If you want millennials like myself to “throw down”, trust needs to be re-built

I am a millennial who signed the letter in support of Rep. Keith Ellison for DNC chair. I don’t have the kind of name and recognition to hold weight for media coverage nor have I ever gone to bat writing an article in support of any candidate for any race. And this is the point.

I am the kind of millennial among many millennials who have not always prescribed 100% to a party or a candidate. The last time I felt passionately about electoral politics was in 2008. My trust and belief in this party-system have eroded over time. This does not make me fickle, it makes me critical.

From the 2010 mid-term election losses to the string of empty promises and failed attempts at progressive policies, I am exhausted in trying to believe that our democracy works to improve lives. It’s solely dependent on a two-party system and often seems to largely exist to rip apart the fabric of humanity in this country. The wins during Obama’s presidency are unraveling quickly under Trump and this GOP-led congress. While the betrayals through President Obama including the highest deportation under any administration are only further celebrated in this current one. And I refuse to call Trump president. I simply and unapologetically refuse.

Several days ago, I signed a letter in support of Keith Ellison not as a resounding endorsement that the Democracy Party will restore complete sanity to this current chaos. My support is a recognition that I, as a millennial, must re-enter the public discourse on civic engagement to shape it instead of allowing it to shape me. Keith Ellison’s run for DNC chair is a signifier of the potential to turn the tide in a direction that shifts the culture of electoral politics. I trust and believe in his character and his ability to forge a new path for the Democratic Party.

I first met Keith Ellison as an eight-day faster during the Fast for Families campaign in December of 2013. He was one of the four congressional members who symbolically received the baton to fast and continue the push for immigration reform. Our interaction was brief but the genuine intent to engage me on this issue I deeply care about told me a lot about his character. I did not have to have be a face for media coverage nor his constituent, he simply showed care. Months later, I had an opportunity to discuss with him further in person when immigration reform stalled and mainstream Democrats were conceding to Republican demands. I found him to be sincerely committed to the truth and transparency. There was no lip-service nor an attempt to detract from the errors and mistakes in strategy.

Keith Ellison, like all other politicians, isn’t perfect. With this, I have to think about the bigger picture and the point of a DNC chair. The concept is clear; there is power in numbers. Voter engagement and voter turnout are key not to mention the constant maneuvering through re-districting tactics and battling voter suppression. This is a tall order for the Democratic Party which is still in toils over losses by Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But let’s be clear. The Democratic party has been losing seats across the board especially since 2010. It’s time to get past the “established” and outdated strategies. If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s the deep value and viability to invest in people of color, to be bold in diversifying leadership and to not just name but chant the issues. Black Lives Matter. No DAPL. Mniwiconi. Undocumented and Unafraid. We’re Here and We’re Queer. And so many more.

I am not a Bernie die-hard so throwing my hat in behind the candidate who supported Bernie early on is not reliant on jumping from one candidate to the next. This decision is a thoughtful evaluation based on personal and political observations of character and intent. Both my own as well as Keith Ellison. Two days ago, he released a 100 day plan as DNC chair and laid out a comprehensive strategy to set off a new wave of electoral politics. The plan is a clear one to counter Trumpism on the local and state level through organizing sessions. It is a reflection of his organizing background and the lessons learned throughout his entire career in public service.

The critical question is whether leadership will emphasize the importance of mobilizing with guts and agency. Politicians can’t call themselves progressive by calling out anti-semitism but operate with Islamophobic policies. Democrats can’t talk and tweet about racial justice then scramble to back candidates that appeal to majority of white working class voters in response to Trump’s win. And raising signs that say “all immigrants and refugees are welcome” only in English is not a practice of allyship nor is it accessible. Intersectionality is a actual language that must be learned if there’s a real commitment to build trust with multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual voters.

If you want millennials like myself to “throw down”, trust needs to be re-built. There needs to be a strong outreach for voters who have been marginalized not just during the election cycle but throughout their entire lives. These voices and their issues need to be at the forefront, not as “talking points” but as points to talk about and act on.