**As we approach the end of 2021, we need to make sure that the movement that started seven months ago when I announced my candidacy can cross the finish line at the election and finally take to Congress. Let's raise $20k by 2022 to make this happen. Read more about me below.**

HERE’S WHERE I COME FROM:

I was born into a working class family in Chicago. My dad was an Air Force veteran, a postal worker, and an active church volunteer. My mom worked hard everyday caring for five children, teaching Sunday School and leading the children’s choir at church, all while working 9 to 5 clerical jobs outside the home. I was only in 6th grade when I received my first experience as a Community Organizer while fighting for my own education as an elementary student. The faith and hard work I learned from my parents and the commitment to justice I learned from my organizing have guided my life.

HERE’S WHAT I’VE DONE:

I was the first in his family to attend college and the only one to be ordained into the ministry. I’ve spent my young life fighting to empower families and communities.  I registered and mobilized young voters as the Youth and Young Adult Coordinator on Barack Obama’s 2004 Campaign for U.S. Senate and organized churches to combat community violence through the Chicago Peace Campaign. As Deputy Campaign Manager at A+ Illinois, I helped organize a statewide coalition to transform school funding that included both major teachers unions, AFSCME, the Illinois Farm Bureau, the Chicago Chamber of Commerce and the Urban League.  Advocacy Director at New Schools for Chicago, I helped expand the number of high quality school options available for families in underserved communities like the one where I grew up. And I organized Parent Power Chicago, a group of parent advocates, local entrepreneurs, service providers, and leading philanthropists dedicated to empowering parents to lead their children to success.

In 2013, I started a boutique public affairs consulting firm with my brother that specialized in forging unlikely partnerships and leading tough conversations.  And in the midst of a tumultuous Trump administration, I helped launch a movement called the AND Campaign to clarify the role of the church in fighting for justice, equity, and order.

HERE’S WHERE WE’RE GOING:

Our country is right now, divided more deeply than at any time since the Civil War. Two major factors are driving this division. The first factor is economic inequality. The nation has rapidly increasing gaps in income, overall wealth, educational opportunity, and access to affordable housing and quality healthcare. The second factor is an all-consuming culture war.

Growing up in the church, I know that people of faith take their values and convictions seriously. And having gotten involved in social justice work at just 12 years old, I learned pretty early in life that there are a lot of great people who while they don’t look at the world through the lens of the church, they have righteous values and deep convictions. That’s why I know that we have a window of opportunity to do some big things: 

  • Revamp our economy with strong unions, fair wages, universal college, a guaranteed basic income, and a regulatory climate that works for small businesses, not just large corporations.

  • Assess the damage that Covid shutdowns have done to our children’s education and develop a plan to put them on track to lead the world, not fall further behind than we were before the pandemic

  • We have to get big money out of politics and make voting easier and smarter for all of us, so that we can restore faith in our democracy before we lose an entire generation of young voters to apathy  

  • Reject the notion that being for policing reform means being against police officers as we build a robust public safety infrastructure that pairs prevention and intervention with strong law enforcement strategies.

I’m running for Congress because I’m ready to help the Democratic Party and our government move beyond the politics of division that currently have us stuck with the status quo. But, it’s going to take your support! We need to make calls, knock doors, send mail, and advertise if we want to reach every voter in the 1st Congressional District. 

Please chip in today!


Show your support for this campaign by endorsing it and sharing why!

  • endorsed

    “I've been Pastor Butler's rallies, and he's a good man with great ideas. Excited to see how he will help Illinois' 1st district when in office.”

  • endorsed

    “Pastor Chris is the man to lead this march towards civility. I’m proud to endorse his candidacy because we don’t have to ask what he’ll do because he is already doing it!”

  • endorsed

    “He's a family man with a plan with a clear vision for change.”

  • endorsed

    “I endorse Chris Butler because he has the integrity, compassion, inclusiveness and intelligence to be an outstanding Congressman. He knows how to listen, empathize, and lead, and he will bring new energy and opportunities to the 1st Congressional District.”

  • endorsed

    “I endorse Pastor Chris Butler because he has a rare compassion to find achievable ground with those who are on the opposite side of important issues. Yet, he carries a courageous conviction that will advance vital change in the 1st congressional district and beyond.”

  • endorsed

    “I endorse Pastor Chris Butler because he is dedicated to finding solutions without a pride that prevents progress. With a humility I've never before seen in a candidate, he holds his convictions dear and compassionately listens to those who hold different convictions. He's spent so much of his career making difficult decisions that effect people's lives, and as a result he takes others seriously and deeply cares about the people that policy--and political inaction--effects.”

  • endorsed

    “I support this family man because he’s honest, and full of integrity. I have known him since I was in high school and he has never waivered from his faith and who he is. I proudly endorse this candidate.”

January 13, 2022

Stop “Inflation Shaming” Working Class Families

The Poor and Working Class Are Easy Targets

Yesterday, it was reported that the rate of inflation rose to 6.8%, the highest it has reached in 40 years. New polling shows what most of us know instinctively: rising costs at the grocery store, the gas pump and virtually everywhere in between is a top concern for voters as we head into the 2022 midterm elections. As a result of this deeply and broadly felt concern, leaders in government, media and business are stepping up to offer their own explanations for why inflation is so high. 

One easy explanation (the one that seems to be getting the most play in mainstream media and in elite power circles) is that the primary driver of inflation is government spending on social programs designed to help poor and working class people preserve life and limb through a once in a generation public health crisis. Senator Joe Manchin, for instance, has asserted that inflation was one of his primary reasons for blocking legislation that would have made real investments in American families like extending the expanded Child Tax Credit and making paid family leave available to more households. 

Inflation is higher than it has been since 1982. But while easy, the “we invested too much in families” explanation simply is not true. The propagation of this false narrative in media and in government stands to have a catastrophic impact on our policy making environment. Congress has already returned (1,000,000) children to living in poverty by allowing the expanded CTC to expire. But, there is also a mental and emotional cost that poor and working class families pay as they internalize a sense of shame brought on as the loudest voices in our society repeatedly shout at them that a few small steps toward prosperity for them is ruining the nation’s economy. 

