When Rashida Tlaib won a hard-fought Democratic primary race for an open seat representing Michigan in the US House of Representatives, she signaled that she will go to Congress as what she has always been: a speak-truth-to-power activist.
“I will fight back against every racist and oppressive structure that needs to be dismantled,” Tlaib declared in her victory speech early Wednesday morning.
Tlaib is serious about structural change. She’s a champion when it comes to resistance to Trump and Trumpism. But she is determined to move beyond resistance and usher in a new era of progressive governance—one in which civil-rights protections are not merely defended. They will be enhanced. When she takes office, Tlaib says, she will “propose legislation to drastically expand U.S. civil rights protections to cover discriminatory impacts, in addition to discriminatory intent.”
Her long-term goal is to achieve “a sweeping change for America that would change the landscape for millions of citizens.”
This is the big vision helped a speak-truth-to-power activist win one of the most intensely contested primaries in the country this summer.
Tlaib’s now the Democratic nominee in a Democratic district—the one formerly represented by John Conyers—and she is all but certain to take a seat as a member of the US House next January. Don’t expect this lawyer, activist, and former state legislator to serve as a backbencher. The woman who was once thrown out of a Trump rally for demanding that the billionaire candidate “read the Constitution” is going to shake up the political status quo. For one thing, she would be the first Muslim-American woman ever elected to Congress. For another thing, as a Palestinian American, and the child of immigrants, she will bring bold ideas and a vital sense of urgency to Capitol Hill at a time when, as Tlaib suggests, it is necessary to “resist Trump’s attacks on our communities.”
Tlaib will fight hard in the House, as she has on the campaign trail, for “Medicare-for-All that guarantees health care as a right, not a privilege,” for “Debt-Free College and Vocational Training, for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, for strong unions, for ending corporate welfare and for overturning Citizens United.”
The newly nominated contender will have allies, on Capitol Hill and on the streets. Tlaib was backed in her primary run—against a crowded group of able contenders—by major unions such as the Michigan Education Association and activist groups such as Justice Democrats, Democracy for America, Greater Detroit Democratic Socialists of America, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders such as Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA) backed her candidacy, as did Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow democratic socialist who is expected to be elected to Congress this fall from a New York City US House district.