The primary election season is entering its final weeks and the race for MI-12 has become one of the more hotly contested races thus far. Long-held by the late John Dingell, and currently his wife Debbie Dingell, the political dynasty, in Michigan’s 12th district is being challenged by newcomer Solomon Rajput.
A 27-year-old medical student, former political organizer, and founder of the group Michigan Resistance, Rajput seeks to bring progressive change to the district that has long supported Democratic candidates. Championing such progressive ideas as Medicare for All and The Green New Deal, Rajput’s goal is to bring an end to inaction in Congress, seeking to focus instead on large ideas aimed at addressing the structural problems facing our country.
Speaking with Detroitisit, Rajput explains why he believes he is the best candidate to represent his district in Washington.
WHY DO YOU THINK YOU’RE THE BEST CANDIDATE FOR MICHIGAN’S 12TH DISTRICT?
For me, the reason why I’m running is that the establishment, including the Dingell dynasty, has totally failed us. All they know how to do is to think small, but it’s that same small thinking that’s gotten us into this mess in the first place. I think by now it’s clear to everyone that we can’t just keep putting band-aids on our broken system and expecting things to change. We need to go out there and fight for the big, bold policies that are going to address issues at a fundamental structural level.
We begged and pleaded to politicians for a long time to go out there and fight for these big changes, but they’ve ignored us time and time again. After a while, we have to realize that we can only beg for so long before it’s clear that these people, they’re never going to go out there and fight for what we need to from them, they’re never going to change. So if we want to get stuff done, we’ve got to go to do it ourselves because, at this point, we’re done waiting.
The big issues that we’re done waiting on that I’m going to be a relentless champion for are Medicare for All, we also need a Green New Deal to tackle climate change with the time we have left, we need to make college free and we need to eliminate student debt. We also need to get big money out of our political system and we also need to fight for racial justice and demilitarize and defund the police specifically by decreasing previous budgets and reallocating those funds to community services.
Those are the things that I’m fighting for and I believe we need a change in this district. Also, this is a very progressive district. This is a district where 70% of the vote goes to the Democrat. We should have somebody who’s going to be an unapologetic progressive champion in this district and Congresswoman Dingell is a perfectly nice person but she’s not progressive and she doesn’t fight for most of these things. And so the reason why I think that I’d be better is that I am somebody who wants to champion the progressive values that people in this district care about.
SO YOU’RE YOUNG, HOW DID YOU EVEN BEGIN TO GO ABOUT PLANNING YOUR CAMPAIGN AND WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO OTHERS LOOKING TO RUN FOR OFFICE?
I’m a complete newcomer to this I’ve never run for office before, I’ve only ever been an organizer. I think that my experience as an organizer has been super informative and has really helped us build an incredible people-powered grassroots campaign. Our whole strategy to win is to create a huge army of committed young people to go out and talk to all the voters in this district, so I think being young has actually been an incredible advantage because I’ve been able to connect with a lot of other young people who’ve been really willing to join our campaign.
I would say like the number one thing that people can learn to do is learn how to be an organizer. If you can organize on a campaign, like me working on Hillary’s campaign was a really great experience because I really learned like how to be an organizer. This term organizer is also thrown around so much and I think that like it’s unclear what it actually means, but essentially what it means is marshaling a group of people around a common cause and coordinating their efforts in a way that is largely volunteer-based.
There are so many different opportunities to get involved and so many campaigns are really looking for a lot of help. So I would say the number one way is to spend a little time learning how to organize and then just go out there and figure things out as you go. Googling lots of stuff, reading lots of books, all of those things are incredibly valuable and incredibly helpful. It’s a little vague for sure but, definitely, something that I want to do is if I win, I want to create a comprehensive guide for people. So that if they want to run, they can learn about everything that we did because when we started off we were trying to decipher what we do and there was just really no guide. I wish there had been because it would have been really helpful.
YOU MENTIONED THE GREEN NEW DEAL, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE POLITICIANS WORKING TO FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE?
So, we are facing the biggest existential crisis that we’ve ever faced called climate change. That’s precisely why we can’t settle for these incremental baby steps solutions any longer. Because, what we know is that if you deny climate change if you’re not doing anything regarding climate change, or if you are only offering half-hearted proposals that are not going to do what we need in order to meet the magnitude of this crisis, then essentially you’re one and the same. Because with climate change, it’s an all or nothing proposition. Either we save our planet, or we don’t and we get runaway catastrophic climate change. Those are our options, there’s really no in-between.
We have been tasked with an incredibly daunting endeavor, which is, we have 10 years left to act on this issue. What that means is that we have to cut our entire world’s emissions almost by half in 10 years. And so in order to be able to do that we can’t be thinking small, this is not going to happen by accident, it’s going to happen through an unbelievably enormous vision for our country and that vision is the Green New Deal. A Green New Deal will create millions of good-paying green energy jobs and transition our entire economy away off of fossil fuels in the ten short years that we have to act on this issue.