That is immoral. And it is time to stop “inflation shaming” working class people.

What’s Really Driving Inflation?

The reality is that our inflation problem is caused by several factors simultaneously impacting the economy. In the last several months, many of us have heard more about “supply chains'' than we ever wanted to hear. The basic concept is that the outlets that sell products directly to consumers are finding it difficult to get the products they need to meet the demand of all of the customers who want to purchase those products. Since the demand is outpacing the supply, prices are going up.

So, what’s behind these supply chain issues?

Obviously, the forced shutdown of the global economy during the pandemic slowed the ability of suppliers to move raw materials, manufacture goods, and get those goods to customers. But, the crisis did not have to be this bad. Over decades, corporations have moved more and more production outside of the United States in order to maximize profits for shareholders. 

And then there’s over reliance on “just-in-time” delivery. As one observer pointed out, “The pre-COVID red-hot economy of 2019 was a finely-tuned machine. Manufacturers, farmers, restaurants and retailers relied on what they needed to be delivered ‘just-in-time’. They got just what they needed, just when they needed it, keeping inventory costs down and making the economic machine as efficient as possible.” This dependence on foreign suppliers and lack of standing inventory broke the supply side of the market. It is not fair or reasonable to suggest that there are chronic levels of artificial demand simply because the Congress acted to help keep everyday people connected to some meager income during the crisis. 

But even with all of the supply chain issues, there is yet another driver of inflation that is not getting enough attention in mainstream media. As Matt Stoller points out in his thoughtful piece on the matter, corporate profits are the driver behind fully 60% of the inflation increases we’ve experienced (at a cost of $2,126 per American). That’s right, corporations are literally taking advantage of the inflationary environment by jacking up prices on hard working Americans because they know that increases (in the current environment) will be blamed on the virus, supply chain issues, and no small amount of shaming working class people for accepting a little help from government programs and demanding more fairness from employers. 

Silence From Our Leaders Is Acquiescence To A False Narrative

As President Biden and congressional Democrats use the beginning of this new year to move on from discussions about economic equity, supporting workers, and solving inflation, it is hard not to assume that they have bought into the shaming; calculating (wrongly) that their major misstep since the beginning of the administration was focusing too much on investing in families and communities. The working class is watching as the leaders who started off as champions of economic justice and concrete gains for working people change course; deciding that the real “battle for the soul of America” is over voting regulations rather than who is able to earn a dignified living, afford to buy groceries, heat their homes, and fuel their cars.

It’s hard when your friends seem to abandon you in a fight. It is natural, when that happens, to do some soul searching and question the merits and efficacy of the endeavor. But even though talk of transformational change in our economy has been buried under an avalanche of tough talk on omnibus voting reforms and hand wringing over generational inflation, most of us are still living the reality of having barely enough to get by (and in many cases not enough) all the while being tacitly blamed and told that it was our desire and efforts for change that made the economy so much worse.

The passions of those with platforms seem to have moved on. But, working people all over America are still right to demand more for their families and communities.

Don’t Give Up The Fight

Something is going to be done about inflation. But what that “something” is will depend heavily on which narrative about the causes of inflation is allowed to thrive. If the Larry Summers “working class Americans have too much money for their own good” narrative gains dominance, the so-called solution is clear: cut off as many financial access points for working people as possible. If that narrative were true, we’d need to restart student loan payments, nix the expanded Child Tax Credit, reign in innovations around our unemployment system, and quash any conversation about a basic income guarantee. 

But if record inflation is actually the result of fragil supply chains, over reliance on foreign suppliers, and price fixing all driven by corporate greed and government ineffectiveness, then another set of solutions is in order. The solutions, in this case, involve regulating price fixing, incentivizing American production, and injecting resources to strengthen supply chains. 

Friends, the inflation shaming of working Americans has to stop. That narrative has to die. Unfortunately, I don’t think that we can depend on so-called allies in powerful positions in government, business, and the mainstream media to drown it out. We have to speak for ourselves: at our breakfast tables, on our little blogs, and with our ballots.

December 30, 2021

These were our top 10 campaign moments of 2021…

With 2021 coming to a close, I can’t help but feel grateful for the relentless support and dedication I’ve received from my supporters this year. This is the year I launched my congressional campaign to represent the Illinois 1st District, and so much has happened since I made the decision to run.

In honor of this year, I asked some of my staff and volunteers to vote on their favorite campaign moments. Thus, the following list was formed. Scroll down for a quick journey through 2021 nostalgia.

#10: International Festival of Life

On Saturday, September 11th and Sunday, September 12th, we rolled out to the International Festival of Life, a celebration of African and Caribbean culture held at Washington Park. Attended by thousands of people, this festival had it all – over 200 vendors, amazing diverse food, engaging entertainment, and, of course, us and our booth! I am grateful to have been able to give a speech from the main stage, as well as to interact with so many people one-on-one.

#9: Sherwood Peace Garden Event

This event holds a special place in my heart because it was our first campaign event! People came from all over the district to hear me speak about my vision for safe communities and my commitment to not just fight the violence, but also to make the peace. I spoke in a peace garden I helped create as a part of the Chicago Peace Campaign when we successfully confronted violent corners and brought them peace a decade ago. It was so cold that day that I buttoned my shirt all the way up to the top button. . . but I figured, if I can handle this, this campaign won’t be so bad after all. And so far, “not so bad” has been a massive understatement.

#8: My Trip to Washington

I spent the first couple of days of this month in the nation’s capital! This was my first trip to Washington, DC as a candidate. I was able to connect with people from all over the country who are passionate about making positive change in this nation.

