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Rashida Tlaib

Rashida Tlaib, a 42-year-old Detroit native and former Michigan state representative, is poised to become the first Muslim and Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress. (Photo: Rashida for Congress/Facebook)

Democratic Socialist Rashida Tlaib Poised to Become First Palestinian-American Congresswoman

"I think if more members of Congress actually knew the realities of war and regime change, they wouldn't be so callous about dropping bombs in distant countries," the candidate says, describing her foreign policy

Jessica Corbett

 by Informed Comment

With 96 percent of votes counted following Tuesday's primary election in Michigan, Rashida Tlaib—who has been described as "a dynamic, minority, young progressive" and part of "the new breed of politician grabbing attention in the Democratic Party"—is slated to become the first Muslim and Palestinian-American Congresswoman.

Tlaib—who has been endorsed by several progressive groups, including the Justice Democrats, People for Bernie, and the Greater Detroit Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—is running in the reliably blue 13th District for the seat formerly held by longtime Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who retired in December following a series of sexual harassment allegations. She currently does not have a Republican opponent.

Prior to her congressional run, the 42-year-old Detroit native served in the Michigan House of Representatives until she was termed out, then worked as an attorney at an employee rights group, the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice.

Her boldly progressive platform prioritized:

  • promoting economic justice, from securing a $15 hourly minimum wage and defending unions to preventing cuts to social safety net programs and overturning Citizens United;
  • transitioning our for-profit healthcare system to the Medicare for All approach championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a growing number of Americans;
  • fighting for tougher environmental regulations in Michigan and challenging the Trump administration's moves to cripple the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA);
  • directing more resources to the public school system, and advocating for debt-free college and vocational training; and
  • guaranteeing equal rights for all by defending protections for the LGTBQ community, overturning President Donald Trump's Muslim ban, and working on immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

In terms of foreign policy, Tlaib told The New Republic ahead of Tuesday's vote that her positions "will be guided by the same values that drive my approach to domestic policy: Empathy, understanding, and respect." She added:

I'm firmly anti-war, and I think that's in large part influenced by my perspective as a Palestinian-American and having family and friends throughout the Middle East. I've seen firsthand how devastating military conflict is, and I think if more members of Congress actually knew the realities of war and regime change, they wouldn't be so callous about dropping bombs in distant countries. We should be solving our problems with diplomacy, not by increasing our military spending budget.

Emerging as the victor among the "crowded field of Democrats" who ran in Tuesday's primary, Tlaib's "aggressive and direct" campaign has at times drawn comparisons to that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old Democratic socialist who has garnered national attention since she defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in June to represent New York's 14 District.

Andy Goddeeris, Tlaib's campaign manager, told CNN, "We are basically running the same campaign, with the same platform, and with a very similar candidate."


© 2021 Juan Cole

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