For so many Americans, the world was turned upside down on November 8, 2016. I know it was for me.
Donald Trump’s election to the office previously held by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt was a hammer blow to all my assumptions about politics, the American people, and what our country stands for. I have always believed in the fundamental goodness of the American people and the nobility of our democracy. How could the country that I love – the same country that twice elected Barack Obama to the White House – elect a man with such shameful character flaws and dangerous, divisive policy views? Then, following his inauguration, Trump proceeded to fulfill his most extreme campaign promises: ordering a Muslim travel ban; proposing radical cuts to safety-net programs; attempting to repeal Obamacare and taking health coverage away from 24 million Americans; going with coal-industry executives to EPA headquarters to announce the reversal of efforts to fight climate change; nominating a judge to the Supreme Court who will terminate women’s reproductive rights – the list goes on and on.
I was confronted with a choice: Stand by and let this president and his agenda and his party drag our great nation backward, or stand up and push back. I believe with all my heart that our country is worth fighting for. And I am confident that the majority of Americans are ready to come together to uphold our nation’s highest ideals and save our democracy. The United States has experienced other national traumas, including the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the attacks of 9/11. But we have always listened to what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” We have always come together to do the right thing and lift America to a higher level. Now it’s our turn to stand up for America. And I want to help lead this fight.
I decided to run for Congress the night that Trump announced his first Muslim travel ban. This is personal to me. If that ban had been in place when my parents sought refuge from the rise of extremism in Iran, the door to the Land of the Free would have been slammed in their faces. When the travel ban was announced, my mother asked me whether she should sell her house and move to Canada “because this is the not the first time she might have to leave a country because of the government changing.” I found her question heartbreaking. And my response was immediate: No, you will not have to leave America.
We will join with others to win back the America that we know and love.
Immigrants built America. We are a diverse nation where no one should feel like a second-class citizen, regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or any other distinguishing factor. Regrettably, Trump rejects this vision of America. His governing strategy is a classic case of “divide and conquer.”
President Lincoln called America the “last best hope of Earth.” This does not mean that we are perfect. We all know that there are dark chapters in our history. Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting our young nation, wrote, “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” Our nation made a tragic mistake by electing Donald Trump to the presidency. Our challenge now is to repair this mistake. We have a civic responsibility – as individuals and working together – to fight back against Trump’s efforts to divide our people and degrade our democracy.
Today, if you are not angry, you haven’t been paying attention.
My anger has grown as I have learned about an Iranian baby who was temporarily prevented from coming to the United States for urgent heart surgery; an undocumented woman who was detained by ICE after going to a Texas courthouse to request protection from domestic abuse; a Dreamer in Washington State who was detained after ICE fabricated his connection to gangs. These stories and many others like them are both a cause of anger and a call to action.
We also are challenged to put forth a new vision for the Democratic Party. Trump wouldn’t have been elected without a massive institutional failure by the Democratic Party. Our party is in the worst shape it’s been in since the Great Depression. We need to rebuild it from the ground up – and the grassroots up.
This rebuilding isn’t about just finding a better candidate or running a smarter campaign. The challenge is much bigger than that. I love Barack Obama. I wouldn’t be in politics if not for his inspiring run in 2008. I didn’t always agree with every action he took as President but I trusted him and admired the direction he was taking our country. But since 2008, every time he was not on the ballot, Democrats have performed terribly. And he’s not coming back to save us. That’s our job. And to that end, we need a new generation of leadership.
We need to build a movement. There must be a plan not just to win any single election but also to govern and build a durable majority. For eight years, Republicans did nothing but oppose the agenda of Barack Obama. Now that they are back in power, they have no new ideas for governing. I don’t want to see the same thing happen to Democrats when we retake the White House and Congress.
We need to have new ideas for moving America forward into the 21st century.
I am a proud, progressive Democrat. If I am elected to Congress I will fight for debt-free college, to mend not end the Affordable Care Act, to address the fact that the United States is the only developed country in the world that does not provide workers with paid sick leave and paid family leave, for a smarter foreign policy that actually keeps us safe and to ensure that we create good jobs that pay a living wage and offer good benefits.
Washington DC is broken. It doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to and doesn’t address our nation’s most urgent challenges. The influence of money in politics has grown far worse since the misguided Citizens United ruling. I know because I’ve worked on Capitol Hill and I’ve seen how money distorts and often corrupts the political process. It’s gotten so bad that, as a prospective congressional candidate talking with groups that are working to get excessive money out of politics, I’ve found that they quickly dismiss you with words like “come back and talk to us once you’ve raised some real money.” What could be more illustrative of a broken system than when even folks who very much want to fix that system are forced to judge you by the very criterion that they want to change?
I had no plans to run for office in 2018. Had Hillary Clinton been elected President, I’d still be happily working for Senator Sherrod Brown and I would not have even entertained the idea of doing this. I was born and raised in Irvine, and I’ve never forgotten where home is and where I intended one day to return. In the past, I thought of returning, putting my roots back down, and maybe run for the state assembly or city council. Those plans changed last November. I had no choice but to step into the arena and make a difference — now.
We are at a moment when it doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican; what matters is your willingness to resist Donald Trump.
I believe that more and more people of both major parties are eager to unite around this important cause. This is about saving the America that we love and admire. It’s about preserving a livable world for our children and grandchildren.
For us in the 45th congressional district, our focus must be squarely on defeating Mimi Walters. She has been a stalwart, unapologetic supporter of Trump and his agenda. And she is so out of touch with Orange County that she refuses to show up at town hall forums to explain herself to her constituents. Between now and Election Day in 2018, I pledge to be singlemindedly devoted to replacing Mimi Walters in Congress. I ask you for your vote. Even more important, I ask you to join me in actively resisting and defeating Trump and his extreme agenda.
President Kennedy, speaking about the Cold War, said, “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.” Today, it’s our turn.