In a display of unity, Muslims, Jews and Hindus will join together to highlight the challenges faced by ordinary people in Kashmir this Thursday at American University.
Beto O’Rourke had his strongest night yet.
After deciding not to court voters in Spanish (thank you, Beto), the presidential candidate and skateboarder unleashed his RFK-esque passion for public policy through going unscripted on gun reform.
Elizabeth Warren said as much as she needed to, and not a word more.
Despite attempts to get her to go on record about the financial cost to taxpayers for some of her reforms, Warren remained disciplined and in her best form last night. She also spoke close to least last night as she allowed gaffes and wrong-headed jabs at age (looking at you, Castro) dominate the night. Her point that she’s met no one who so far loves their healthcare company resonated with a lot of Americans on both sides of the aisle.
Juan Castro tried to channel Kamala Harris’s love of being the Bully.
And it failed. Not only was Castro actually wrong in casting doubt on Biden’s memory which in turn makes us wonder if Castro has a memory or hearing problem of his own, he came off as unpresidential, desperately looking to insult an older, more credible public servant. Castro will not survive this, and if he does, if Biden wins the nomination, like Kamala he’ll face an unlikely future.
Sanders Still Resonates.
Younger Americans are increasingly dividing up between Mayor Pete Buttigeg, Beto O’Rourke, and internet sensation Andrew Yang. But the lion share of. younger voters I’ve spoken to across the country continue to favor either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren—reflecting national polls. In particular, Sanders direct challenge to the powers that be (big banks, soulless insurance companies, and pro-climate change interests) continues to ring as the truest of the platforms offered by any candidate.
Joe Biden is Not Going Anywhere.
Gaffes that date him, jokes about his age, claims by flagging candidates that he’s not racist, “but…” — they’ve all failed, again and again. Joe Biden still connects with a Americans across the board because they’ve come to either trust him or respect that he, along with Sanders and Warren, isn’t running for president to fulfill his ego. He cares about America, and wants to serve the country. Keep that in mind going forward.
1. Dishonesty & Hypocrisy
You cannot throw people in jail for smoking marijuana, and then give an interview where you laugh about how *you* smoked marijuana for years.
2. "A Soldier's Story: Redux"
You cannot justify keeping an innocent black man in prison through misleading judicial procedure for committing murder he did not commit because it helps you look tough on crime.
3. Cannibalizing Spirit of the Law
The deliberate misapplication of the law in the matter of truancy during one of the worst economic downturns in American history demonstrates virtue signaling at its worst & most degenerate condition.
Let's elect a Real Democrat.
For an entire generation, the memory of the villainry of September 11th is seared into our minds, but for a select group of us, those events were even more impactful, because they led to 18 years of suspicion, discrimination, illegal surveillance, curtailing of our civil rights, and in some cases, death and physical harm. As a millennial, half a dozen people I knew have now died in combat fighting two wars, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. More than a few dozen have come home to an America that can scarcely understand the trauma of war and the dramatic toll prolonged exposure to violence can take on a mind.
Beto O’Rourke isn’t a leading contender for the presidency right now.. But that hasn’t stopped me from going on to say multiple times in recent TV & Podcast appearances that he’s part of a cadre of authentic candidates that I admire and believe have a great future in public service. I decided to put together a couple of things I like about him, only two of which are political.
Beto Was in A Rock Band
I am damn sure that if I had ever attended a Beto jam session with his rock buddies, that I would probably light my brain in fire. That being said, being in a grunge band with that kind of hair gains any candidate instant street-cred with younger voters who really want a candidate who draws outside the lines. Being in a hard rock band doesn’t make Beto a candidate younger voters can directly relate to, as some rather shoddy analysts have tried to conclude. The heavy metal & grunge eras were well-over by the time I was a junior in high school (I’m a millennial), and Gen Z voters will have a hard time seeing how that prehistoric set of sounds even qualifies as “music”. That being said, it does make him more human than say, a candidate who used to throw people in jail for smoking pot, and then tries to make themselves relatable by laughing in an interview about how she used to smoke pot (cough…Kamala).
I should probably point out at this juncture that my parents are immigrants from South Asia, and skateboard were considered a dangerous influence that could lead to tattoos, girls and a life of crime and drugs. It did not help that the one Pakistani immigrant friend I had in elementary school who skateboarded did exactly those things. But we won’t go there. Beto’s lifelong passion for skateboarding is the sort of thing you don’t expect any 46 year-old father with an Ivy League education to do. It’s unexpected, refreshing and a very healthy way to get exercise and meet diverse people who are not political junkies. That last point is incredibly important to Beto: he really does like to just meet everyday people.