#7: 1st District Together Rally

On November 10th, a diverse group of speakers from all over the Illinois 1st District offered inspirational thoughts at this unity-themed rally. The rally, hosted at the Maranatha Chapel by Pastors Doug and Lamond Banks, had great fellowship, food, and music. The hosts prayed a powerful prayer, and the speakers offered important insights about how we as a district can come together to make change that works for all of us. Together, we demonstrated that, while people in power try to divide us, we won’t allow them to take our voice. Standing together with the diverse and vibrant communities of the newly-redistricted 1st District, we looked like America.

#6: Fedora Fridays

For several weeks during the spring and summer, we held Fedora Fridays, where we spent the day at a local business or organization in the district (with me wearing my trusty fedora hat, of course). These events allowed us to engage with customers to hear the heart of the community, as well as to promote local businesses and organizations. It was an honor to hear the heart of the community from everyone we connected with at these events.

#5: Family 1st Town Hall in South Chicago

We held a Town Hall-style event in South Chicago, where I was able to share thoughts about how to revitalize our communities and families and directly answer questions from people like you. I was humbled by the engagement and energy at this event, and excited to be able to share the importance of my campaign and why the 1st District community needs a new representative in Congress.

#4: September 11th Memorial

To honor the sacrifices that our country’s firefighters have made, both during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on our nation and while saving lives every day that they are on duty, a group of supporters (including my kids) and I went to our local fire department with some thank-you donuts. I enjoyed building relationships with our local firefighters and offering them some well-deserved thanks (and carbs).

#3: Memorial Day festivities

Memorial Day this year was, well, memorable for several reasons! So much happened that day. First we met with veterans in Bronzeville who shared memories of their compatriots. They offered insights from their own experiences watching our communities change over the years, and their vision for the growth of our district. Later, we had a picnic with supporters at Barnard Park. Listening to these veterans sharing memories of friends they’d fought alongside emphasized to me the importance of memory for building community. As members of families, churches, and communities, we base a large part of our identity in the memories that we share with others. Our memories shape our understanding of what it means to be a part of our community. They impact our values and the vision that we have for the future. For me, it is memories like this one that will determine how I serve the 1st District in Congress.

#2: Our Campaign Launch

Eight months ago, we officially announced my candidacy and launched our campaign. We held the launch at the Two Mile Coffee Bar, a beautiful cafe housed inside a historic Metra train station in my home neighborhood of Beverly. We deliberately chose to host the launch at an old train station to reflect our campaign theme, “Let’s Move Forward Together”. I was honored to receive strong endorsements and affirming words from community leaders and supporters like you, and continue to be blown away by the dedicated support I receive every day.

#1: Bud Billiken Parade

You know this event was great since it out-ranks even the campaign launch! Native Chicagoans will recognize the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic as a 93-year-old annual tradition honoring the past and celebrating the future of the African-American community. This year, the parade was held on August 14, and it was so much fun! The energy throughout the event was electric. We had about 40 volunteers and supporters coming from near and far to march with us during the parade, chanting the campaign rhymes that we’d come up with for this event. We had red campaign shirts and signs, and we handed out campaign fans and candy to kids attending the event. We even had original music! Bishop Edward Peecher, a Chicago legend, gave us the honor of recording the vocals for our song. Our campaign staff had the opportunity to meet elected officials, community leaders, and celebrities at the VIP/Dignitary breakfast. But most importantly, I was able to interact with the amazing constituents of the south side of Chicago, who were as fun, entertaining, and insightful as the parade itself.

Other Special Moments:

The Mokena Fourth of July Parade. Marching at the Fourth of July parade in Mokena and introducing ourselves to voters was a great way to honor our nation and community.

Celebrating America’s first Juneteenth. This year, Juneteenth, the June 19th holiday celebrating the emancipation of America’s slaves, became an official national holiday. To celebrate, the Chris Butler for Congress community connected with community members at the Beverly/Morgan Park Family Festival & Business Crawl, as well as the Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy Celebrate Freedom Event. I also spoke at the All Black Everything Expo at Compassion Baptist Church and the One Eleven Food Hall Juneteenth Celebration. Lastly, a group of supporters and I biked around Englewood for the Juneteenth Roll N Peace. This bike ride event was successful in its mission of reducing community violence, as no violence was reported in Englewood that night.

Hope Center Clean-Up Day. That day, a group of supporters and I joined the Hope Center in Blue Island to clean up the community! It was great to connect with passionate, dedicated Blue Island residents. Plus, my son Christopher Anthony ended up being featured in a Chicago Tribune article about this event, making me a proud dad.

This year has shown me the power of building relationships and coalitions with diverse Americans. I cannot wait to continue building on the work of my dedicated team of staff, volunteers, and supporters in fueling our movement all the way to Congress.

If you want to take the next step in seeing the Illinois 1st District truly flourish, get involved in the Chris Butler for Congress community! Help make many more dynamic and illuminating events happen by joining our mailing list, donating to the campaign, volunteering for the campaign, and more. 

It’s been a wonderful year. I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings.

December 2, 2021

The Danger of Overhyping Lackluster Legislation … Let’s fix the Build Back Better Act.

At around 9:45 AM Eastern on Friday, November 19th, from the moment that Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced, “the Build Back Better Bill is passed!”, the floor of the US House of Representatives erupted in triumphant jubilation. Chants of “Nancy, Nancy!” sounded from the 220 Democrats who had outvoted 212 Republicans and 1 fellow Democrat to pass HR 5376, the $1.75 trillion-with-a-T spending plan, through the House. Over half of our nation’s Congressional representatives felt ecstatic that this bill, which invests in diverse areas of American society from childcare to clean energy, had taken one step closer to becoming law.

I wish I could say that I shared their joy. Unfortunately, as a fourteen-plus-year veteran of education reform advocacy, I couldn’t help but sense that the victorious spirit on the House floor last week reminded me of the misguided triumphalism that many Illinoians felt towards the enactment of the Illinois State Lottery’s education funding policy.

