The Redlands Bulldog sat down with Sean Flynn before his Oct. 22 town hall appearance to learn of his paradoxical PhD dissertation, turbulent childhood during the Cold War and his frustration with mainstream health care reform that motivated him to challenge Pete Aguilar for Congress’ 31st District.
The son of a WWII combat veteran and a doctor in the Navy, Flynn was born on an air force base in the Philippines. He stayed until he was five, when his mother got into medical school at UC Davis. His mother is originally from Japan and served as a Navy doctor and his dad, from Seattle, worked overseas as an educator. Flynn often moved around as a child.
“Between kindergarten and 6th grade I went to seven different schools,” Flynn said.
He moved to LA around the age of ten and was educated in public schools before attending several colleges in multiple states. His mother had a Naval scholarship and worked at Long Beach Medical Center before leaving the military and moving to Texas.
“The head of neurosurgery at UCLA once said that she had the best surgeon hands he’d ever seen in his career. My mom’s remarkable in many ways,” Flynn said.
Flynn graduated with an Economics degree and went on to earn a PhD at Berkeley, where he spent “seven brutal years…[because] you never know when it’s gonna finish.”
At Berkeley, Flynn got stuck on his first dissertation and went to a math professor for assistance with an equation, who reported that nobody had solved it yet. They set up a computer simulation which found that the equation was infinitely sensitive to inputs, meaning the slightest change in variables caused an output of infinity or zero. With 18 months of his life wasted, Flynn felt the satisfaction of stumbling on a legitimate problem and the frustration following stagnation. His second dissertation was successful and he received his PhD.
Flynn taught at Vassar College in New York and received the contract to write Economics For Dummies. Within a few years, he became a co-author of the world’s best selling economics textbook. He practiced martial arts throughout his education and even coached five kids to national championships in sports Aikido. Taking a job at Scripps College in 2009, Flynn has taught in Claremont for nearly a decade.
Asked about his personal interests, Flynn laughed and rephrased the question to what he would do if he had free time, being in the midst of a campaign. Cooking came to mind after the admission that he reads too many political blogs.
As to how he got interested in politics, Flynn said it was almost impossible to avoid politics in the cultural environment of the Cold War.
Flynn described it as “very much a stable time–one clear good guy, one clear bad guy…”
Yet concurrently, America’s future as a military superpower and democratic leader was uncertain. The loss of the Vietnam War, the ongoing hostage crisis at the U.S. Embassy and nuclear attack drills in school were constant reminders of the intertwined political and social flux of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Even sports–with the Olympics being essentially Americans vs. Russians–was highly politicized, and entertainment saw this as well.
“This is pervasive in popular culture, like the Bond movies had either explicitly Soviet villains or Sovietesque stand-ins. As a kid you couldn’t avoid this stuff….” Flynn said.
Flynn recounts his great junior high history teacher, Mr. Toy, who taught passionately and even tutored AP students in his spare time.
“He impressed upon us just how unique and amazing the American revolution was,” Flynn said.
Along with his political education, Flynn cites his study of economics as a great foundation for evaluating public policy. His dissertation was about stock market bubbles.
Flynn eventually became frustrated with healthcare reform, and seeing how both major parties had failed to enact what he calls “the economically obvious thing to do,” Flynn decided he would run for Congress.
Mentioning the lack of business people and economists in our legislature, Flynn would double the number of economists in Congress if elected.
“You need people who are experts in those fields so when they’re approached by a lobbyist they can tell whether it’s bullshit or not,” Flynn said.
Flynn remarked that while lobbyists are well-educated in their fields, they’re also persuasive agents who represent special interests.
In deciding to run for Congress, Flynn knew that incumbents win almost every election, partly because of gerrymandering: where each district is populated heavily by one set of voters. Flynn describes the 31st as a moderately contestable district, meaning it’s within reason that a Republican could win. Flynn’s office made over 4,000 outgoing calls last weekend and has been campaigning mostly on policy issues, not party affiliation.
Flynn’s Director of Communications, Judy Yeager, described their experience of starting their campaign with no money and progressively gaining supplies; they went from harboring an empty office to receiving enough Costco food shipments for a five month siege.
To Flynn, running for office is an incredibly busy time, not without its challenges. It is also a rewarding discovery of people who truly care about community and practical solutions.
“At least I got to see the good side before we start doing bean counting and cost-benefit analysis … [we know] someone is actually trying,” Flynn said.
If elected, he wants to be assigned to two subcommittees. The first is a subcommittee of Ways and Means that does healthcare reform and the second is the subcommittee of the Health, Education and Welfare committee that deals with student loans. Flynn’s plans for policy are discussed in detail on his website and in The Redlands Bulldog’s coverage of his town hall event on campus.
Flynn’s campaign can be reached at SeanFlynnCA on Instagram and Facebook, emailed at Judy@SeanFlynnForCongress.com and phoned at 909.736.6901.
Photo from Sean Flynn for Congress website.