His Old College Buddies Describe Him As Having “Radical Authenticity”
It’s usually not a good sign when presidential hopefuls have people who knew them in college reminisce in public about their wayward youths. Ted Cruz, who nearly lost his Senate seat in deep red Texas to Beto found that out when an old classmate started tweeting about his purported issues with hygiene. But not too surprisingly “His artist friends knew him as the scruffy guy who got them into trouble for skateboarding through the dorm,” recalls Boris Kachka, a classmate of Beto’s at Columbia University in the 1990s, before adding he was also captain of the crew team (God, I wish I was Beto).
Beto Is Not Winning & He Doesn’t Care: He’s Still Running Things His Way
Yesterday I wrote about how Beto O’ Rourke decided to take a Bolt Bus from New York to Boston, instead of a flight. His campaign staff gave a rather interesting rationale: the bus is less polluting. I see a far more compelling reason: Beto hates being a stuffed shirt, and really enjoys being a a regular person. Millions of Americans simply cannot afford to fly, and Beto isn’t looking to win the 1% vote in first class on American Airlines. He’s genuinely concerned about the direction of America today, and likely chose the Bolt Bus as a way to really talk to everyday voters—-even if he isn’t winning the presidency as of right now in the polls.
A Bridge Between Americans: Pluralism is His Strong Suit
Hard Punk Rocker & former miscreant. Ivy League education & crew team captain. Skateboarder & f-bomb aficionado. Texas-born Irishman with a Hispanic nickname whose dad was a Southern Democrat who raised money for Jesse Jackson, and whose mom was a moderate Republican. Beto is a brackish mish-mash of all th constituent parts that make America one single whole. It is in the personhood of Beto O’Rourke that Americans find a man who is truly in touch with who we are and wha makes us such a great and diverse people. That pluralistic combination is both impressive and fantastic. And it is chief amongst my reasons as to why I really like Beto O’Rourke.
Beto O’Rourke is causing a sensation today for doing something rather ordinary: he decided to board a Bolt Bus from New York to Boston rather than pay for a plane ticket. If booked on the day of transit, a plane ticket on average would cost upwards of $400. A one-way Bolt Bus ticket to travel between the two cities is around 35 bucks.
Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian nationalist who assassinated America's progressive champion, Robert F. Kennedy, has been stabbed in prison.
Sirhan's violent terrorist act was the first to be carried out on US soil in relation to the Middle East conflict.
At his trial, Sirhan couched his desire to kill Kennedy as the product of an epic struggle between Arab and Jew, and proceeded to go on a diatribe about his lifelong hatred for Jews--despite his defense attorney being a Jew. Sirhan's crime led to the election of Richard M. Nixon, and the defeat of a vision of a progressive, inclusive America for decades to come.
Blind hatred begets our destruction. Let the lesson here be that no nationalist impulse, be it domestic or foreign, is in line with the ethos of our great people, the human race.
If Americans Won’t Talk With Each Other, Then How Do We Expect To Govern Alongside One Another?
Over the past two years, I have been on Fox News and other conservative television outlets over 50 times. I lost count some time ago of exactly how many times I’ve gone on air. I am a peculiar choice for the Right to bring on: a progressive (if practical) Democrat from Maryland who is the son of immigrants, I don’t really share much in common with their base. However, I kept going on. This is in-part because I felt I had a lot to learn about debating from the short video segments which require you to think on your feet. But over time, I came to realize another important reason for me to be on Fox News: if Americans won’t talk with each other, then how do we expect to govern alongside one another?
In 2013, USA Today reported only 1/3 of Americans trusted one another. Social Scientists reported that that was a recipe for disaster—corruption often follows chronic distrust. Moreover, America’s more diverse and younger populations are concentrated on the coasts, near favored ports of entry. High paying jobs also are located in such localities, hollowing out the middle of the country. This has left Americans more stratified and less likely to come across people of different walks of life for a simple cup of coffee at a local diner, let alone for a civil conversation about politics and public policy.
For me, being in close quarters with one’s political adversaries often has the strange effect on building relationships between the most unlikely of friends. My best friend from high school is, inexplicably, a hard-right Republican and the son of Russian immigrants. My best friend from college is also a Republican—with a uniquely vocal commitment to combatting climate change and Donald Trump. She’s the daughter of Ukrainian immigrants. Our raucous debates often end with them needing a drink or two, and a reminder of just how badly political and social pluralism help to salve the wounds of division that today plague our country.