Remember when that policy became law? In 1985, former Governor Jim Thompson signed legislation ensuring that all lottery proceeds go directly to the state’s Common School Fund to finance public education. To this day, the lottery touts the support that it provides to Illinois’s education system as groundbreaking. Many Illinoians have heard its claim that “twenty-five cents of every dollar spent on the lottery goes to fund public education, infrastructure projects, and other special causes”.

If you haven’t heard about this, no need to worry. You still probably know everything you need to know about what this policy does to empower Illinois students -- which is not much. At the end of the day, the lottery funds only a small fraction of the state’s total public school budget (6.6 percent in 2019), and given the state’s school funding structure, all lottery-derived funding goes towards teacher’s pensions, not students. Since the amount of lottery proceeds going towards education was capped at 2009 levels (with any surplus going towards capital projects), this fact is unlikely to change. And as lottery money was flowing into the education coffers, other resources were moved to the General Fund… so the education system lost some funding as a result of this policy. Yet for decades, many Illinois residents remained falsely comforted by the idea that our education system is well-supported in the hands of the state lottery, when in fact it continued to suffer from underfunding and socioeconomic inequities. The impact of the false hope created by the scheme in Illinois remains. 

See the parallels yet? If not, let me paint a clearer picture.

The Build Back Better Act has been hailed by the White House as “the most transformative investment in children and caregiving in generations”, “the largest effort to combat climate change in American history”, and other superlative-laden descriptors. And perhaps in the bill’s original, $3.5 trillion pre-negotations form, these assessments would have made sense. But the revision process stripped it of its most powerful elements. Measures to close the carried interest tax loophole were traded in for modest reforms that ultimately leave it in place. Through this loophole, private equity and venture capital fund managers can lower their tax bills by turning their compensation into capital gains that are taxed at lower rates, thus allowing them to pay lower labor income rates than many school teachers. The original bill included universal free community college. That’s also gone.

And the initiative to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices was dropped from the Build Back Better Act altogether. This policy would have drastically lowered the cost of prescription drugs, on which Americans currently spend an average of $1,200 per person per year, which is more than residents of any other country. And it is the most popular Democrat policy proposal of the past fifteen years, not to mention a well-supported idea on both sides of the aisle, with the approval of 95 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last month.

Instead, what’s left in the bill includes a new childcare policy that will nearly double the cost of childcare for middle-income families for the next three years and strangle small daycare businesses, as well as tax cuts of upwards of $80,000 for millionaires and billionaires in states such as New York and California.

Granted, the bill does include some programs that will be beneficial to American families, such as free preschool. But all of these programs are due to expire by 2028 or earlier, which means that, like the child tax credit increase, future representatives could choose not to revive them, so their impact will be short-lived. And given the bill’s fixed top-line cost, Democrats could have taken a “less is more” approach in negotiations, offering fewer programs but maintaining their original robustness. Instead, they drastically weakened most of these programs, especially in the areas that middle- and working-class Americans needed most, whilst doing as little as possible to inconvenience large corporations and wealthy elites. In the end, this bill’s impact on Americans’ lives will be minimal; Biden’s promise to “build back better” really just looks like more of the same at best.

But with the praise-filled publicity that the bill currently receives, few Americans will realize how little good it does until it’s too late.

I know this because that’s what happened to Illinoians’ understanding of the lottery’s impact on education. In the early 2000s I led an organizing effort to get people across the state to demand adequate and equitable funding for education in Illinois. As I traveled around the Land of Lincoln talking to people in Chicago and in the suburbs, in rural communities, and in industrial towns, I encountered a common response to my urging to get involved. People in every place and from every walk of life would ask with curiosity and a hint of sarcasm, “didn’t they already fix that with the lottery?”

As I laid out to them the many flaws and injustices that remained a part of the  system, I quickly learned that my job wasn’t to inform people so that they would desire a better system, but rather to inspire people who had been demoralized by oversold solutions. How could a policy that’s been marketed as helping to solve all of our education system’s problems leave so much brokenness in place? Many people had begun to doubt that the government would actually do much to improve our school funding in Illinois.

That’s the danger of overhyping mediocre policies. By misleading the public about the Build Back Better Act’s capacity to solve our problems, all we’re doing is setting up hardworking Americans for disillusionment and disengagement with our political system. As advocates and activists like me know, the last thing we need if we want to make real, meaningful change is to lose engagement and support from the very people who are most impacted by the issues that we care about: parents, students, workers, small business owners.

So Americans desperately need to know that the fight isn’t over. Our healthcare, education, childcare, and tax systems still have a long way to go before they actually provide the level of support and empowerment that working- and middle-class families deserve. And to get where we need to be, we will need to elect representatives who will actually stand up for us instead of trading real improvements away for lackluster legislation. We need to set aside petty ideological rivalries and work together to make true change happen.

That’s the kind of movement I’m building as I run for Congress. 

And I’m hoping that you’ll join me. 

In Congress, I’ll fight for bold plans for concrete improvements for our families and communities, not just sporadic aid and temporary fixes.  If you want to see the Illinois 1st District truly flourish, get involved in the Chris Butler for Congress community! Help us fight to get our voices heard by joining our mailing list, donating to the campaign, volunteering for the campaign, and more. And, if you want to see the Build Back Better Act change, click here to sign our petition to fix its childcare policy.

We may not be the largest or the wealthiest district, but our voices and our values are worth fighting for. We deserve a Congress that will not settle for anything less than consistent, permanent solutions.

November 15, 2021

The New Illinois 1st District and How We Can Actually “Build Back Better”

As you may have heard, I recently hosted the 1st District Together Rally alongside fellow members of Illinois’s newly-redistricted 1st Congressional District (IL-1). We came together to build solidarity as a community and fight against the forces that seek to divide and weaken us. We were joined by diverse residents from every corner of IL-1, who shared their vision for how we can combine forces to move forward together. My childhood pastor, Bishop Ed Peecher, whose church I currently shepherd and my good friend Amar Patel, a math teacher who ran for Vice President of the United States in 2020, both provided insights on the current state of politics and why we need a political approach that focuses on family, friends, and faith as opposed to partisanship and division. Englewood Community organizer Deborah Payne and Chicago Police Officer and Marine Veteran Jamal Williams highlighted the importance of listening to the diverse voices in our communities.

