**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.”

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.

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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

  • endorsed

  • 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.”