by Edwin Santana
There’s an old saying: “If you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no brain.”
I’m here to say “the hell with that.” I may be an anomaly, but I’ve found myself becoming more liberal as I’ve gotten older. Which is probably why, when I’m looking at a particular political race, I’m looking for the most progressive candidate with the biggest, boldest ideas. Frankly, I’ve had it with folks who lecture me on electability and who try and tell me that the only person who can win in a tough race is an old, conservative white guy. Many of these people will ignore the fact that the only two candidates to ever earn more than 65 million votes were an African-American guy named Barack Hussein and a woman named Hillary Clinton.
The 28th Virginia State Senate district is tough. Republican Richard Stuart barely won in 2007 and has been uncontested since. Redistricting only made the district tougher. But this is a potentially winnable district, one where Tim Kaine got 48.3% of the vote in 2017. Running north to Gainesville and south to Montross, west through Spotsy and east to Dahlgren, this is a large district with a diverse community. The interests of the community are as diverse as the people who live there.
Which brings me to Democratic candidate Qasim Rashid. He has an incredible story and an incredible vision for the 28th. He’s an accomplished lawyer, an incredible speaker (check out his TED talk here), and an even better man. Scrolling through his Twitter feed will give you an insight into the kind of powerful, inspirational message he’s trying to spread here in Virginia. As an American Muslim, he’s leading the charge to fight extremism, trying to wage a war of words and love to help address some of the issues our community is facing. The actions he’s taken are far more than many who have stood by idly and failed to address the rise in white extremism and domestic terrorism. But that’s not the focus of this piece.
Along with trying to shed light on and improve the condition of his religious community, Qasim Rashid understands that a lot of the issues we face are intersectional. You can’t address racial injustice without addressing economic injustice. You can’t have criminal justice reform without improving the day-to-day lives of the people who are most harshly persecuted by these systems. He realizes that all these complex issues are related and that we can’t address social issues without taking care of the underlying economic ones.
Which is why I think his message is so powerful, and that he is the perfect messenger for it. The Democratic Party is diverse and reflects what our country actually looks like. After the first black president and the first woman to be a major party candidate, a Muslim American running for state senate in Virginia shouldn’t be a big deal — but it is. The fact that Rashid’s message is inclusive and looks to address the kitchen table issues that we’re all facing is why I think it’s a winner.
I’ll be honest. I was on the fence on whether or not to endorse before the primary. I was watching closely and trying to determine if I wanted to weigh in. Some tweets by another candidate in the race accused Qasim of practicing identity politics, and worse, seemed to call into question his faith and whether he could win in a Republican held district. After reading these tweets, I was left thinking they were petty, Islamophobic and absolutely not what I wanted representing the Democratic Party in Virginia. So I hopped off the fence and decided to wade in.
So, with that, I’m endorsing Qasim Rashid in the Democratic primary on June 11th for Virginia’s 28th State Senate District — because I believe he is the best candidate to win this race. If you’re on the fence worried about “electability,” I’d challenge you with the question, who the hell knows what that is? I’d argue that “electability” is often used as a thinly veiled preference for an older, whiter, maler candidate. Often the electorate doesn’t know what they want until they see it in a candidate with a message that inspires them. Qasim Rashid is going to have the resources to spread that message. Recently featured in a Washington Post article for his ability to raise money through a small dollar donor campaign, he’s raising money from folks like you and me who want to see real progressive change here in the Old Dominion.
I’ve decided to get into the action and I hope you will too. Sen. Richard Stuart is going to be well funded in what hopefully will be his last reelection campaign. Republicans will have their eyes on this seat and will fight tooth and nail to prevent losing it. That’s where we come in. Check out Rashid’s website and donate a few dollars. Even 5 bucks can go a long way when 20,000 of us donate together. And while you’re there, find out how you can help by signing up to volunteer. It’s going to be a tough road, but we’ll never get there if we don’t get started now. I’m all in, and I hope you’ll join me.