All For One and One For All
When Donald Trump assumes the presidency on Friday, Democrats will find themselves in their worst political position in decades.
Not only are Democrats out of power in Washington, an entire generation of political leaders like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Harry Reid have now left the stage.
In Congress, Democrats are steeling themselves for four years of contentious battles over healthcare, the environment, immigration reform and income inequality as conservatives attempt to reverse many of the policy initiatives spearheaded by Barack Obama.
While long-established figures in the party like Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren have already taken leadership roles, some of the newest members of Congress are also poised to play key roles in the fight to thwart the Trump administration and Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress.
Kamala Harris, US senator from California
Kamala Harris is poised to be among the most influential Democrats to arrive on the scene in Washington. The daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican American father, Harris is a lawyer who was elected twice as attorney general of California. Her victory brought diversity to the Senate, becoming the first Indian American senator – and the first black woman sent from California – to serve in the body.
Since the election, Harris has vowed to be a voice in Washington for vulnerable communities.
“I feel very strongly that California’s voice must be a voice of leadership in Washington DC … I feel very strongly that we must defend all people,” Harris saidrecently.
Harris recently grilled John Kelly, Trump’s choice for secretary of homeland security, during his nomination session on whether he intends to remove the undocumented children of immigrants. She has also spoken out against Trump’s pick for attorney general, Senator Jeff Sessions, who has a history of making racist statements. During a labor breakfast honoring Martin Luther King Jr, Harris said she would oppose his nomination.
Catherine Cortez Masto, US senator from Nevada
Catherine Cortez Masto, the granddaughter of a Mexican immigrant, won a hard-fought election battle in Nevada to become the first Latina ever elected to the US Senate. In her victory speech on election night, Cortez Masto promised to be “one hell of a check and balance” on Trump.
Cortez Masto has big shoes to fill as former Senate minority leader Harry Reid’s choice to fill his spot upon retirement. In the Senate race, Cortez Masto ran on a platform that included support for creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, raising the minimum wage, investing in renewable energy and overturning the supreme court decision that allowed unlimited amounts of corporate cash on elections.
Pramila Jayapal, US representative from Washington
One of the first down-ballot candidates endorsed by Senator Bernie Sanders, the election of Pramila Jayapal was celebrated across the country as a victory for the progressive movement.
She has already voiced her opposition to the president-elect on a number of social issues such as immigration and civil rights. She has said she will not attend Trump’s inauguration following a row between the president-elect and Representative John Lewis, the Georgia civil rights veteran who said Trump wasn’t a “legitimate president”. Trump returned the criticism, saying Lewis was “all talk, talk, talk – no action or results”.
In a statement, Jayapal said she understood that her decision broke with the long-held bipartisan tradition to demonstrate the peaceful transition of power. But, she added: “This is not a normal time and we cannot pretend it is so.”
Jamie Raskin, US representative from Maryland
Jamie Raskin, a constitutional law professor at American University, has already positioned himself in the opposition.
The day after inauguration, Raskin is slated to speak at a rally of lawyers and law students billed as an effort to coordinate the “new movement and plan legal resistance to the incoming Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress”.
Raskin has said he wants to continue working on the issues he fought for in Maryland, placing climate change, gun control and immigration reform at the heart of his campaign platform. He also promised to work on legislation that would overhaul the nation’s ailing infrastructure, an issue that has emerged as a rare point of agreement between Democrats and Republicans, though the fight over funding will probably split along party lines.
Lisa Blunt Rochester, US representative from Delaware
Lisa Blunt Rochester made history on election night when she became the first person of color and first woman sent by Delaware to serve in Congress.
Her platform was progressive – she pushed for tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans and supported a proposal to make college debt-free. Rochester said during the campaign that she would support making Delaware a “sanctuary state” that protects immigrants from some federal law enforcement action and is a proponent of stricter gun control.
Rochester was the first African American woman to serve as the state’s secretary of labor. In 2001, as the state personnel director, she was commissioned to investigate the Delaware state police for racial and gender discrimination.
She credits her late husband, who died in a freak accident in 2014, with giving her the inspiration to run for Congress. “That totally changed everything for me,” she said in November. “I just said, you know, ‘I can’t sit back. I have to step up.’”
Stephanie Murphy, US representative from Florida
As the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who fled when she was a baby, Stephanie Murphy will have a personal stake in the debate over refugee resettlement and immigration reform.
Murphy, a political newcomer, set her sights on a seat held by a 13-term incumbent in what turned out to be one of the closest – and most expensive – House races in the country.
She ran on a decidedly progressive platform, championing women’s reproductive health, equal pay for women and immigration reform on the trail. She also touted a proposal that would prevent members of Congress from being paid until they pass a budget.
Val Demings, US representative from Florida
Val Demings comes to Washington after having served as the chief of the Orlando police department. The daughter of a maid and a janitor, Demings rose through the ranks of the police force and culminated her 27-year career in law enforcement as Orlando’s first female chief of police.
With a background in law enforcement, she has the expertise and experience to play a central role in criminal justice reform legislation, as well as to help shape a nuanced conversation around policing and minority communities, in contrast to Trump’s repeated commitment to “law and order”.
The Florida congresswoman represents the community that was struck by a deadly attack on the Pulse nightclub in 2016, and has vowed to be a representative for this traumatized community.
Nanette Barragán, US representative from California
Nanette Barragán cast herself as a progressive voice for women and minorities, earning Sanders’ endorsement. Climate change, equal pay and especially immigration reform were central to her campaign.
The daughter of parents who came to the US from Mexico, Barragán described the debate over immigration reform as personal, acknowledging that she has family “living in the shadows”. She said this experience will bring a unique perspective to the divisive and partisan debate over how to repair the nation’s immigration system.
Barragán began her political career as a liaison between the White House and African American organizations during the Clinton administration. Before her congressional campaign, she worked as a lawyer based in Los Angeles. During her time there, she represented asylum seekers, immigrants and low-income clients.
Raja Krishnamoorthi, US representative from Illinois
The son of Indian immigrants to the US, Raja Krishnamoorthi ran as progressive advocate on a platform that included protecting social security and Medicare, making higher education more affordable and boosting small business creation.
He also advocated for a number of progressive policies including equal pay, paid sick and maternity leave and raising the federal minimum wage.
Krishnamoorthi is a businessman whose political beginnings date back to Barack Obama’s failed House campaign in 2000. He returned to work on Obama’s successful 2004 campaign for Senate as an issues director.
- This article was amended on 19 January 2017 to correct a typo identifying Pramila Jayapal as an Independent from Vermont. Jayapal is a Democrat from the state of Washington.
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