Now, while we in IL-1 were working on building community, our representatives in Congress have been working on “building back better” -- President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, the bill intended to boost the nation’s recovery from the pandemic by investing in various aspects of American society from childcare to clean energy. And as I keep an eye on their progress making this bill into law, I can’t help but notice that this story’s development illustrates precisely why the theme of the 1st District Together rally is so important for the health of our community.

The truth is, the American people have been served several major disappointments over the course of this bill’s development. While the bill was advertised as a major investment in the nation’s middle and working class families and an improvement of the fairness of our tax code (among other things), its post-negotiation revised version leaves out some of the most important changes that this country’s families need to see.

These letdowns could only have occurred in a political system that unfairly benefits the disproportionately powerful by keeping the rest of us fragmented and disunified. Let me explain.

Where The Build Back Better Act Let Us Down

For those who haven’t been keeping up with the news lately (or who have tried to pay attention but have been left confused by all the drama), I’ll try to catch you up on what the Build Back Better Act is and why it matters.

The bill is a major part of President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan, his overarching strategy for helping the nation bounce back economically from the COVID-19 pandemic. It maintains a focus on building “human infrastructure” through improving childcare, the tax code, efforts to combat climate change, healthcare, housing, higher education, the immigration system, and much, much more. The bill would allocate several billion dollars in each of these areas, with an original total cost of $3.5 trillion. But after negotiations, the White House unveiled a revised, $1.75 trillion version of the package late last month, having cut several of its initially proposed programs.

And therein lies the problem. Looking at the list of programs that didn’t make the cut or were significantly weakened, we see precisely those programs that would have made the biggest impact in the lives of hardworking American families. For example, measures to close the so-called carried interest tax loophole were traded in for modest reforms that ultimately leave it in place. Through this loophole, private equity and venture capital fund managers can lower their tax bills by turning their compensation into capital gains that are taxed at lower rates, thus allowing them to pay lower labor income rates than many school teachers.

Also cut from the package was an extension of Biden’s newly-increased child tax credit until 2025, replaced by a mere one-year extension. The version of the child tax credit that did make it through presents something to be grateful for (after all, the bill still makes the tax credit permanently refundable, thus giving America’s poorest families no-strings-attached, guaranteed cash assistance); however, the fact that the increase will phase out so quickly makes it vulnerable to simply not being renewed in the future. Another program that did not make it through is universal free community college, an initiative that would have allowed more students to access a previously-inaccessible college education than the higher education-measures that did make it through, including a modestly increased Pell Grant and some funding towards historically Black colleges and tribal colleges.

And, most importantly, the initiative to allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices was dropped from the Build Back Better Act altogether. This policy would have drastically lowered the cost of prescription drugs, on which Americans currently spend an average of $1,200 per person per year, which is more than residents of any other country. And it is the most popular Democrat policy proposal of the past fifteen years, not to mention a well-supported idea on both sides of the aisle, with the approval of 95 percent of Democrats and 71 percent of Republicans, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from last month.

To be fair, the bill does include some programs that will be beneficial to American families, such as free preschool. But all of these programs are due to expire by 2028 or earlier, which means that, like the child tax credit increase, future representatives could choose not to revive them, so their impact will be short-lived. And given the bill’s fixed top-line cost, Democrats could have taken a “less is more” approach in negotiations, offering fewer programs but maintaining their original robustness. Instead, they drastically weakened most of these programs, especially in the areas that middle- and working-class Americans needed most, whilst doing as little as possible to inconvenience large corporations and wealthy elites. In the end, this bill’s impact on Americans’ lives will be minimal; Biden’s promise to “build back better” has really just yielded more of the same.

This begs the question: how could our representatives have let this happen?

How Division By Design Weakens Us

Our current political system uses our partisan tendencies and ideological leanings to silence the voices of middle and working class people. Especially important in this time is the division manufactured by bias in the redistricting process.

In most states, including Illinois, the process of drawing congressional districts is extremely vulnerable to a form of manipulation known as “gerrymandering”. Because the state legislature holds the responsibility for drawing districts after every national census, they are given an adverse incentive to draw the districts in a way that unfairly benefits their political parties and special interests.

For example, as the democracy reform nonprofit Change Illinois explains, the legislature can design districts so that groups of people who are likely to vote a particular way are deliberately “packed” into the same district so as to be disproportionately represented, whereas groups of people who are likely to vote in opposite ways are “cracked” -- that is, split into different districts so that they hold less electoral power. Through gerrymandering, those who hold political power can manipulate the system to ensure that they stay in power in the future.

The issue of gerrymandering stands out as especially relevant today, given the recent approval of the new Illinois congressional map. This map outlines the new districts in which we’ll be voting for congressional representatives for the next ten years, so if you haven’t seen what district you live in yet, check out the map here. Due to decreases in Illinois’s population compared to other states since the last census, the new map splits the state into seventeen districts, down from the eighteen districts it had in previous years.

But unfortunately, this map was so clearly drawn with interests other than those of the people of Illinois in mind that the Princeton Gerrymandering Project gave the map an “F” grade for lack of partisan fairness. This research group states that the new map appears to be designed to make sure that current congressional representatives (specifically those in the Democratic Party) will continue to be reelected in the next election without significant competition from people with differing party affiliations. The map seems to have been drawn so that Democrats will win fourteen districts and Republicans three in the 2022 election. On the national scale, this means that Democrats will gain one congressional seat from Illinois and Republicans will lose two. And this is a systemic issue; Democrats aren’t the only ones guilty of this unethical practice. Republican-led legislatures in other states regularly manipulate their congressional maps to favor their own party as well.

