Win or lose, love him or hate him, Republican Senate candidate Steve Lonegan epitomizes the American Dream. Whether you agree with his politics, his story is amazing and inspirational. In a time when the fires of inspiration, creativity, and conviction are in desperate need of being stoked, his story is one worth telling.
Lonegan was diagnosed at age 14 with retinitis pigmentosa. What’s that?! Not something you hear about all of the time, to be sure. But it is a condition that was supposed to leave him completely blind by age 30; a scary proposition and future.
At 16 years-old, his father died tragically in an accident while working, which caused his mother to lose their family home, where Steve and his younger brother had been blissfully living. The two boys moved in with their grandparents in a two-family house in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. In his recent interview, which is featured in a political ad – seen below – Lonegan commented:
When you’re a kid and you have a great family, you don’t have to have money to think you’re rich. We thought we were millionaires. Little did we know we had no money.
As a native New Yorker whose family migrated to New Jersey in search of a better life for their children, I know all too well what Steve Lonegan is referring to. The area was once rich with human connection and family ties, which shrouded the dusty, cold, rough environment typical of working-class neighborhoods. Much of that has changed now in New Jersey, leaving disconnection and even desolation in many neighborhoods.
Like so many other of Steve Lonegan’s generation, he had Italian grandparents who taught him to work hard and live by the ethic, but Lonegan also had social workers who invited him to have a life of dependence and mere existence. Yet, Steve Lonegan didn’t sit around waiting to blind, again, merely existing on a monthly Social Security Disability check.
He went to business school, and after graduating, faced over 100 rejections from prospective employees before landing a job. I would imagine that employers simply did not want to take a risk on someone who may or may not be able to work in the future, especially when they are eligible to cash a government check.
Eventually, he volunteered to work tow weeks without pay to entice an employer enough to hire him, and they did. Steve Lonegan spent much of his life before he entered the political spotlight as a kitchen cabinet salesmen. Working hard obviously received warranted attention, because when the company was going under, its owner asked Steve Lonegan to purchase it and try to turn it around.
It wasn’t easy, and he wasn’t alone. Steve and his wife Lorraine struggled for years, but they transformed that failing business into one of the tri-state area’s largest kitchen cabinet companies, employing over 100 hard working New Jersey citizens out of their factory in Paterson, New Jersey. Together “they did build that” business many of their fellow-citizens benefited from, and a family to boot, with two daughters.
Rather than waiting around to be crippled, Lonegan became empowered; rather than drain production, instead he strengthened production; rather than need the general welfare, he contributed to it. That is not a knock on the truly disabled, it is merely a fact. He became a productive member of society when all of the bureaucrats and government norms told him to hang it up.
That’s the beauty of the American Dream, which is that it roots for the underdog and gives him a chance. Or, at least, it used to, as many Americans across the country feel as if that is slipping away. Lonegan frequently uses a line on the stomp, which speaks to this:
I went from being a Social Security Disability recipient to being a successful businessman, not because of a government, but because of the free market economy. That’s what America is all about.
In public office he successfully led the grassroots movement again former Gov. now-criminal John Corzine’s $38 billion toll-hike scheme. I remember the outrage New Jersey citizens – including myself – were expressing to the hike. But as is the case far too-frequently in politics, it just seemed as if nobody would listen, and it was inevitable. However, it wasn’t inevitable, and neither was the 2007 Democratic debt and tax hike initiative that went on to become the first ballot measure to be defeated in New Jersey in two decades, that is, thanks to Steve Lonegan.
On Wednesday, October 16, New Jersey will pick their next Senator. I think it would be worth comparing this story to the headlines surrounding his opponent Cory Booker, who apparently shares in the dirty Twitter habits of his fellow-Democrat and failed New York mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner. The People’s Pundit Daily interactive Senate Map has rated this race “Likely Democrat” exactly because of Cory Booker’s news-making tendencies. Even in supposedly deep blue states, voters tend to get disgusted at some point.
Whether or not that becomes the case, yet remains to be seen, but he seems to have some momentum. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Lonegan has cut Cory Booker’s lead in half, although he still leads by a healthy margin. So, win or lose, love him or hate him, Steve Lonegan epitomizes the American Dream, and that is a story we desperately need to preserve.