Reviving our representative democracy

4/28/2017, 5:47 p.m.

American democracy is built on the powerful, but basic, idea that the government is supposed to represent the people.

The preamble to the U.S. Constitution starts with these three words: “We the People ...” Individuals elected to create policy and make the laws our society must follow should represent our ideas, share our values and be honorable reflections of our best selves.

In 2016, we saw what a disastrously low national voter turnout produced: A federal government that is not representing the people. Donald Trump has taken a slash-and-burn method to the federal budget. Education, housing and health care, as well as so many other needs of the people, are sacrificed to fund an agenda of hate, bigotry and marginalization. The Republican-led Congress is more attuned to protecting big money interests than in caring for the people who put them in office.

Our only chance as progressive Democrats is to continue to fight at the state level for what we know to be right — making the needs of the people paramount.

This year, Virginia voters will be afforded another opportunity to elect someone who will fight to make government work for all the people. We have a chance to elect someone who reflects Virginia values and who embodies who we are as a Commonwealth and exemplifies what is seen in a true leader — character, boldness and vision.

This year, we have the chance to elect Justin Fairfax as lieutenant governor.

The youngest of four siblings raised by a single mother in a tough neighborhood in inner-city Washington, Mr. Fairfax understands what it means to beat the odds. His hard work and dedication to public service show his heart and character.

While character, understanding and the ability to listen are integral to being a great public servant, these traits are not what truly sets him apart. What separates Mr. Fairfax from his opponents in the June 13 Democratic primary for lieutenant governor is the authenticity of his personal experience that allows him to fight for citizens who are often marginalized by those who rate class and privilege as important.

It is one thing to sympathize with victims of police brutality or to understand that our criminal justice system is broken. It is quite another to look into the faces of the people affected by an unjust system and see the faces of your brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles or people who are your neighbors reflected in those faces.

Mr. Fairfax understands what it is to persevere against the odds. He attended Duke University as an undergraduate and Columbia University as a law student, where he gained the drive and desire to create an equal playing field in life for others. His message of economic security and opportunity for all stems directly from his own personal experiences.

Because of the callousness toward people in policy decisions and budget changes being made at the federal level, the need to have someone who understands and who will fight for the people at the state level is more urgent now than ever.

Mr. Fairfax’s experiences bring new perspectives, and his generation brings fresh blood to our party and to our representative democracy in the era of Trump. Virginians need someone who has weathered unconventional situations to provide unconventional solutions in today’s political climate.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration has fought admirably against hate-filled, divisive policies that detract from who we are as Virginians. The next generation of leaders must carry that fight forward.

Now is the time to pass the baton of leadership to that new generation. Now is the time to stand for progress. Now is the time to stand with Justin Fairfax.

I urge my fellow Virginians to vote for Justin Fairfax for lieutenant governor on Tuesday, June 13, in the Democratic primary. He’s an unconventional candidate for an unconventional time.



The writer, a former vice mayor of the City of Richmond, represented Richmond in the Virginia House of Delegates before being appointed by former Gov. Tim Kaine as Virginia’s secretary of administration from 2006 to 2010.