The first in a series profiling Democratic voices embodying our party’s future
Virginia and New Jersey voters will head to the polls in less than a year to elect new governors in races that get an unusual amount of media attention in between the presidential and midterm races. Past rising stars include Democratic names like Mark Warner and Tim Kaine; or Republicans like Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell. Tom Perriello is exactly the kind of Democrat who should be presidential timber some day-and it starts by fighting for the VA governors mansion.
In two illuminating interviews with Slate and the American Prospect, he lays out an agenda that uniquely bridges the divides of the last presidential primary with a both/and focus on fighting the bigotry of Trump and the economic inequality that enabled his rise.
Democrats need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to be uncompromising in our resistance to both the policy and rhetoric of hate and bigotry. I will certainly look for every legal authority as governor to prevent the kind of actions we’ve seen that bully the vulnerable and undermine our best values. There’s been some debate nationally about a false choice between whether this election was about race or about economic anxiety. The two things have always gone hand in hand. And the more we offer an agenda of truly inclusive economic growth that doesn’t leave any region or community of color behind, then Trump’s offer of blaming people who don’t look like you is less compelling.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Perriello was one of the few 2010 Democrats to remain loyal to President Obama and run on Obamacare rather than away from it. He lost his red leaning district, but only by a few points instead of a blowout. He’s gone on to work for both the Obama administration and Clinton State Department as a human rights lawyer while also acknowledging that Bernie Sanders has the right rhetoric for our movement going forward. Defending the status quo from 2008-2016 isn’t enough. American workers want and deserve more from their government and what should be their natural party.
Here’s a sample of his both/and rhetoric, which is so refreshingly forward thinking:
On the link, which I’ve discussed, between rising inequality and rising extremism:
GDP has become less and less connected to issues of job growth and the middle class, really what you want to look in terms of stability are things like: What is the inequality coefficient? What is the joblessness for youth? What is the age in which a young man can buy his first home, which in many countries correlates to when he can get married? How much exclusion is there in the economy for minority groups or others? If this is something we look at overseas to better understand the stability of countries, it’s the same stuff we should be talking about at home. GDP isn’t enough. We need to understand these more important dynamics of inequality.
On the connection between race and inequality:
The forces of economic and racial anxiety, if left unaddressed, are on a collision course in America. Internecine debates about which factor is stronger obscure the interconnection and thus acceleration of both. We also often miss the fact that economic anxiety is not limited to those below certain income levels.
Too often, Democrats defend the status quo, noting positive GDP and unemployment numbers instead of speaking to the underlying forces that threaten economic security. When we say our only problem is with messaging, we imply that voters are too dumb to realize how great we have been for them or would be for them. People are smarter than elites think. They already know that both parties were naïve about the costs of globalization and can see that both parties are again failing to address the impact of new forces like economic consolidation, automation, and exclusion.
Take a look at both interviews and donate to his campaign if you can. I already have.