Widgets Magazine

Q&A with Bob Harlow, a Stanford student running for Congress

Twenty-four-year-old Bob Harlow ’16 is running for Congress in California’s 18th district after having completed his physics degree just last quarter. At Stanford, he played in the orchestra before taking the time to write music and explore the outdoors on his own. He is as much his own person when it comes to politics, denouncing corporate lobbyists and declining to identify on the political spectrum. The Daily sat down with Harlow to find out about him and his political ambitions.

(Courtesy of Bob Harlow)

(Courtesy of Bob Harlow)

The Stanford Daily (TSD): First things first: What made you want to run at the age of 24?

Bob Harlow (BH): I don’t really think the age has anything to do with it, but I can tell you why I’m running – and that’s because I believe in what America can be. I think that in the past decades, in the middle of the century, we achieved a society that worked for everyone and a system that led to huge economic growth that was felt by every citizen in the country. We’ve turned away from that, but we can get back to it and what it requires is an awakening of what America is and how we can shape policy to return to the successes of the previous century.

TSD: Which specific presidencies do you see as successful?

BH: That would be from [Franklin D. Roosevelt] up through Carter. Reagan is when the country really started to go downhill.

TSD: What are some of the things you hope to do as Congressman?

BH: I have a few particular things in mind. One main thing is the Affordable Care Act. I think the Affordable Care Act took us a step forward in some ways, to make sure people can’t be discriminated against for health insurance based on existing conditions, but American people are getting the short end of the stick… And the reason we don’t [have the public option now] is that the political system is very corrupt and inappropriate lobbying is going on. So I would like to raise $100 billion to create a subsidized public option in the Affordable Care Act.

I would also stand by a 10 percent increase in the tax of Americans making more than $1 million a year in what would result in a highest marginal tax rate of 40 percent for that bracket. In the 1950s under Eisenhower, it was 91 percent. Another thing is to raise $1 billion to send 20,000 students to public colleges and universities with free tuition, room and board.

The third item is to have high-speed rail lines from city centers to parts of the Bay Area and the surrounding area that are currently underdeveloped. In particular, I’m thinking of a train from downtown San Jose to the Central Valley – a 40-mile track, assuming it’s a straight line… It’ll generate lots of development [in the Central Valley], lots of increases in housing supply, and significantly lower prices everywhere.

TSD: Where do you identify on the political spectrum?

BH: I don’t think I exist on the current political spectrum. The one thing that almost everyone in Congress has in common is that their chief loyalty is to the people who back their campaigns. And if you look across everybody, that mostly means wealthy donors. You have an economic system that’s not designed these days to work for the American people.

I don’t think American people want to live in society where the average American can’t get a house right now. Unfortunately, we’re living a society where the real wages haven’t gone up for 40 years.

TSD: How did you engage in politics at Stanford, especially since it wasn’t exactly your field of study?

BH: I didn’t become interested in politics at Stanford. I became interested before that. It’s hard to say why we have the interests we do, some of us just tick in different ways. Policies and tangibly trying to improve how we can promote prosperity and freedom for everyone ticks for me.

I would say my interest grew when I worked for the Obama campaign. I enjoyed talking to people, going door to door, and having a conversation about policy with real people.

TSD: As a Democratic candidate yourself, what do you make of the race for the Democratic nomination?

BH: I like Bernie a lot, I think that his vision for America and the proposal he outlined would be really good, [it would be really good] to head in that direction. I think if it came down to implementing it, we would have to take more incremental steps.

I really don’t know what Hillary Clinton thinks, and I don’t think anyone really does. I think Hillary Clinton will be good for the country she’ll move us forward.

I think that I feel like I’m more on the same wavelength as Bernie Sanders. I do think that Hillary Clinton is very knowledgeable about policy and she is generally in the right place in the sense of carrying on the legacy of Obama and moving the nation further back towards a place where there is justice for its people.

TSD: What do you plan to do in the longer run?

BH: I plan to run again if I don’t succeed this year. I have some pretty strong interests, and I will definitely pursue some other things career-wise, but I still have my focus on the election two years from now.