Regardless of what side of the aisle we stand on politically, it’s clear that drawing congressional maps so as to contrive election outcomes to favor one party over another is a practice that flies in the face of the democratic spirit. The use of this practice demonstrates that the people who are supposed to represent us on the national stage care more about maintaining their position of power than they care about hearing what we actually need from them.

Instead of encouraging unity and solidarity in voicing our ideas, they pack and crack us into different districts to keep us divided and turn us against each other so they can take our votes without delivering concrete improvements in our lives. When congressional district maps are so convoluted and don’t match the outlines of neighborhoods, towns, school districts, and other spaces that orient people’s daily lives, it’s difficult for voters to know who even represents them, let alone organize resistance when needed. Communities can’t speak up for themselves when they are splintered, and when urban and rural, wealthy and poor voters are shoved awkwardly together, they find it difficult to connect on issues that uniquely affect them. Congressional representatives can’t work together with lower-level elected officials efficiently. The resulting environment is one in which majority voters are ignored so long as they continue to faithfully vote for incumbents, and minorities are ignored on principle. Needed change in our communities happens sluggishly at best.

Ultimately, the people who suffer as a result of such blatant disregard for election fairness include the middle- and working-class families who find themselves used as pawns in a political power game. These are the people who find their voices silenced and their needs disregarded. These are the people who are forced to watch the politicians who vowed to fight for them negotiate away policies that would make a real positive difference in their lives in favor of weaker items that largely maintain the status quo.

We are these people. And we cannot let this system continue to exploit us.

So how do we stand up against these forces that seek to divide us?

How We Can Move Forward Together

The forces that sacrifice our needs at the altar of political power need us to stay divided over superficial differences so that we can’t work together to hold our leaders accountable for their accomplishments or lack thereof.

We can’t let that happen. And luckily, we don’t have to.

After all, although the power-brokers who drew this map intended for the design of IL-1 to impose a roadblock for people like us, we are going to turn these roadblocks into stepping stones. By cramming together different groups of people from different backgrounds in an attempt to weaken them, those in power created a 1st District that looks and feels like America. And we can use this diversity to our advantage.

So instead of shrugging our shoulders in defeat, we can cultivate in this district a spirit of solidarity. We have an opportunity to serve as a model for the health of our nation. That means we have to listen to the ideas and concerns of all groups with the district, especially those marginalized and underrepresented. We can have tough conversations and find common ground with people who live and think differently from us. For example, as I pointed out at the rally, our fellow District 1 residents from both rural and urban areas want good education for their kids, fair wages, and a fair shot at the American Dream. As Amar Patel stated, no matter what their political ideology or socioeconomic status, people center their lives around their families, neighbors, churches, mosques, temples -- and they all hope for economic policy that uplifts these communities. If we stay focused on building unity, we can progress to a place where real change occurs.

Building a spirit of solidarity also means refusing to see ourselves as working primarily in opposition to our fellow district members because of the party they identify with, but rather as working together to find common ground and resolve disagreements -- even with those who hold different priorities and backgrounds -- to make IL-1 a thriving community. We need to decide that we won’t sell out the health and well-being of our friends and family for the sake of ideological partisanship and politics. If we come across an opportunity to lower prescription drug or gas prices, we cannot miss it just because we’re afraid of backlash from political elites on our side.

That’s how we can actually “build back better”.

As your representative for the Illinois 1st District, I will make this ethic of togetherness key in my approach to public service. I will make sure that no voice is left unheard, and that no group within our district is edged out of the process of building a strong IL-1 community. And I will work to update redistricting practices in Illinois to respect the integrity of towns and neighborhoods, strengthen protections for communities of color and communities of interest, and implement an independent redistribution council to get partisan bias out of the redistricting process.

If you want to help build an ethic of togetherness in our district, get involved in the Chris Butler for Congress community! Help us fight to get our voices heard by joining our mailing list, donating to the campaign, volunteering for the campaign, and more. We would be honored to have one more voice fighting for the unheard in our district. This way, whether you attended the rally or not, you can make sure that the togetherness movement flourishes, and that the hardworking families of our district are finally represented as they deserve by a member of their community who has fought for them for decades.

November 2, 2021

5 Myths About Political Moderates...and Why We Might Need to Lead America.

American politics has become hyper-polarized in our time.  The work of Congress, the news media, and many of the institutions that anchor our civic life have been reduced to diametric opposition, irreconcilable difference, and debates aimed at the destruction of political enemies rather than the development of negotiated pathways to a prosperous future.  The most extreme voices on the left and the right seem to be the loudest and the best-funded.  

Among the many casualties of this chronic polarization has been the identity of the American moderate.  The deafening noise coming from those at the ideological extremes via social media and cable news has drowned out the voices of those who would rather have thoughtful dialogue than simply to win a shouting match.  The muck of vitriolic hyperbole that flies back and forth between entrenched partisan combatants has distorted the image of those standing in the middle who, for conscience sake, have not staked out a position on either side.  The intense battles between left and right have made the moderate plurality in America come off as ambivalent bystanders; a wavering mass of human assets useful only for rounding out narrow electoral victories on the way to partisan conquest.  

These days, the middle is there to be “won”, “moved”, and “persuaded”.  But, I think the middle needs to be listened to.  I think the best hope for the kind of transformational leadership that can lead this nation beyond the many very real challenges we face is in the middle.  And if that sounds ridiculous to you, it may be that you have bought into this distorted view of the American moderate.  But before you write off the middle as a source of political revolution, allow me to present five clarifying thoughts that we should keep in mind about the REAL political moderate.

#1: We are not moderated by a lack of passion. 