The Muslim Catholic Schoolboy
For me, the appreciation of needed to engage those with whom I disagree came at an early age—when I was barely 10 years old. At that age my parents enrolled me in Catholic School. They themselves had been products of Christian-based learning institutions while growing up, and they felt the moral discipline, high standards and rigor of such an education serve me well. Admittedly, I loved my educational experience: learning European History, studying the Bible, understanding the catechism—as a Sunni Muslim, these lessons imbued me with a sense of respect and deep reverence for the priesthood and religious Catholics. Socially, the experience was searing and yet also meaningful in terms of my education in America. Many of my classmates were privileged young men belonging to the local aristocracy of Catholic Maryland. They were mostly white, blond haired and blue or green eyed—and they were not exactly pleased to have the son of "Saracens” in their midsts. I had never heard of a Saracen before, and had I not consulted an American College dictionary at home, I still would have no idea that word is a pejorative term for Muslims from the medieval era.
The year before I enrolled in Catholic School, an elderly civil rights activist had been my elementary school teacher. Her name was Adele Tootle, and she had taught us about the freedom riders, Frederick Douglas, Harriet Tubman, and the immense suffering and gross intolerance that were the eras of slavery and Jim Crow. It was in that class that I met the first African-American Muslim I ever knew, my friend Khadija. My other friends included an Egyptian girl named Maya, a Ghanian-American named John Samanda, and my best friend, Michael Peitzmier—who was half Hakkan Chinese and half German-American. Mrs. Tootle’s instructive and often passionate teaching style in a classroom that was only about half white, and populated with students from every race and nationality imaginable left me with a deep appreciation for what America was and is: a place where all nations and tribe come to know one another.
A year later in Catholic School that understanding of America had not penetrated our country’s 1%. While our priests and clergy at the school were happy and embracing of their talkative and happy-going pupil, some of my classmates had very different ideas about the notion of “race-mixing” and allowing an “enemy of the Church” into the classroom. While my teachers did their best to deal with bullying and put an end to prejudice as an un-Christian value, bitter sentiments are often hard to wash out when they are dyed in the wool at home.
My experiences at Catholic School changed my life. I felt the need to explain myself, my identity and justify my personhood, only a year after learning of the 400 year history of discrimination against African Americans. In a way, that year felt as if Providence was instructing me in the art and craft of reaching out to those with whom I share the kinship of humanity, but not very much else. Those lessons in helping people see past their first impressions and fears became the bedrock of who I have strived to be: a bridge builder.
The Need for Pluralism
When I was first approached about going on Fox News, I was skeptical that anything could be achieved beyond honing the art of posturing and delivering withering one-liners veiled in tired, dry talking points. I felt it would be a waste of time, and sometimes—like all entertainment, it was exactly that. But slowly, as I spent more and more time with conservatives, independents and Republicans both on and off-air, my opinion changed. I realized the importance of speaking with those with whom I disagree on much beyond the right to free speech.
The need for pluralism—political, religious, social—is a part of the American Dream that we cannot lose sight of. That’s why I go on Fox News.
The President of the United States is a corrupt, immoral, buffoon.
But Americans want solutions to their problems, not constant reminders about all of his.
Over the past two and a half years, our country has seen dramatic shifts in political norms—and definitely not for the better. Donald Trump’s first few months in office were something out of a dystopian Hollywood blockbuster, or perhaps National Lampoon. In either case, the president proved himself a poor manager, an even worse negotiator, and a breathtaking bigot. It was the stuff sensational media (not news) coverage was made for: big, glossy stories of drama, intrigue and chaos.
But its gotten old. Really old. Americans are tiring of hearing about how inept Donald Trump is, and are seeking again a new paradigm in politics: "just how is government going to improve our lives—no for real, this time?”
Progressive & liberal causes have had a boon fundraising small dollar donations on the basis that Mr. Trump is in effect, an illegitimate president. FiveThirtyEight.com reports that a majority of Americans continue to disapprove of Mr. Trump’s job performance, though the gap has narrowed significantly in recent months. One reason for the narrowing of the gap is the sense that in their ardent desire to discredit Donald Trump, his detractors have lost whatever objectivity they once had in criticizing him. That is a dangerous sentiment for our democracy; if Democrats and others cannot be trusted by voters to offer sincere critique of a man well out of his depth in his current role, the next question becomes: “well, is any of that criticism justified, in that case?”
And yet, Democrats’ priorities seem focused on satisfying a progressive base whose younger cadres, given the progression of linear time, will inherit the earth and halls of Congress fairly soon, anyway. I should know—I am one of them.
