“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” – John F. Kennedy, 1960
“Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done. Today we are called once more, and it is time for our generation to answer that call.” – Barack Obama, 2007
One of the blessings of democracy is how it allows societies to refresh their leadership with the representatives of new generations and of communities that have previously gone unheard. With Yasmine Taeb, running in next June’s primary against State Senator Dick Saslaw, we have the chance to do both, with a progressive young Iranian-American woman who has already proven herself a strong and capable leader.
Virginia’s Blue Revolution – and Its Limits
In the dozen years since the predecessor to this blog, Raising Kaine, first appeared, Virginia politics has undergone a revolution – which is not over yet. A once solidly red state has turned increasingly blue, to the point that all statewide elected officials – governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and two U.S. Senators – are now Democrats, the state has voted in the past three presidential elections for the Democratic candidate, and Dems boosted their position in the House of Delegates last November from a mere third of the seats to nearly half.
This trend is thanks to growing numbers of minorities, young people, women and urban/suburban progressives voting for the party. But their votes are not a blank check. Virginia Democrats must give these underrepresented groups more clout in the party if we want to keep them coming to the polls.
Last November’s election was a big step forward in that regard, as the freshman House class added 11 new women plus new Asian, black and LGBT Delegates. And these freshmen made their voices heard by advancing progressive legislation on such previously forbidden topics as expanding Medicaid and preventing Dominion Energy from writing its own rules.
And yet the halls of government in Richmond remain a deeply conservative and old-fashioned place. Entrenched moneyed interests like Dominion, Altria and payday lenders remain able to shape the agenda at will, doling out money in a state with some of the loosest campaign finance laws in the country. As Yasmine Taeb puts it on her website, “The old ‘Virginia Way’ has led to a former Republican Governor being convicted on corruption charges, courts throwing out district maps for illegal racial gerrymandering, and a legislative process rigged in favor of lobbyists and trade groups.”
All of which shows that it has not yet been enough just to elect Democrats. We must elect the right Democrats.
Yasmine Taeb’s Promise
As the video above conveys, Yasmine has extensive personal and professional experience with the most explosive issue of our time – immigration. She has taken her wrenching experience as a refugee to the U.S. and applied it to a career as an advocate for our most traumatized immigrants, as Senior Policy Counsel at the Center for Victims of Torture. She became the first Muslim woman elected to the Democratic National Committee, where she has fought for progressive causes while working to bolster Democratic strength and unity.
Her previous experience ranges from Legislative Director for Human Rights & Civil Liberties at the Friends Committee on National Legislation to a Congressional Legislative Fellow to Government Relations Manager for the Arab American Institute to a State Department Graduate Pickering Fellow and project manager at the Center for American Progress. Topics she has tackled in her career range from foreign policy to defense and a broad array of civil and human rights issues. Legislatively, she helped develop a bipartisan human trafficking bill in the U.S. House that was successfully incorporated into the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
Yasmine promises a forward-looking agenda for Virginia that includes a living wage, fair pay for teachers, non-partisan redistricting, higher cigarette taxes to fund mental health care, giving localities more power to regulate gun safety, and a clean energy agenda that favors Virginia homeowners and our children’s future over Dominion shareholders.
If you’re thinking she sounds too progressive for her district, think again. The always useful Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP) ranked all State Senate Districts and the 35th came out the most Democratic-leaning in the entire Commonwealth – a whopping 40+ points “bluer” than the statewide average.
It’s also a super-diverse district, where you can find everything from a huge mosque to one of the top Laotian restaurants, from a Starbucks known as a gathering place for Somalis, Eritreans, Ethiopians & Moroccans to a couple of schools that recently served as polling places for the Peruvian election.
You can see the demographics here – 13% African American, 18% Asian, 26% Latino, etc. – but I know all this because I live here too. The diversity here is fun and exciting, reminding me of the equally inspiring rainbow of communities that I grew up with in Chicago. It’s about time for Richmond to start reflecting more of the diversity we see in districts like these.
We’ve spoken a lot on this blog about Dick Saslaw’s old-fashioned corrupt ways and why he is a poor fit for one of the most Democratic districts in the Commonwealth – and have no fear, we will again. But now is a time to celebrate and support the promise of a new day for the 35th District, the State Senate and Virginia, a day to complete our Democratic revolution and build a state that is more just, more equal, healthier and open to everyone.
Cross-posted at Daily Kos