My first encounter with Dan Canon was as one half of the awesome Parade of Horribles duo co-hosting with our friend Joe Dunman, both of which were lawyers involved in Bourke v. Beshear, one of several cases that paved the way in legalizing gay marriage. Canon is already a public servant, seeking cases that help the greater good, and fighting for basic equality and human rights in whatever ways available. In the last year or so, that has manifested itself in his bid for Indiana’s 9th District seat in the House of Representatives, a run that could positively impact the lives of the people in his community.
It’s hard not to gush at Canon, who feels like “one of us,” if only in the sense that he’s an ex-musician with his heart in the right place trying to make a demonstrable difference in otherwise daunting times. As such, we here at Never Nervous feel privileged to have this opportunity to help, and you can too. Tomorrow night is the Flip The House Party, an evening of drag, burlesque, fire breathing, geek shows, and other things to weird out squares, featuring members of Octo Claw’s Bizarre Bazaar and the Va Va Vixens doing there thing. It’s not only a celebration of Canon’s work, but a fundraiser for his campaign.
We caught up with Canon to ask him about his run for office, civil rights under 45, and how to fight the power!
Never Nervous: What prompted your run for office? Did someone nominate you or were you otherwise inspired?
Dan Canon: When you’re a lawyer who cares about stuff, I think people encourage you to run. There aren’t many folks who can take a public flogging like a civil rights lawyer. So people had suggested it to me for years, and I always resisted because I’m not the model of a pristine, charismatic politician that we’ve come to expect (and largely dislike) in the United States. My finance director Dawn hit me with the idea again after the elections in 2016, and I went for it. I think we are at a unique time in history when people want something different from the status quo, and I’m definitely that. But also I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that American democracy is really in trouble right now, and we’ve all got to do what we can to save it. This is something I can do.
“We are at a unique time in history when people want something different from the status quo, and I’m definitely that. But also I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that American democracy is really in trouble right now, and we’ve all got to do what we can to save it. This is something I can do.”
NN: Now that you’re a public figure, or at least much more so, how do you intend to keep your private life separate from the circus that is inevitable to follow?
DC: We’ll have to see. People regularly put their private lives on display, and I’m no exception, but there is definitely a sense of being under a microscope at all times. So for example, if you’ve got a foul mouth or a dark sense of humor (I have both), you’ve got to tamp that down because people expect you to be something their kids can look up to, you know? At the same time, if you *don’t* show up at certain events or speak about certain things soon enough, you can take heat for that too. That’s all challenging, and it can wear on you, but there’s sacrifice involved with every form of public service, and I just see that as part of the job. The toughest part is having to be physically away from my wife and kids so much, and we’re all still trying to find the right balance for that.
NN: Why does your candidacy matter in your district? What does it mean to be a member of Congress? How do you intend to make Indiana a better place?
DC: The people in my district need a federal government that is responsive and accountable. As such, we need an elected representative who is on the ground listening to the problems that real people have, and coming up with real solutions – not just sitting in an ivory tower figuring out creative ways to make rich guys even richer. I care about the folks in my community. I’ve been here solving problems with them one-on-one for a long time. I intend to parlay that skill set into helping make Washington responsive and accountable to people here in Indiana.
NN: If elected, will you still serve as a lawyer?
DC: I won’t be able to maintain a private practice, if that’s what you mean. I’m sure I will still be answering texts in the middle of the night and that sort of thing.
“We need an elected representative who is on the ground listening to the problems that real people have, and coming up with real solutions – not just sitting in an ivory tower figuring out creative ways to make rich guys even richer.”
NN: Are you concerned that your lawsuit against Trump will prove too partisan during your campaign? Should anything like that even be a concern?
DC: Even people who still support Trump seem to understand that he has to be held accountable for his actions, and that an executive can’t be given free rein to do whatever they want. That’s part of the problem with this Congress – they’ve been utterly ineffective at keeping Trump under control. A good representative should act as a check on unfettered power, and that’s exactly what I intend to do if elected. If voters want someone who is just going to turn a blind eye to wrongdoing by powerful people, they should vote for the other guy.