The unyielding focus on just how corrupt, how immoral and how much of a buffoon Donald Trump is will not end his term in office any sooner. Yes, there is ample evidence that impeachment is warranted, and bills accomplishing that should be debated on the House floor for the whole world to see. But the level to which the focus has become Donald Trump’s litany of misdeeds rather than offering a rational and thorough rebuttal of his policies is unhelpful, and has become a distraction at a critical time for the future of our country.
Given the immense evidence presented by the Mueller Report, and the ongoing investigations in New York and Washington into many of his close associates, Mr. Trump will likely face a day in court anyway, sooner or later. Our focus as a country should therefore be on how we plan to deliver a different future for Americans.
If Democrats and their allies are serious about delivering for the American people, they must take seriously the business at hand: How will AOC’s Green New Deal revitalize rustbelt communities? How does Rep. Ro Khanna’s Internet Bill of Rights safeguard constitutional rights and the civil rights of Americans? How will Rep. Jamie Raskin’s Shareholders United Bill help get corporate money out of politics? If Democrats spent half as much time promoting the ideas of their progressive colleagues as they do seeking to capitalize on Donald Trump chronic allergy to truth, justice and the American Way, then we would be in a different ball game right now.
There is no candidate I believe in more than Brandy Brooks for MoCo Planning Board. Her addition is vital to this organ of our local democracy. Brandy's campaign for office last year focused on the and disheartening division between the privileged and disinherited in our county over a million people. While these smack some as populist motivations devoid of practical policy considerations, I have to disagree. There is an inside game in our county, and it is unkind and unwelcoming to new and fresh voices committed to the advancement of our society beyond their narrow networks.
Brandy’s resume is vast, and impressive. I will not re-highlight each of its points suffice to say I have every faith that her abilities and skillsets meet the requisite requirements to serve on the Planning Board.
Brandy Brooks has become through blood, sweat, and tears one of the true faces of our county. Her commitment to highlighting the challenges that face our society is commendable. Moreover, her ability to think through public policy is not just impressive, but wisely important. Having worked with her, I trust her more than any other candidate to offer perspectives and ideas that might otherwise be missed.
While some other candidates who have applied for the Planning Board vacancy are professional resume-padders, that is not the case with Brandy. Her commitment to serving the public outweighs the elitist politics of some who feel the pressure to keep up with the Joneses that some in their lives likely are demanding of them. This isn't an episode of Dynasty and we don’t need anymore insider intriguw. Montgomery County deserves a true public servant, and her name is Brandy Brooks.
I have now traveled to half the Arab World, and 1/3 of the Old Muslim World. And of these countries, Tunisia has won my heart. It might be that everyone I meet speaks at least conversational French here. It might be that I can eat street food basically anywhere and not keel over. It might be that although I am in Africa and Sahara, the hot days are tempered by cool sea breezes and that the gelato is 75 cents and damn better than anything at home. Or it might be that, even with over-regulation, institutional ineptitude, and low-level corruption, the start-up scene here is more vibrant than anywhere I have been. But frankly, it is the people, whose faith in democracy is shaken, but whose commitment to it has not been deterred.
For the past few days, I have been in the land of Tunisia, a country the physical size of the entire Mid-Atlantic seaboard, but with a population scarcely equal to that of Ohio. An ancient land, it was once home to Carthage, the anti-imperial holdout whose General Hannibal once brought elephants through the Alps for a sneak attack on Rome. It is also home to Zaytuna, one of the oldest Islamic seminaries in the world (founded in 737), which produced the modern father of sociology, economics and historiography, the scholar known as Ibn Khaldun. Unlike Eastern Arab traditions which focus largely on conquest, hegemony and the subjugation of non-Arab peoples, Zaytuna is one of the schools of Western Arab thought, more in line with Islam’s commitment to pluralism and tolerance. It has fostered a near-Jesuit mentality in some ways, in part because of both Andulusian and Ottoman influences—whereas the Eastern Arab world embraced Nasserism and Kawakibism, two cultish traditions that emphasize Arab racial supremacy over non-Arab peoples, and a sense of Manifest Destiny to politically subjugate those not belonging to that loose racial categorization. Tunisia, small though it is in population, represents perhaps the last, best hope for the Arab World to embrace a path of political and socio-cultural pluralism, thanks in no small part to Zaytuna, Ibn Khaldun, and the country’s founder, the Kemalist-influenced Habib Bourghiba.