Perhaps the core misconception about political moderates is that we are people who do not have strong convictions about the political issues of the day.  The partisans have perfected the art of high, moral language; declaring with vigor the moral rectitude of their positions and condemning their opponents’ policies and personhood in the strongest possible terms.  The fact that we don’t think inside the bright-lined boxes drawn by ideological extremists coupled with our inability to find expression on badly slanted cable news programs might suggest a lack of passion in the middle.  But, nothing could be further from the truth.

For the most part, political moderates have equally strong views on issues as do partisans and ideological devotees.  We did not find ourselves in the middle because we can’t decide whether or not we think locking little brown children in cages is morally right.  We have found ourselves caught in the middle of this broader political warfare because we have not allowed our thinking on this issue to dictate our thinking on all other issues.  

An analysis conducted by Lee Drutman, a senior fellow in the Political Reform Program at New America, found that among moderate members of the electorate, “few voters hold consistently middle-of-the-road opinions”.  Not all members of the “middle” have the same views on every issue. But we support the causes we support with vigor.  And when we disagree, we disagree with passion.  What keeps us out of the partisan entrenchments is our unwillingness to conflate all political thought into a simplified ideological framework.  We’d rather segregate issues and thoughtfully approach each one on its own merits.  Sometimes we agree with the left.  Sometimes we agree with the right.  And yes, many times we end up passionately supporting a view that neither extreme embraces.  

But even when we land in the middle of a policy debate, our passion is not middling.  Moderates have convictions even if they don’t always fit into a partisan box.

#2: We don’t best identify with where we DO NOT belong. 

The loud, partisan voices that dominate the current political landscape have driven home an understanding of moderates as those who do not belong to either extreme.  While this description is technically accurate, it is problematic to identify moderates primarily by where we DO NOT belong.

First and foremost, this view subtly promotes the false idea that the political extremes and the parties that have come to represent them are the only (or even the primary) places of belonging in our civil society.  That insidious deception is a major part of how the ideological poles keep growing; consuming entire institutions and areas of public life.  It is how “Evangelical” has become synonymous with “Republican” and why a Black, 30-something in Chicago is automatically assumed to be a fairly progressive Democrat.  

This is a badly distorted view of the world.  There are many places of belonging in society that are much more central to our sense of identity.  These places of belonging animate the moderate’s political engagement; not our rejection of one political extreme or the other.  I do not anchor any significant concept of my identity in the tenants of modern conservatism or progressivism, and I don’t usually reason about politics from either of those prescribed positions.  But, I am a father.  I am a member of a community here in Chicago.  I am a church leader.  These are all places of belonging.  And they all animate my civic and political engagement.  I don’t think about who to vote for as a “non-progressive” or a “non-conservative”, but rather as a parent, a neighbor, and as a shepherd.  

The real kicker is that for most of us moderates, a practical, issue-by-issue approach to civic and political thought does lead us to support for one or the other of the major political parties.  We are not mindless adherents to an ideology, but we do tend to be conscientious partners for practical purposes.  A study from the Pew Research Center showed that only 6 percent of voters are true independents who don’t lean toward one party or the other.  So, as both parties race to the extremes in the name of staying true to their “base”, they just might be further alienating a rather dependable block of voters in favor of a rather hard to please fringe element.  

Moderates are not the people from “nowhere”.  We belong to the families, neighborhoods, churches, civic organizations, and other institutions that make up the beautiful tapestry of our civil society.  We just understand that these relationships have a much greater claim on our political reasoning that does any particular partisan ideology.

#3: We are not politically disengaged. 

This moderate position is often misunderstood in another important way.  Political moderation, many times, is ascribed a sort of anti-definition based upon what moderates do not do.  But, being moderate does not at all imply political disengagement.  Many moderates are VERY political.

As we established in our first point of discussion, moderates are not moderated by a lack of passion on issues.  Moderates have opinions.  Moderates vote.  Moderates tweet.  Moderates get involved with political arguments among friends and family.  Moderates are involved across the spectrum of political engagement.  One Pew Research Survey found that partisanship is not a real factor when it comes to voter participation.  38% of self-styled conservatives are regular voters, 34% of liberals vote regularly, and 35% of moderates are also regular voters.  

Many partisans and devotees to our modern polarized ideologies may fancy “moderate” a pejorative term denoting a general lack of commitment to principles; a condition of sorts caused by civic disinformation and an absence of moral clarity.  That is simply NOT the case. Social scientists Michelle Diggles and Lanae Erickson Hatalsky find that “While liberals think Congressional Democrats are too moderate and conservatives say the same about Congressional Republicans, moderates think both parties are too ideological.”  Their research concludes that the defining factor in the moderate point-of-view is not a lack of interest, but a distaste with “ideological wings.”  “Moderate voters remain engaged in politics,” they said, “even as they express concerns over the current divisiveness of many political discussions.”

One need not be engaged in extremes in order to be extremely engaged.

#4: We do not mistake nuance for hypocrisy. 

Many hyper-partisans can’t fathom a politically engaged moderate.  This is due, in large part, to the political moderate’s lack of commitment to political dogma.  For too many in our Americans, the goal of political discourse is to defend broad-brush-stroke ideologies rather than to weigh individual issues.  Allegiance to the party is paramount.  Candidates for elected office increasingly have to pass a kind of ideological purity test to gain acceptance from one extreme or the other (or at least to avoid destruction by them).  S/he must not take even one step toward the other side or lend the smallest amount of credence to anything “they” might think, say or do.  Otherwise, that politician will be branded a hypocrite...and banished to the middle...with us.

I say this to any politician (or anyone else for that matter) who might be so bold as to break from your ideological fiefdom, “You are more than welcome to walk with us in vast meadowlands of the middle”.  Quiet as it is kept, we don’t even expect you to drop your partisan bonafides in order to spend time considering the merits of your opponents’ ideas.  Moderates don’t see a willingness to acknowledge the good in someone from a different political party or to call out error in your own as hypocrisy.  We see it as the kind of thoughtfulness and nuance that leadership requires.

