Michigan’s 13th Congressional District is one of America’s most impoverished. Anchored by large swaths of the city of Detroit, it reflects the massive challenges faced by many of the approximately 700,000 people who reside within its boundaries. Inferior public and charter schools. Crumbling infrastructure. High unemployment and low wages. Dirty air and water. Neglected and often dangerous neighborhoods. Shocking levels of adult illiteracy. Shorter life expectancies.
Its future representative in Congress, Rashida Tlaib, will have no shortage of opportunities to try and ease the pain her constituents — two-thirds who are African American or Hispanic — feel every day.
It is unlikely the people of the 13th Congressional District expected their future representative’s first public initiative on their behalf to be organizing her own Congressional trip to Israel and areas under Palestinian Authority rule. But that is what Rashida Tlaib is putting at the top of her agenda — something totally disconnected from the basic of needs of her constituents.
The unexpected retirement of Democratic Congressman and civil rights icon John Conyers created a unique vacancy for voters this past August. First, they were asked to elect someone to fill the rest of Conyers’ term and did so with the election of Brenda Jones. Then, they were tasked with electing a new representative for a full two-year term, beginning in January. In a six-way race, Tlaib received 31.2 percent of the vote, edging out Jones by less than 1,000 votes.
As a state legislator, Tlaib was a passionate and visible advocate for her constituents, many who suffered for decades in the shadow of Southwest Detroit’s Marathon Oil refinery and the Ambassador Bridge. She called out those exhibiting sexual harassment against her, regardless of their place in the community. If elected, her track record suggested the people of the 13th Congressional District would have a strong and youthful voice advocating for their myriad domestic needs. A refreshing change from the venerated but vigorless Conyers.
But with national and global media focusing on her as a Palestinian-American trailblazer, that spotlight — taking on AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), championing the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and a “one-state solution” that would eliminate Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people — is too intoxicating.
Congresswoman-elect Tlaib — the people of the 13th District need you to carry on their fight first. Every day you chase the global spotlight dilutes your focus from their needs and means that one more life — right here — is irreparably harmed. Once your constituents see and feel the results of your primary and ongoing commitment to them, they will be more forgiving of your pursuit of foreign affairs. Unless, of course, you already recognize that you will lose to a candidate in the August 2020 Democratic primary whose interests are honestly aligned with the entire district.
Since you intend to use your election as a personal springboard for a future foray into national and international Middle Eastern politics, why not say so? Your constituents deserve better. So does the state of Michigan.