While tension exists between Islamists, Islamic, Secular (“Laic”) and Modernist political and social cleavages, the country is one of the few places I have witnessed a willingness to engage one another in civil debate without the resort to declarations of Takfeer, a device invented originally by Arab extremists to excommunicate and apostatize all dissent against the Arab-centric Ummayad Dynasty whose policies against non-Arab Muslims led to the rebellion of the founding saint of Shia Islam, the Imam Husayn. In this, Tunisia resembles the Omani Islamic tradition of the Ibadi sect, which considers schism over political matters to be gravely sinful. Therefore, while challenges to political pluralism continue to plague Tunisia as a transitional democracy, there is a stronger sense that freedom of expression and conscious should be valued than not.
No Country for Old Men
From across the world, ex-pat Tunisian Millennials with degrees from Sciences Po, Georgetown, the dreaded Ivies and the like have all returned here to devote themselves to an experiment to ensure that democracy survives in the Arab World. With bated breath, crestfallen democrats from Islamabad to Ankara and beyond are praying, hoping and (sometimes) drinking themselves into a stupor in the hopes that somehow, perhaps Tunisia will prove the critics, dash the casted doubts and perhaps somehow emerge with its head held high. "We too, sing of freedom --- and carry it in tune."
Yet a wretched and debauched "Baby Boomer" class of anti-democrats and ancien regime players lurk in the shadows. Their fangs drawing ever closer to the neck of Tunisia's Lady Liberty as she sings the first lines of the Opera of Democracy. Will her millennial saviors cast sunlight and transparency on their misdeeds? Or will the forces of evil suck the life force not only of Tunisia's vibrant hope of democracy but that of 1.3 billion tired, broken yet still devout Muslim souls, yearning for freedom? Evidence suggests that statist and remnant forces from the ancien regime still play a role in castigating and intimidating civil society and political discourse. However, this seems to be far less the case than what was found, say, under J. Edgar Hoover’s tenure as head of the FBI. Ben Ali loyalists have began to try and capitalize on the economic downturn of Tunisia’s exhaustively state-owned/controlled economy in the post-revolution electoral climate. However, many people seem to prefer to utilize democratic means to achieve change, meaning they’ll just keep voting until they elect a governing parliamentary coalition that will actually serve the people.
In other words, this is a land of cautious hope. Young people have tasted freedom for 8 years, and just as Obama's election (more than his lackluster presidency) galvanized a new generation to fight for a country without the indignities of corruption, inequality and the like, so too is it in the land of Zaytouna (the ancient seminary that is home to Islam's progressive legal religious tradition). There is a sense of exigency--and the mixing of cultures, ideas, moralities, and social norms has produced a people as vibrant in spirit as they are tired of status quo acquiesence. For this is the land that Skywalker war born: the planet Tatooine is a real place, and it's where the original Star Wars was filmed.
Only time will tell if democracy congeals in the land of Ibn Khaldun. But there's always A New Hope in the land that Star Wars was filmed in. Rebellions always find their heroes in Tatooine.
Last week on Tuesday, I conducted my first-ever AMA, or Ask Me Anything live interview on the popular website, Reddit.com.
Let me just start by saying I had no idea what an AMA was until about three months ago when a friend pinged me about doing one on Reddit.com. My first question was, “What’s an AMA?” AMA stands for “Ask Me Anything” and it is a popular form of conducting a live interview with and expert or celebrity. The questions are crowdsourced through a social media platform, like Facebook Live, Twitter, or Reddit. Reddit is a social media aggregation site where users share content from across the web, vote it up or down based on the content’s popularity. I was invited to do an AMA on the Reddit US Politics page, called a subreddit. The US Politics subreddit has about four million subscribers and tens of thousands of live users at any given minute of the day. Needless to say, there were no shortage of questions.
Given the rowdy nature of the internet, I was something between terrified and mortified to be doing an AMA at all. Several celebrities, politicians and experts who have recently done AMA’s have lived to regret it. CNN’s politics editor at large didn’t have a fun time. Nor did former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. I was a little worried that given my fairly long career as a political activist and Democratic politician, things might go awry. Thankfully, that was far from the case.
You can check out and read my AMA on Reddit at this link: https://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/aseejc/im_hamza_khan_a_progressive_political_activist/
So why do AMA’s and Reddit matter? Well, they’ve become a popular medium for political bases to interact with rising stars on the Left. The Washington Post wrote the following about them:
“Arguably, the site (and its signature AMAs) went from obscurity to mainstream prominence after President Obama’s 2012 AMA drew record-breaking traffic. And it shouldn’t surprise anyone that politicians have a hard time straying from talking points, even on a platform intended to be candid and casual.”