I would expect that many moderates shook their heads just last week when the President of the United States decided not to attend the funeral or even attend the coffin of Congressman and Civil Rights icon John Lewis as it lay in state at the Capitol.  It would not have been lost on anyone that President Trump holds many political views that diverge from those of the late Congressman.  But, Mr. Lewis served 17 terms in the United States Congress and was a central figure in one of the most consequential movements in the history of the nation.  Surely, the President could have mustered a few words of tribute.

A similar disbelief, I would imagine, came upon us earlier this year when the then frontrunner for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, Senator Bernie Sanders proclaimed that there is no such thing as a pro-life Democrat.  Really? Divergence on one issue can immediately expel someone from an entire political party?  That is certainly a formula for keeping the party pure.  But, it may also contribute to keeping the party free from thoughtful engagement. 

At least that’s how we see it in the middle.

To us, the capacity to weigh a counterpoint is a positive attribute.  In the middle, we admire a political imagination that can envision a pro-lifer who does not believe in criminalizing abortion or a police protester who still sees a role for law enforcement in the future of American cities.  As research suggests, moderates are neither tuned-out or ill-informed.  We simply tend to see multiple sides of complex issues.  Moderates are not moderates because we choose not to affiliate.  But, we do tend to reject political behavior that treats disagreement as disloyalty and nuance as hypocrisy.

#5: Our nation needs us now more than ever.

Everything else I’ve written here is primarily to inform or remind those at either of America’s political poles what it is REALLY like in the middle; to humanize the caricature of the political moderate that persists in too many circles and in too many minds.  But for this last point, I’d like to turn and preach to the choir.

Friends, America needs a moderate revolution.

An honest glance across the current social and political landscape will testify to the fact that things in this country are not well.  We are facing the greatest public health crisis of our time.  The American economy is in freefall.  A long-overdue reckoning with racial violence and police corruption is taking place in our streets, churches, and corporations.  And everyday the global community grows a little less dependent upon and a little less enamored with these United States of America.

In the midst of all of this chaos, political polarization has rendered our government unable to function, sometimes in the simplest ways.  Neither the progressive purists or the conservative devotees can offer a true and compelling vision for the future.  These days, the rhetoric coming from either side is much more focused on ridding the world of those who disagree with them than it is on building a future with the necessary conditions for our people to flourish and thrive in a morally righteous and socially just America.  And questions about the future have turned to if, not how this union will last

Everyday in the Congress and in the White House, on cable news and across the Twitterverse the people on the extremes are screaming as loudly as they can a false promise to America, “Join us in vanquishing the ‘others’ and we shall all be free”. 

And that is where the moderates come in.  The moderates are the prophets of the day.  We are not convinced by either of these polarized super-movements.  We know that the progressive promise and the conservative dream must work together and moderate one another order for our democracy to long endure.  We understand that compromise is not about giving up your values, but rather finding the virtue in the positions of those on the other side of the argument.  In the middle, there is a desire to lift both sides up rather than tear one side down.

But, we can no longer yield the floor to the loud extremist.  It is time to organize the middle.

In every dark hour our nation has ever faced, courageous men and women have stepped forward who dared to put their bodies, their fortunes, and their futures on the line for the greater good of the nation; from the revolutionary colonists, to indefatigable abolitionists, to the freedom marchers of the Civil Rights movement, and so many more.  I believe that this hour calls for moderates.   

Yes, in the midst of this “cancel culture”, intellectual honesty and moral clarity could cost us severely.  Just consider that a sizable majority of Americans are currently afraid to even talk about their political views because they fear some sort of retribution.  But, what if God has called us for this hour, for just this purpose?  The inner-city, conservative-leaning, Black woman...the justice-involved, evangelical theology professor...those who can move freely between the two ends of the spectrum as a friend and call to account both sides as a brother or sister.

If it is the case that we have been fitted for this moment in America (which is what the research suggests and what my spirit testifies), then each of us moderates need to return to point number one and tap into the compassion and conviction that has carved out for us this peculiar moderate space.  Because it is time for us to be visible and vocal at every level of society and government; no matter what the cost.

America needs the middle.  In an age dominated by extremes that are completely devoted to destroying their enemies, our nation is desperate for people who have a moderation anchored in unshakable values...because that is what it will take to build the future.  

October 5, 2021

You're invited to my pop-up birthday celebration!

Join us Wednesday, Oct. 6th at 8 p.m. (CST) live on Twitter.

Like and retweet this to invite your friends.

The only gift I want is a victory for the people of our district. Contribute to our victory fund: 

https://t.co/noW3MUCLUs?amp=1

September 22, 2021

This is how we win!

We're not gonna win this thing by getting the blessing of the party bosses. We're gonna win by knocking on doors, meeting people on blocks and in back yard in every community in the 1st District.

This movement will run on the strength of an army of grassroots donors and volunteers. Keep sharing and keep giving. Thank you so much for your support!


-Pastor Chris

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    “Pastor Chris is the man to lead this march towards civility. I’m proud to endorse his candidacy because we don’t have to ask what he’ll do because he is already doing it!”

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    “I endorse Chris Butler because he has the integrity, compassion, inclusiveness and intelligence to be an outstanding Congressman. He knows how to listen, empathize, and lead, and he will bring new energy and opportunities to the 1st Congressional District.”

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    “I endorse Pastor Chris Butler because he has a rare compassion to find achievable ground with those who are on the opposite side of important issues. Yet, he carries a courageous conviction that will advance vital change in the 1st congressional district and beyond.”

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    “I endorse Pastor Chris Butler because he is dedicated to finding solutions without a pride that prevents progress. With a humility I've never before seen in a candidate, he holds his convictions dear and compassionately listens to those who hold different convictions. He's spent so much of his career making difficult decisions that effect people's lives, and as a result he takes others seriously and deeply cares about the people that policy--and political inaction--effects.”

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    “I support this family man because he’s honest, and full of integrity. I have known him since I was in high school and he has never waivered from his faith and who he is. I proudly endorse this candidate.”