If there is to be a political revolution sufficient to begin to usher in a new era of meaningful reform and people-powered democracy, Congress must change. A lot.
Reactionary Republicans must be removed and cautious Democrats must be replaced with outside-inside activists who understand how to make the connection between movements and policies.
In this volatile election year, there are no guarantees with regard to presidential or congressional politics. But there are encouraging signs from across the country. Donald Trump’s Republican presidential run seems to be imploding and congressional Republicans who have aided and abetted his candidacy are beginning to abandon the sinking ship—opening up the possibility that Democrats could make real gains not just in the fight for control of the Senate but into the struggle to retake the House.
And a number of the Democrats who are being nominated for the House are progressives who really could change the chamber and the country. Civil rights and voting rights champion Jamie Raskin—a brilliant constitutional scholar and state legislator—is a clear front-runner to win an open seat in Maryland. Anti-corruption and anti-monopoly campaigner Zephyr Teachout has a real chance to take a Republican-held seat representing New York. And Pramila Jayapal is finishing well ahead in a primary to fill an open seat representing the state of Washington.
An immigrant-rights advocate who merges movement idealism with a deep commitment on policy making, Jayapal jumped into a big lead as results were tabulated in the Seattle-area district where progressive Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott is retiring. Jayapal still faces a November race with one of two fellow Democrats who finished behind her in the initial returns. Jayapal was winning 38 percent Tuesday night, while King County Council member Joe McDermott and State Representative Brady Walkinshaw were battling for second place with 21.5 percent and 20.9 percent respectively.)
“We’re building a movement that can clearly stake out a positive vision for the future of America at a time when too many people feel cynical about change, and when too many people are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table,” declared Jayapal, who was an outspoken activist before her 2014 election as a Washington state senator.
Jayapal came to prominence more than a decade ago, when she founded the group Hate Free Zone to battle intolerance in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “When September 11 happened, I just thought to myself that everything is going to change for people who look like me,” said Jayapal, an immigrant from India. The group evolved into OneAmerica, an activist organization that focuses on advancing “the fundamental principles of democracy and justice at the local, state, and national levels by building power within immigrant communities in collaboration with key allies.”