As someone who really hates talking points and the stiff, sheer lack of humanity that is establishment politics, I really enjoyed my AMA experience in the end.
One question in particular stuck out to me: what were my thoughts about the rise of antisemitism in the United States. Below is a portion of my answer:
The rise of anti-semitism in the United States horrifies me. No community should be subject to the pains and terror of being hated merely for existing. No people in history have suffered as chronically or as brutally for merely breathing fresh air as the Jewish people have. 2,000 years and beyond of being targeted, maligned, discriminated against time and time again merely for their commitment to their faith, their culture, their way of life. Indeed, as the Jewish sages tell us, there is always an "Amaleik" in every generation. Amaleik was a tribe that tried to exterminate the Children of Israel as they wandered the desert for 40 years.
The rise of antisemitism in America is the product of jingoism and chauvinism being peddled as politically viable movements to achieve some strange idea of an America devoid of "foreign" influences. It is being tolerated by the Republican Party which had more than a few neo-Nazis run to be their standard bearers in Congress this past election. It is sick. It is wrong. And I swear by all things holy, I will fight antisemitism to my dying breath as a matter of honor, duty and principle.
One of the reasons I was invited to do an AMA is because of the many times I’ve been on national TV in the past year or so, debating some of the most feared spokespeople on the political right. You can watch a mashup of some of my clips in the video to the left.
Questions focused on diversity in politics, identity questions, ranked choice voting (RCV), the future of the Democratic Party, and a very enjoyable exchange about how to make the best Turkish coffee ever.
Much to my surprise, my AMA turned out to be more popular (in UpVotes) than the one done by CNN’s Chris Cillizza—a huge surprise to me personally. Even conservative political activists seemed to enjoy the conversation. One of them wrote:
As a conservative that frequently visits this sub, I was fully expecting to be enraged by some of your answers but I found answers that encouraged a true discussion. Although I don't agree with some of what you said I do respect how you said it. Thank you for doing this.
I was touched by that.
All in all, my AMA experience was a good one.
A remarkably diverse group of millennial activists from across Montgomery County met with County Executive Marc Elrich today over brunch. The meeting was called by local millennial blogger The MoCo Millennial in order to have Elrich offer an explanation for recent comments that were taken to be derisive by certain members of the County Council as well as local realtor andblogger Dan Reed. At-large councilmember Hans Reimer in particular took issue with the comments, as did several letter writers to the Washington Post. Notably, Reimer and the letter writers are not millennials.
Elrich’s comments can be found on the blog, Just Up The Pike, which is run by Dan Reed. Reed is an accomplished millennial architect and local realtor. He also guest columns for The Washingtonian and is associated with the local pressure group, Greater Greater Washington.
Meeting of the Minds--And Soup
The brunch brought together activists from the Up, Mid, East, Down & West counties for what is being described of likely the "first of several" meetings with millennial activists coordinated by The MoCo Millennial. Update: ead The MoCo Millennial’s account of the meeting and what Elrich had to say about housing policy on their blog.
Elrich offered a rose-colored glasses off approach in sharing the facts about the county’s precarious economic state, and the direction he believes its housing, rental and commercial real estate markets should be headed. Throughout the meeting, he calmly sipped on tomato soup while casually debunking myths about his hostility towards Millennials, minorities and renters.
Elrich's meeting came on the heels of a seriously damaging report about Montgomery County's economic viability and future position. The report itself was not mentioned by name, but several of those in attendance cited facts and figures from it while Elrich calmly listened and offered both creative proposals and hopeful enthusiasm for the future of Montgomery County.
An Era of Mismanagement At An End
Privately, an increasing number of objective parties involved in county planning over the previous decade have laid blame on the previous County Council and especially retired County Executive Ike Leggett for simply not doing enough to keep MoCo economically competitive and a desirable place to live. Elrich, they contend, has inherited a county far poorer than his predecessor did, and one whose economic climate is far less favorable as a new generation of residents and businesses seek something different things from government and society than in previous decades. Rather than taking the approach of a shady used car salesman in describing the county’s economic woes, it is argued that Elrich prefers a “truth-in-lending” approach to dealing with problems. Indeed, both allies and rivals concede Elrich’s directness is a breath of fresh air in politics.
