Reflections: Challenges and Critiques of the 7th Congressional District YDWA Endorsement Process

Reflections: Challenges and Critiques of the 7th Congressional District YDWA Endorsement Process

By Akua Asare-Konadu, Co-chair YDWA People of Color Caucus and Taylor Nelson, YDWA Womxn’s Caucus Chair

When the Young Democrats of Washington met at our annual convention in Vancouver on the weekend of February 26th, we were presented with a list of candidates running for Washington state’s 7th Congressional District. Of these candidates, an option was presented for the dual endorsement of Brady Walkinshaw and Senator Pramila Jayapal, this proposal was declined by the majority of Young Democrats, opting instead for the sole endorsement of Brady Walkinshaw.

What does the refusal of a dual endorsement mean? A dual endorsement delivers the message that an organization believes in the strength of both candidates running for office, and sees each as a good fit for the position. By refusing a dual endorsement of Walkinshaw and Jayapal, the Young Democrats are taking a position that reflects a lack of confidence by the general body in Jayapal’s candidacy.

The vote for a sole endorsement came after several members had voiced opinions favoring both Senator Jayapal and Walkinshaw, as they saw that both candidates held the progressive values honored by the democratic party, and believed that a dual endorsement would send the message that the congressional race for the 7th celebrates the strength of progressive values that now permeate local elections.

During the endorsements discussion, several claims were made to the effect that Senator Jayapal shouldn’t run in the 7th District and should instead wait to run for the 9th District upon Adam Smith’s retirement. Though comments surrounding the importance of a candidate living in the District they represent are not unfounded, as it gives the candidate an in-depth understanding of the area and people they represent, the remarks made against a dual endorsement were seen by some members to have racist and sexist undertones, which should be addressed.

An allusion was made to carpetbagging- a racially charged pejorative that historically distinguished northern politicians moving into the south to manipulate confederate states for personal and political gain. Speakers at this meeting argued that Senator Jayapal shouldn’t run for the 7th District because she cannot “relate to the voters”. This argument was seen by some as suggesting that Jayapal wouldn’t act in the interests of her constituency and instead only act to further her own political agenda.

Sexist microaggressions could also be found in several remarks that Jayapal should wait to run for Adam Smith’s district. Urging a female politician to wait her turn to run, so that she doesn’t infringe on the voting block of another candidate perpetuates a history of diminishing the value of women in politics. It can be seen that by favoring Walkinshaw in the race for the 7th by not only rejecting a dual endorsement, but making the case that Jayapal shouldn’t even run, only serves to highlight the sexist nature of political campaigns by allowing a male politician the right to challenge competitors yet denying a woman her right to do the same.

Moving forward, the Young Democrats should seriously reflect on the grievances brought forth by members who felt their voices were not represented in this endorsement. We should use these reflections to think critically about our actions and examine our own biases and the microaggressions we bring forth. It is important to reflect on how some positions taken by the Young Democrats serve to progress democracy and how others have the potential to marginalize groups or hinder progressive values. When a democratic organization fails to realize how its actions affect oppressed groups, it becomes exclusionary, and we as an organization can do better.