How a First Generation Syrian-American is Now Leading a Coalition of Rural Democrats
*Editors Note: No Dem Left Behind is a grassroots coalition dedicated to electing Democratic nominees in Red districts. Their goal is to bring the party together in a way that has never seen before by focusing on areas that are overlooked. Their hope is to show you that there are candidates from across the nation that are always ready to fight the good fight and stand up for what matters most. HillReporter is happy to offer their commentary. -BDG
My name is Hassan Martini. I am a Syrian-American raised in the United States, yet, born in war-torn Syria. My family is from the village of Idlib, you probably have heard about it recently in the news. Growing up, no one had ever heard of Idlib, and today the whole world knows Idlib — but not for the right reasons. While raised in the US, I did get to spend a few summers in Syria and I remember Idlib well. As a child, I saw Syria as an almost fictional place: there were no skyscrapers and no real sense of law. You didn’t have to wear your seatbelt, you could ride on the back of a Pick-Up, or even the back of a motorcycle. The air in Syria smelled different than it did back home in Brooklyn, NY where I was raised. I remember seeing pictures of Syrian President Hafez Assad (Bashar’s Al-Assad father) everywhere, and always questioning why that was. After all, that’s not the way we do it in America. I knew not to ever say anything bad about the President, but in the back of my head, I thought it was an urban legend, that you couldn’t actually get in trouble for saying something about a person. I couldn’t have been more wrong. People have gotten killed in the most gruesome fashion for saying something bad about the Syrian President.
My background as an American-Syrian gives me a unique perspective into democratic politics. I witnessed what happens when a person only has State-run propaganda television as their only source of knowledge and “truth.” In parts of America, there are people who only get their news from Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Breitbart News.
If I believed everything those guys preached — that all foreigners are bad, that they are here to take your jobs, and make you abide by their rules — I would be angry and scared too. These talking points might make many of us laugh, but for millions of Americans, this is all they know, and it’s their truth.
This will not change unless we, as Democrats, really engage with these folks, and share our truth. The solution is not to talk down to them, but to engage with them and show them our reality as opposed to what they have been force-fed by the agenda of the radical right.
‘No Dem Left Behind’ is a coalition of Democrats coming together to root for and support the ultimate underdog. The underdog who has incredible stances on various policies that impact every American’s daily life and livelihood in this country. It is Democrats running in the Bible belt, talking to people, and really saying: “Hey, you know we are out here fighting to make your life better for you and your children. You would like a lot of what we have to say: All we are saying is give us a chance to show you a better option.” No Dem Left Behind’ strives to offer voters and candidates in red districts an opportunity to have their voices heard and make the change, as the democratic system was initially created to do. It is to ensure that Americans see their problems addressed. Real, democratic solutions apply to the problems facing rural areas.
The upcoming 2020 elections are more than just about winning or losing. We have a far greater and more difficult task: we have to reunite the country. No description is more accurate of President Trump than that he is the “Divider and Chief” of the United States. This is not an accident.
Donald Trump can be compared with the evil villain character you see in movies: he gets his strength when he turns Americans against one another and preys on the people who will be affected by these vile and desperate policies. It is no coincidence that that is the same goal of Vladimir Putin. While Trump is yelling at the top of his lungs and using the White House to amplify his message, he is working for the Kremlin. He shares the same ideologies, vision, and most likely, financial incentives as those of Putin.
So how do we overcome all of this and reunite the country? Normally, I would give some sort of historical example to share, but we have never had a President of The United States whose loyalty is to the Russians. Trump is the ultimate Trojan horse, he has infected our country and is bent on destroying our democracy thoroughly.
This is what we have to do: We need to understand the concerns of many Americans whom Trump has appealed to. We need to know their perspective and reasoning, which can only be achieved if we listen to and engage with them. We as Democrats need to have conversations.
It’s disheartening to imagine what the 2020 elections hold for America, especially when reflecting on the experience of too many Americans in the 2018 midterm elections. Thousands of voters across the country experienced some form of voter suppression. From gerrymandering to restrictive voter laws and stricter requirements for candidates to make it on the ballot, lawmakers attempted to repress votes in any way they could. Nonprofits, movements, and organizations across the nation have attempted to address these problems that have ashamedly limited our rightful freedom.
This was the driving force that led me to establish “No Dem Left Behind.” I founded No Dem Left Behind to address the lack of options that so many voters in red districts face. NDLB’s goal is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to have their voice heard, whether their district is red or blue.
No Dem Left Behind was founded because they believe that every candidate, every district, and every state deserves accurate representation.
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