Diversity Remains Key
The location for the meeting, Busboys and Poets, a local chain owned by an Iraqi immigrant further highlighted Elrich's commitment to diversity and making space for millennials in Montgomery County. The restaurant is considered a hub for millennial activism in the DMV region--a point noted when a waiter proudly wearing a RESIST head garment took orders from Elrich's table in the crowded Takoma location, right over the border from Montgomery County. Several of those who attended also had relationships with the disabilities community. Future meetings are being planned with Asian American, Latino, Muslim and African-American millennial activists, among other groups, as well as regionally-focused meetings. Montgomery County is home to 1.1 million people, a third of whom are born abroad, and more than half are not white. Elrich has taken pains in recent months to work towards addressing concerns at the cross-sections of the county's breathtaking diversity (four out of the top ten most diverse cities in America are located in the county). Those concerns are largely socio-economic, though criticism of the deliberate exclusion of immigrants and minorities from electoral politics by the local political establishment has also been raised time and time again.
Meet the Critics
Perhaps the most critical voices of Marc Elrich's comments are realtor-turned-blogger Dan Reed and third-term County Councilmember Hans Riemer. Riemer is elected at-large but whose base is largely in Silver Spring andTakoma Park. He has been mentioned numerous times in recent weeks as contemplating a challenge to Elrich in four years. Reed’s blog Just Up The Pike has a dedicated readership and has been growing in influence. It is believed that Reed supported his former boss, George Leventhal in the 2018 primary against Elrich. Unlike Riemer, Reed is a millennial, and like nearly all millennials--has a record of making politically incorrect statements as well.
When Bloggers Get Blogged About: Dan Reed and Bethesdans Don't Get Along?
Dan Reed previously applied for a seat on the powerful Planning Board of Montgomery County. Supported by Councilmembers Nancy Navarro and George Leventhal, the millennial architect-realtor-blogger wunderkind was considered an intriguing choice. That is until the establishment-leaning Seventh State blog wrote a post where Reed's comments regarding Bethesda residents were shared in a less than flattering light.
Reed's remarks were both more substantive and longer than Marc Elrich’s latest comments. Reed castigated Bethesda's millennials and their parents in the name of identity politics and class warfare; he blasted those county residents for apparently instilling fear in their children to not spend time in Silver Spring. Subsequently, Reed was defeated in his bid to join the Planning Board. Reed apologized and defended himself numerous times for his remarks, which were made years ago.
When contacted about the Saturday brunch, Reed offered the following statement:
"I'll say this, it's good that he's listening, and he'll be a more effective County Executive if he listens more,
Perhaps Reed should have given such thought to his pejorative statements against Bethesda residents. Then again, both Reed and Elrich's statements should be chalked up to non-issues. It is clear neither has true animosity towards either Bethesdans or Millennials.
The Real Issue: MoCo's Future
There’s more than some talk that Hans Reimer is planning to challenge Marc Elrich in 2022, and that this latest public spat is part of Reimer’s posturing for such a run.
Elrich won his primary election by only 77 votes in a hotly contested race that pitted major establishment figures against anti-establishment and new blood candidates. The establishment counted on the likes of former Rockville mayor Rose Krasnow, then-District 16 state delegate Bill Frick and former District 1 councilmember Roger Berliner versus the definitively counter-establishment Marc Elrich and newcomer David Blair. Reed’s former boss George Leventhal was deemed the “wild card” candidate by observers due to his questionable temperament. Of the candidates running, only Blair and Elrich had extensive new-voter, minority and immigrant outreach operations in a county that is majority non-white. It is probably little surprise then that their two campaigns that were neck and neck for the Democratic nomination last June.
Leventhal’s efforts at diversity outreach were legendary in previous elections. That is, until he hired a campaign staffer who deliberately pulled a chair from a woman wearing an Islamic headscarf at a political event in 2018--a story oft repeated in political circles after the election.
Reed and Riemer are believed to have actively backed an Anyone But Elrich strategy during the last primary election. Given Elrich won a very divided field by only 77 votes over his closest competitor, the congenial and thoughtful self-funding David Blair, some suspect there's a movement afoot to politically sabotage Elrich's administration just enough for Riemer or another Democrat to challenge him and win in 2022. If one thought Capitol Hill was a hotbed of political intrigue, they should stop by the county offices in Rockville.
Game of Thrones meets House of Cards (with a lot more halal food-joints), anyone?
Here is a photo of me in 2012, teaching a group of rising leaders from all over the world about the history of the Jewish people & the Holocaust.
I was 25. After spending the previous ten years of my life deeply immersed in American Jewry, I found myself able to use my experiences to make a difference in the world. Before me were a dozen of the brightest, most talented young leaders from across the globe. A few of the Arab students had draped me in a red & white keffiyeh--a symbol of leftist politics in the Levant--and then asked me a question: "What was the Holocaust?"
