Pia Varma is not what one might envision when one pictures a conservative candidate. She is a young Indian-American businesswoman, a professional with a focus on politics which she describes as driven not by choice, but by necessity. Her style is very much in line with how she carries herself, modest and yet assertive, and altogether very professional. However, she chooses her words well, and has a clear vision of what impact she wishes to have. One of many young Conservatives heavily influenced by Libertarian thought, she speaks the names of John Galt and Thomas Jefferson with equal reverence, and describes the problems facing those who hold freedom dear as “a mountain that has been made from a molehill by activists.” Prior to being interviewed about her candidacy, she met briefly to speak about her basic philosophy and why she intends to become an elected representative of the people. Her face bore a large and genuine grin as she described how others crushed her aspirations in the name of conformity growing up, and how she is thankful for having recently come into hardships in every aspect of her life, professional and personal, so she could figure out what she wants. She then tied these personal revelations into her criticism of Maslow, her belief in the power of desire, and that one must want something, rather than simply need it, in order to go out and achieve it.
This mixture of personal experience with ideals is something uniquely American, and in a sense, a pure idealism not often encountered, that of someone who lives and feels their political principles, rather than simply speaking of them as a distant theoretical construct.Yet through such serious discussion, she retains an unique calm and yet happy demeanor, a genuine hope for the better which carries through even in her harshest condemnations of failed and corrupt policies which have ruined lives. Her brilliance is demonstrated by the rational manner in which she seeks solutions, and her ability to draw effortlessly on personal experience side by side with experience from education while seeking them. Interviewing her has proven to be one of the more enjoyable articles for this Examiner to write. The following is an interview conducted late December, at Borders Books, Music, and Coffee in Encino:
M: “What would you say your goal is, politically?”
P: "I would have to say maximum freedom"
M: “Why specifically did you get involved in politics, why did you come to everything you believe in?”
P: “When I was younger, when I was really young, like probably 13 or 14 I was kind of this hippy ... I wanted to change the world, and I think that, as I got older, I haven't changed, it's just like, i wanted to find the right answers. Not the answers that sounded the best, but the right answers, for alleviating poverty, reducing crime, creating prosperity, peace ... and I think that, even if these ideas aren't the best marketed ideas, they're the right ideas. And I think, officially, I became more conservative when I was in Italy during the Iraq war, Italy is more political, you know, in Europe, they love to talk about politics, and I think for me that started my interest in politics, and once I started discovering these ideas, it was this Pandora's box that kind of opened for me, and I became voracious for information. “
M “Did you always have these ideas, and return to them, or was it a gradual process?”
P " I used to write songs when i was younger, and looking back at them, they always had a very libertarian and conservative message, although at the time I didn't know it, it was all these ideas of self reliance ... ultimately I believe these ideas are truth, and human beings are always inclined to push towards something truthful. I believe in political fact, I don't really believe in opinion ... when you take away consequences you create a moral hazard, when you give away homes to people that can't afford them, you're going to have people default on their loans. "
M “And that's what you meant when you said you believe in the answers that are right, not those that sound right.”
P “Right. I don't believe in feel good or sound good politics. I believe in truth, honesty, even if it's hard, and truth and freedom are the same, and I think we should seek truth, even if it's not an easy answer.“
M.”Is there a personal component or is your campaign purely motivated by ideology?”
P “There's a personal component, I was involved with a real estate project which came head to head with big government policies which were blighting neighborhoods and preventing real development from taking place, in the name of "bringing industry back" ... and it's effect
was to destroy neighborhoods, using Eminent Domain to create empty lots that just sit there. And beyond that, I think it's personal for everyone, it should be personal because when the government starts taking away your freedom, it is personal.”
M “When you say it's personal when the government takes away your freedom, how then would you restore the constitution, how would you undo the gradual loss of those rights?”
P “Well that's the million dollar question isn't it?”
The government has used two things, the commerce clause and the general welfare clause, gross misinterpretations of both of those, to give itself powers the founders never intended, and go about destruction of the bill of rights. I think that we on the political right have always been really polite, we need to go about a repeal process ... I think that many of these laws are illegitimate, and we need to go through the books, and see if these laws are legal. “
M “Have you given thought to declaring them void by act of congress, rather than the courtrooms because of the degree of activism inherent in the supreme court?”
