Mark Charles: ‘I Am In This to Win’

Jul 23, 2019

It’s 16 months until the 2020 elections. And as the Democratic field fills with challengers to President Donald Trump, another name has stepped into the ring.

Mark Charles is pursuing a campaign that sparks a national dialogue around racism, sexism and other systemic issues in the United States. He says he drew inspiration from Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. But he’d like to make one key difference. 

“I’m trying to not make some of the same mistakes I think he made,” Charles said.

Charles, a Navajo who used to live in Fort Defiance, believes the major parties would not nominate someone with his platform. Instead, he’s running as an independent.

“I’m definitely not running a protest campaign,” Charles said. “I am in this to win the campaign.”

Charles joined KSJD’s Daniel Rayzel to talk about his decision to run as an independent and how he plans to address systemic issues throughout his campaign.

Interview Highlights 

On how Bernie Sanders inspired his campaign:

“One of the things that I felt he did well is he got our nation to talk about something it did not want to talk about, which is systemic economic equality. I think one of the drawbacks of his campaign is that he essentially ran a protest campaign. I don’t think he thought he had a chance of winning.

Because of the systemic issues that I’m trying to bring up of the White supremacy and the racism and the sexism in the foundations of our country, I’m convinced that neither the Democrats or the Republicans really want to address the problems at that level.

So, yes, I was inspired by Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016. I’m trying to not make some of the same mistakes I think he made.

On the discussion of reparations in the Democratic primaries:

This is the question that terrifies the U.S. government. One of the challenges the U.S. government faces today is while there might be some way to calculate a number to pay reparations for slavery, how do you begin to calculate that number for the genocide of entire native nations — the ethnic cleansing and genocide of an entire continent?

I am calling for a national dialogue on race, gender and class. A conversation that I would put on par with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions that happened in South Africa and Rwanda and Canada. I would call ours “Truth and Conciliation” because “reconciliation” implies there was a previous harmony, which is not accurate.

My proposal is that we have to have this national dialogue with the legal force of a commission.

On starting his campaign in Navajo Nation and New Mexico:

That is the base I want to reach out to first. Having the support, having the encouragement, even having the blessing of the native nations throughout Turtle Island, will go further than the millions of dollars the other candidates have amassed. I’m convinced of that.

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.