Of course, I’d have to support myself during that time, so I’ll do something in that realm. I do compose music too, and every once in a while on Friday, that’s when I’ll sit down in front of a piano and enter that world, and I really treasure that.

TSD: What sort of music would that be?

BH: I write music that is, I think, a pretty solid extension of the symphonic tradition that doesn’t necessarily try to be anything. But it draws on the colors and textures and rhythms from the soundscape of music existing today and synthesizes that into something that continues in the tradition of all these great works for orchestra of the past couple centuries.


Contact Fangzhou Liu at fzliu96 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Fangzhou Liu

Fangzhou Liu ’19 is an editor majoring in computer science and linguistics. Raised in Singapore, she still shares her compatriots’ interests in street food and freebies and your dad’s taste in music. Contact Fang with questions and job leads at fzliu96 ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • Concerned Student

    Bob Harlow is a dangerous man known for harassing and stalking students on campus, please don’t give him a platform to voice his delusions on the Daily!

  • Bob Harlow

    I take sexual harassment and sexual assault very seriously.

    I have never engaged in either.

    I have been immature in relationships at times. I think many of us are at some point in our lives.

    I have been guilty of sending text messages to an individual who have made it clear that she did not want to see me again.

    I have been guilty of seeking that individual out twice at her morning chemistry class.

    That was 100% wrong and I regret those actions deeply.

    Those actions resulted in a Stanford University investigation that ended with NO judgement of wrong doing against me.

    That is absolutely it. I have never followed someone. I have never commited any physical or sexual abuse, nor have I theatened it.

    This episode has had a negative impact on my reputation on campus.

    Tet my friends, both female and male, stuck by me throughout. And I am so so grateful to them for their support.

    I have learned from my experiences and will never repeat the things that I did.

  • Concerned Student 2

    I concur with Concerned Student, this man has given unwanted attention to other Stanford students and has followed them around after they have felt threatened.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve known Bob Harlow for three years. He’s always been a generous and thoughtful friend and I enjoy his company for it. His remarkable passion for composing music and studying theoretical physics are admirable. I’m excited to see him bring his optimistic vision and political sensitivity to this campaign. I’m also sad to see comments disparaging him on this forum — I’ve only ever known him to have the highest regards and wishes for his fellow students.

  • Aubrie Lee

    Bob Harlow—or, Robert, as I first knew him—is one of my favorite people from my Stanford years. He lived two doors down from me in Roble and was a wonderful neighbor. At conversations in the dining hall, he was an intelligent and hilarious contributor. I’m honored to have known him and excited to see him channel his intellect towards bettering society.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve known Robert for nearly five years, and lived in one of his dorms. I think concerned student is exaggerating the truth of the matter, which Bob has made clear in a response. We should be focusing on how Bob will serve us as a congressman. His passion and honesty would be a breath of fresh air in a congress dominated by corporate interests.

  • A friend

    Robert and I became friends 6 years ago during freshman year at Stanford, and were dormmates both sophomore and senior year! He has always been respectful and a good and loyal friend. I have the utmost admiration and respect for him, and have always known that he conducts himself with integrity and honor.

  • Kelsey Lange

    Robert has been my friend for several years; we actually met on a plane coming back to campus after a holiday break. We have since spent plenty of time together with mutual friends, and he has always been ready and willing to pull together new people and encourage friendly bonding and openness that was somewhat refreshing for Stanford’s busy student life. He is incredibly friendly, outgoing, and honest. I think his rational and passionate personality will be an ideal addition into our congress and I sincerely hope this campaign goes well. It’s a joy to watch!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve known Bob for over 5 years now, and was his freshman year roommate. Something that stands out to me is his incredible willingness and excitement to take on new challenges, regardless of the scope. While I was struggling to get through Math 51 and Physics courses, Robert was crushing his school work (also helping me) and simultaneously engaging with local VCs to learn what it would take to get a startup off the ground. He later became interested in crew and through sheer will and self-motivation, reached a level of rowing fitness which was competitive with recruited D1 athletes. So when Bob told me he was running for Congress, I never doubted his resolve or concentration to get the job done – or never will. I wish him all the best!