P “Well I believe that when it says all men are created equal, that means everyone, and, look, what was that one decision ... “
(Upon stumbling for the name, Pia retrieved her laptop, showing a rare sense of humility not often found in politicians, and went to Google)
“Dredd Scott! Ok, look first, they made one decision, saying slavery's ok, then another was needed to undo that decision ... but if you think about it, why do we need a decision to undo a decision, why not revert to the original document?”
M “Do you view the bill of rights more in a context of human rights, or as a social contract? “
P “I don't believe in forcing anyone to do anything, I believe in rights, and I believe in creating an environment where people are empowered.”
M “What do you have to say to potential voters as individuals?”
P “In order to get things done you need people to do different things, different people with different skill sets, and I think the great thing about being human is that each of us have something we do well, and if you want to help this cause, you need to figure out what you do best, and do it.”
M “Can you describe what a free America would look like?”
P “I think in a truly free America, you would see a lot of talent, people creating things, trading with each other, for example, Thomas Friedman , a favourite author of mine, not so much on domestic, but on international and foreign policy, has a theory called the "golden arches theory" where if two countries have economies developed well enough to sustain a McDonalds, then they trade with each other instead of fighting. I think that race, religion, all these tensions disappear when you're trading with another, because everybody's money is green.”
(in his 1999 book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Friedman states “No two countries that both had McDonald's had fought a war against each other since each got its McDonald's” as an example of globalized economies presenting a rationale against armed conflict.)
M “Who is Pia Varma?”
P “Is that an Ayn Rand question?” (laughing)
M “No, who are you, I hear a lot of things, and I've found we're always our own worst enemies, so, who is Pia?”
P “I think, eventually I realized, you aren't any one thing, while there may be an external image, you are what you want in life, so I'll tell you what I want. I want to spend every day of my life doing what I love, which is putting out something truthful, trying to get this country back on the right track, a path that is more sound and more healthy, and, I want to be happy, make good connections, have good friendships and relationships with people, I think I want the same things anyone else wants, and even though I'm this "crazy libertarian", that's what I want, that's what I am. “
M “I guess the common thread there, what I'm hearing, is you define yourself by your idealism?”
P “I hope I live what I say, I hope I can become what I believe, I think we all have flaws, I haven't yet overcome all my flaws, but I want to live up to what I'm saying, I want to be what I'm about, to live my philosophy, because that's who I am. “
M” Is there anything else you want to cover?”
P “I don't want this campaign to just be about politics as usual, because to be honest, if you look at the history of the world, and the story of totalitarianism and how states become more totalitarian, it's usually by the consent of the masses, it's usually by a lot of people agreeing to give up their liberties for security, slowly step by step until they don't have any. I think it's important, along with the politicking, to see a paradigm shift in this country, to where people question authority figures, and everyone around them, because you get in this trap where you trust everyone, and you need to think for yourself, look at what seems too good to be true, and the government, take for example how if you get these diet pill offers in your the mail, or those Nigerian scam offers in your inbox, you put them in the spam folder, but when the government says "Let me give you free housing" or "Let me take care of your healthcare" vote for me, and I'll do this or that, we listen to them, and we need to realize that if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, because nothing in life is free.”
M “Are there any final words, any official sentiment you want to impart on my readers?”
P “ Read everything Michael says, he's a brilliant writer, and uh, vote for me!”
Immediately upon her concluding words, Pia immediately burst into the sort of laughter which one would expect from a child dressed in a goofy costume, as if she wasn't quite comfortable making an endorsement of herself.
Yet this is typical of the entrepreneurial genius packaged as a young woman of 27, she commands respect by not trying to, and her deep thoughts are conveyed in the speech of a valleygirl, and at the time of the interview, she was by no means at home in the politicians shoes, seeing herself firmly in the role of an activist and thinker. Yet, one gets from her the distinctive impression of someone with a rather intimidating strategic mind, and that's why one cannot help but respect her.
Which is precisely why she is archetypal of what this Country needs.
Her campaign in Pennsylvania's first congressional district holds much promise and potential, for a land which has lost so much of it's former promise and potential.