Donald Trump has truly been an inspiration.
On the vile side, were seeing a spike in white supremacist activities on college campuses and white supremacist deadly terror attacks, as recently documented by the Anti-Defamation League. Trump has inspired these Americans by retweeting visible white supremacists, defending white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville as fine people, and now championing the white supremacists long held dream of ending family unification of immigrants, which they call chain migration.
But on the side of the best of America, Trump has inspired people who oppose his bigotry, racism, and sexism to run for office. There are a record number of women running in 2018, including Rachel Crooks, who courageously told the story of how Trump sexually assaulted her. There are countless people of color and of varying immigration statuses running this year. And add to that I have never seen more Muslim Americans seeking office on all levels, from City Council, like Liliana Bakhtiari in Atlanta, to people running for Congress, such as Fayrouz Saad, a former Obama administration official from Michigan, and former Michigan state representativeRashida Tlaib,who just announced her candidacy to replace former representative John Conyers.
The one candidate in this group who has truly captured the medias attention is another Michigander: Abdul El-Sayed, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. If elected, the 33-year-old El-Sayed would be the first Muslim American ever elected as governor and the youngest governor since a 32-year-old Bill Clinton was elected in Arkansas back in 1978.
However, El-Sayeds faith and age are the least of the reasons to support him. I spoke at length to El-Sayed both as a guest on my SiriusXM radio show and in person. Simply put, this guy is the real deal.Hes not only charismatic, hes well versed in the nuances of policy on issues from job creation to education to especially healthcare, given hes a medical doctor who previously headed Detroits health department.
Theres a reason why former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau tweeted a video about El-Sayed with the words: Reminds me of someone I used to work for. But as El-Sayed commented about the comparison, I love Obamabut Im not him. Hes right. In fact, on policy issues, El-Sayed is much more of a younger, brown Muslim version of Bernie Sanders. And its no coincidence that some former Sanders campaign people have joined El-Sayeds campaign.
But theres something else that makes you root for him. The Michigan born El-Sayed is a living example of the American dream. Hes the son of Egyptian immigrants. He was captain of the high school football team and played lacrosse at University of Michigan. He then went on to win a Rhodes scholarship and earned a medical degree from Columbia University.
El-Sayed is currently locked in a two-person race with Gretchen Whitmer, a former State Senate minority leader backed by the Democratic establishment. But the excitement is on El-Sayeds side as friends in Michigan have made clear. Thats likely why there was a recent anonymous attack on El-Sayeds eligibility based on the state constitutions requirement that gubernatorial candidates be registered as a Michigan voter for the four prior years to running. While El-Sayed was born and raised in Michigan, he did attend Columbia medical school in New York from 2012-2015 and then returned to Michigan in 2016. El-Sayeds campaign, however, is confident it will prevail on this attackwhich they view as akin to birthersimsince he was still a registered voter in Michigan at all times.
Even in a state like Michigan, where theres a sizable Arab American and Muslim population, a guy named Abdul El-Sayed has seen challenges. He explained that after 9/11 he was subjected to taunts like Go back to your country! and others calling him raghead. And just last year, a Michigan mosque was burned down in a case of arson.
However, the response to that fire was that people in the community of all faiths donated over $30,000 to rebuild the mosque. Thats the real Michigan to El-Sayed, who explained, Michiganders dont care how you pray, but what you pray for. He added, I pray for my family, my state, my country and for Michigan football. I know a lot of Michiganders pray for the same things.
On the issues, El-Sayed is championing not only a bold, progressive agenda but one specific to Michigan. When I travel Michigan, I hear from people of all backgrounds that they feel locked out of the economy, he explained. El-Sayed contrasted that with where the Democrats went wrong in the 2016 campaign that saw Trump take Michigan: The Democratic establishment told Michiganders in 2016 that the economy was backwell, it wasnt.
El-Sayed passionately explained the need for a single payer healthcare system which would help both Michiganders and attract businesses. As a doctor, I had to share with people diagnoses of life-threatening conditions yet for some people their worst day wasnt when they heard the diagnoses but trying to figure out how to pay their medical bills without bankrupting their family, said El-Sayed.
El-Sayed shared how GM moved a factory from Michigan to Canada because it could save money on providing healthcare because that was already afforded to the citizens of Canada. For those reasons, he wants to start a Michigan-run healthcare system that provides healthcare and would attract new businesses to set up shop there.
El-Sayed has been traveling Michigan for much of last year and will continue on a daily basis from now until the Aug. 7 primary. When we expect 50 people we have had 150 show up at events, he explained about the support hes received, and more than half of the people at the events sign up to volunteer for the campaign. If things keep building we just may see El-Sayed follow in the footsteps of Bernie Sanders and pull off a Democratic primary win in Michigan. And if Michiganders ultimately elect El-Sayed as governor, that would be the perfect middle finger to Trump.