better. I really believe in the immortal words from the Pledge of Allegiance, “liberty and justice for all.” Like many of you, I’ve watched the events of the last few weeks unfold in Europe, and it feels eerily like history repeating itself. The last two years feel like one gut punch after the other, undermining the very fabric of the world we inhabit. The amount of times I have heard the word “unprecedented” in the news in the last few years is too high to count. Nothing feels sacred anymore; nothing feels sound.
I believe with all my heart that we do not need more partisan ideologues in Congress. We don’t need more “my way or the highway” leaders — on the left or on the right. We desperately need wisdom.
We need listeners. We need unifiers. We need empaths. We need good and kind leaders who care more about representing the people they were elected to serve than they do following a party line or trafficking in the Outrage Culture that has become almost the only thing available on cable news channels.
We also need people in leadership who know what it means to be normal people — to work normal jobs, to live paycheck to paycheck, to wonder how they are going to afford rent. We need more real people — teachers, construction workers, servers, farmers, mechanics, and fewer lawyers, corporate executives, and well-connected technocrats.
I’m running for Congress because I care about people more than anything, and I want to do something to make life better for poor, working, and middle class people. I’m running as a Democrat, but it wasn’t so long ago that I considered myself a conservative. I understand the deep concerns that people on both sides have about our government and the direction of our nation. Call me naïve, but I really do believe that building trust and relationships, operating in kindness and good faith, listening to each other, and working hard to make wise, informed decisions about complex topics, is the only way we are going to survive as a species, let alone a country.
And the world is getting complex, isn’t it? It seems to me that as the world gets more complex and confusing, we humans like to retreat more and more into our silos where everything makes sense, where everything is black and white, where our tribe are the good guys and everyone else is an idiot at best or a traitor at worst.
But I know that’s not true. I’ve traveled all over the country in tour buses and minivans; I’ve lived in 4 states in every region of America. I’ve been a farmer in Washington, a pastor in Texas, and a schoolteacher in New York. At the end of the day, I’ve found that most of us want the same things in life. We want to be able to afford to live our lives with a margin and not panic when rent or mortgage is due. We want our kids to be safe, and to get a quality education that prepares them to be successful in life. We want to live our lives without being harassed for who we are or what we believe. We want to feel like the culture we live in, the flag we pledge allegiance to, stands for something good and beautiful, moral and true in the world. We want to see the next generation thrive and be better than we were. These are universal desires we all share.
We have different ideas of how to achieve these goals — I get it. Sometimes they might seem like irreconcilable differences. I’m a Democrat, and that means for a lot of folks in my district, we might disagree on some major policy items. I guarantee there isn’t one person in my district (not even my wife or best friend!) that agrees with me on absolutely everything. And that’s okay. I’m not asking for your support because you will always agree with every way I vote.
I’m asking for your support because I will always do my best to represent you and not special interests, because my door will always be open to you, the people I represent, whether or not you voted for me. I’m asking for you support because I will not play partisan games with you. I will always tell you the truth, even if it costs me dearly. I believe in the sacred trust given to elected officials, and I will work every day for you to earn that trust and keep it.
Empathy. Honesty. Transparency.
These are the core values my campaign is built on. These are the values I’ve built my entire life on. My favorite passage of Scripture is from the prophet Micah, which says, “what does the Lord require of you? Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”
Mercy, justice, and humility.
Empathy, honesty, and transparency. Being kind, being honest, and being humble are becoming lost arts in this world, and I for one want to see that change — and be that change — in our elected leadership.
Our world is complicated, complex, and increasingly messy. It can be overwhelming and disheartening much of the time. I want to help make it better. I want to be a person of wisdom and character that you can be proud to have representing you in Washington.
Joel Michael Herbert
Candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, Fifth District of Tennessee