For the next 45 minutes, I explained the painful, heartbreaking story of the Shoah to young people from across the world. I did so at their behest, and as an American.
This moment was the culmination of a decade-long interfaith project to quietly study and be a part of Maryland’s vibrant Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Orthodox Christian communities as a participant observer of goodwill & interfaith understanding.
Learning to think and belong to these many faithful communities changed me forever. It drove within me a passion to bring Americans and people the world over together to better understand one another, and repair the world through social justice—Tikun Olam in Hebrew.
There I was, a Muslim American, former president of a Jewish fraternity standing in a hotel lobby in Baltimore with young people from the Arab World, West Africa, the Subcontinent, Eastern Europe & Southeast Asia. What ran through my mind were the words: "We made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another."
In these trying and difficult times, we need to build bridges between one another in order to build understanding for a better world—and form a more perfect union. E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, We Are One.
This is a syndicated column. The original column is published on the site of America’s leading Indian American news source, The American Bazaar.
Mike Pompeo’s speech in Cairo was as desperate as it was boring and uninspired.
When I was born, America was the moral leader of the world. The Evil Empire known then as the Soviet Union was engaged in a bloodthirsty conquest of the homeland of my father's ancestors, Afghanistan. Ronald Reagan, an otherwise pernicious politician, had continued the policies of his predecessor Jimmy Carter in fulfilling America's moral obligation on the world stage to stand with a people being subjugated by a soulless world power. This time period, the 1980s, was in many ways the height of the idea of Pax Americana. The world had largely forgiven us for what was considered by many foreign observers to be empire-building in Vietnam, and now saw us as the great red white and blue hope to counter the bloody path of communism. This was a calling that the U.S. actively took on with great pride, if not always a full understanding of the world stage. It made sense both morally and economically for the U.S. to shoulder this responsibility.
Over the course of the next 30 years, America's moral authority both rose and dimmed following the collapse of the USSR. Our interventions in the early 90’s in the Caribbean, Latin America and the Middle East were seen as half-hearted police actions with a tinge of unilateralism. Our courageous stand to save Muslim lives in Bosnia and Kosovo, and willingness to employ the mystique of American military might for what was clearly an unselfish defense of human rights was hailed across the world as the ushering in of a new American way in foreign policy. America’s honor as a selfless world power had never been greater.
Since that time, America's foreign policy considerations have been continuously undermined with the fear of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil by foreigners in the style of 9/11. At the urging of an irresponsible Chief Executive, we have become emotionally invested in fearing the very immigrants who built America. Building walls and halting the flow of refugees from war-torn lands like Somalia and Syria are effective talking points for a politician in a third world autocracy. They do not and should not, however, be the main focal point for the office of the president of the United States.
We are a world power. There is an incredible responsibility attached to that power. As the rise of authoritarianism and the spread of war, chaos and untold human misery spread across the globe, many of our allies and would-be friends stand with their mouths ajar while wondering: in disbelief. Where is the America that once stared down the Evil Empire?
The time is now. If the president and his chosen lieutenants of foreign policy are unable to govern, then Congress must act to deal swiftly with their incompetence. More than hearings and political rhetoric, Congress must deploy its full arsenal to right the ship of our democracy, and assure the world that the darkness growing in Eastern Europe and Asia will not go unchecked. America's hangover will soon be over must end soon. We are ready and eager to help lead a brave new world once again.
There has been a great deal of discussion on social media about the merits and demerits of Tulsi Gabbard running for President. Let me make this abundantly clear: she is an Islamophobe.
Over the course of the past 36 months, she has from time to time engaged in a public relations effort to muddle the facts and record about her strenuous discomfort with LGBTQ & Muslim communities.
However, her previous votes in Congress to constrain refugees from Muslim countries, her adamant demand that we use innacurate and harmful language to describe terrorists, and her warm embrace of two mass murderers on the global stage who killed thousands of Muslims because of their faith, as well as reliable reports from Muslim community leaders in Hawai'i about the marked hostility they feel from her and her office all prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tulsi Gabbard is indeed, a zealous Islamophobe.
At this point in time, any defense of her will be viewed not just by me but literally every credible and established Muslim organization as apologism for an enemy of the Bill of Rights. A decade ago, perhaps such admiration for an advocate for culling Muslim Americans' freedoms would have been tolerated. Today, it will be not. Those who advocate for Tulsi Gabbard will be remembered, and will not be allowed to forget that they supported the Joseph McCarthy & George Wallace of the modern-day political mainstream.
If you want to learn more, please read this press release from The Pluralism Project.