NN: What does it take to be a good leader?
DC: I don’t know how to answer that in the short space I have here, and I’m not sure I know the answer at all. I’m still learning, and I hope I always am. It seems to me that one critical aspect of leadership is having the humility to admit you don’t always have all the answers, and the resourcefulness to find and ask the people who do.
NN: How do you intend to hold people in power accountable?
DC: In my experience, the key to holding people accountable is to be willing to do it. That’s not as easy as it sounds. But I’ve got a track record of doing just that, regardless of party affiliation or any other factor, and I don’t intend to quit once I’m elected.
NN: As you believe that Universal Healthcare is a right, how do you propose that should be funded?
DC: Progressives have got to take control of this narrative, and this question. We are living in the wealthiest country in the history of the world. There’s no real question about whether or not we can fund universal healthcare for everyone here. Every other industrialized nation does it. The question is whether we are *willing* to. That’s a moral question, not an economic one. But even economically speaking, we are at a point where the cost of not providing universal healthcare is far greater than the cost of providing it. We pay more on the back end for the sick who delay treatment because of cost, the more than 500,000 medical bankruptcies we see every year, and the dead who couldn’t afford treatment and who leave behind families in need of support. The fundamental question has got to be: who doesn’t deserve healthcare? The answer cannot – must not – be “those who cannot afford it.”
NN: Similarly, do you believe that Dependent care or extended maternity/paternity leave should be considered?
DC: Of course. Some states already offer this. States like Indiana are going to get left behind if we don’t offer anything for new families, and we can’t allow that to happen. Plus, again, as a moral matter, it’s absurd to require new parents to return to work immediately upon having a child. There are some things more important than keeping all the engines of capitalism running at top speed at all times, and quality time with a new baby is one of those things.
“We are living in the wealthiest country in the history of the world. There’s no real question about whether or not we can fund universal healthcare for everyone here. Every other industrialized nation does it.”
NN: Of what value is the electoral college? Why should or shouldn’t we have it?
DC: The only potential value the electoral college could have had is that of keeping unfit individuals from becoming President of the United States, and it has soundly failed in that mission. What’s left is an undemocratic anachronism that should be replaced by a simple popular vote.
NN: What advice do you have for anyone standing up to Fascism, white supremacy, or bigotry in the socio-cultural environment we find ourselves in?
DC: This is a moving target. In many ways, it’s like holding people in power accountable – you just have to be willing and unafraid to do it. That’s probably 90% of it. But that 10% involves strategy, and that strategy has to be one that changes and adapts. SPLC had the right idea in the 1980s, but those tactics aren’t as effective in the internet age, where white supremacists don’t need finances or even a home base to spread propaganda. I think white activists should be listening very closely and taking their cues from people of color on this one, especially BLM.
NN: Is there a such thing as a “safe bet” for a candidate anymore?
DC: There’s no safe bet for anyone anymore.
NN: What non-musical things have you intrigued lately? Have you eaten, drank, watched, or read anything worth noting lately?
DC: I have a one year old and a five year old, so most of my watching has been kids movies for a while. I’m embarrassed to say it, but I really loved “Boss Baby.” I thought I would hate it. As far as food, Eastern Blvd. in Clarksville is a great undiscovered gem for people who love Mexican food. There’s a place called La Lupita over there that’s caused me to gain about 50 pounds over the last month. My staff is super annoyed with me because I won’t stop obsessing about it. My latest beer enthusiasm is with Taxman, a brewery in Bargersville, Indiana – right here in my district – that’s doing some really cool stuff. I’m not doing much recreational reading these days, for reasons that should be obvious.
NN: What are your top three records at this moment in time?
DC: I’m biased, but Brigid Kaelin’s new record is perfect. My wife is in a production of “A Chorus Line” so I’ve been hearing that a lot around the house. It’s really smart stuff, and I love big-sounding 70’s music anyway. And I guess Rain Dogs (Tom Waits) will forever be in my top three.