How that would help the 12th district, in particular, is that the Green New Deal is not only what we need to do to move us away from fossil fuels, it also is a way to create unprecedented prosperity in this country, because as we know, over the past many decades, it’s become harder and harder to achieve the American dream. There are fewer and fewer jobs that pay the amount that you need in one job in order to have a comfortable decent living and lifestyle and so many people are having to work so many jobs in order to just survive.
So with the Green New Deal, we’d be on a clear path to creating millions of good-paying, green energy, union jobs and while these jobs would be present across all of America, they would certainly be present in the 12th district.
GIVEN THE CURRENT HEALTH CRISIS AROUND COVID-19, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO FIGHT FOR A MEDICARE FOR ALL SYSTEM?
I think the numbers speak for themselves, right? We have tens of thousands of people in this country who die every year because we have a broken dysfunctional healthcare system and we’ve refused to do anything about it. We have 100,000 people who have to declare bankruptcy every single year because of medical debt. These are problems that could only be the effects of the American dystopia that we live right now. People from developing countries who move here are floored when they hear about how our healthcare system works. I’ve talked to so many people from so many other countries who are very passionate about health care and they’re like, “it’s not done like this in Vietnam, it’s not done like this in Mexico.”
I know a student from Texas and they have to spend every spring break going with their entire family to Mexico driving ten hours and getting all their doctor’s appointments done while they’re there. That’s their entire spring break, every year and that’s what they thought everyone did and then they were shocked that people from other countries don’t do that and then there are other people in America who don’t have to do that because they are blessed with health insurance that many people are not.
So, especially in light of coronavirus, not only do you have to worry about not getting this deadly virus, but also, you have to worry about losing your job and when you lose your job, you’re out of luck, you lost your health care if you even had it to begin with. So now we have tens of thousands of people who don’t have health insurance in the middle of a global pandemic and it’s absolutely preposterous.
I think if you lose your job, you should not also have to lose your healthcare. And, I think that’s something that everyone else already agrees on.
IF YOU WERE IN CONGRESS AT THIS VERY MOMENT, WHAT WOULD YOU WANT TO SEE DONE IN REGARD TO A CORONVIRUS RESPONSE?
So, our coronavirus response is what happens when you take the world’s dumbest people and put them in charge of the most powerful country and then also have them be corrupt. We have people who don’t understand science and have never learned science and they also don’t respect the fact that we should make decisions based on evidence and data, as opposed to just feelings and gut. That is something that in medical school we’ve learned, which is that if you are going to give somebody a treatment or medicine, it better be based on some very rigorous evidence. You can’t just give someone medicine because you feel like it, you can’t just give people hydroxychloroquine because you like it and you heard it was good. It has to be based on rigorous decision-making processes based on a lot of evidence, studies, research and data. If you don’t do that in medicine you’re going to kill somebody, right?
So, that’s kind of a long preface to thinking about what we’re going to need to do, but ultimately, we really need to make sure that we do what is safe and we don’t just try to reopen the economy prematurely as we’ve already done. Because as we know, we’re just going to end up having to lockdown again. I appreciate that Governor Whitmer has really been making a lot of her decisions off of the science and the evidence and that we haven’t had a huge uptick in cases as we’ve seen in Florida and Texas.
In terms of particular policies, you may want to cancel rent, mortgage or utility payments, because right now so many people have lost their jobs. Tens of millions of people are unemployed, how are they expected to be able to pay their rent?
So, during the age of the pandemic, we need to cancel all rent and mortgage. We need to make a fund for landlords since there’s a lot of people who are just like regular individuals and are renting a place or two out in order to make an income, so we don’t want to screw those people over either. We want to do all of that, we need a Medicare for all system right now, definitely. That what I would be advocating for right now. And then the other thing that is needed is like how in Canada they’ve given all workers a couple of thousand dollars every month to get them by, I think we should do that too.
LASTLY, CAN YOU TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PROTESTS AROUND POLICE BRUTALITY AND WHAT YOU THINK AN APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO THE MATTER WOULD BE?
I think that we are in a national reckoning that I never thought I would really see in our country. The mass mobilization after George Floyd’s murder is something we really only read about history books. Spontaneously, people from across the country feel so moved that all of a sudden there are all these protests and everyone is an organizer and everyone is leading protests. I think that given the magnitude of the crisis we’re facing, the oppression that the black community has faced for literally centuries and how much energy we have around this issue, we can’t aim small. We can’t just simply make a couple of tweaks to our criminal justice system and I think that that it’s going to fundamentally fix our deeply racist system.
That’s why we are calling for demilitarizing and defunding the police, which specifically means, reducing police budgets to invest in community services so that the police aren’t the ones who are responsible for every single call for help. Sometimes a social worker might be more adept at handling some of these problems, sometimes an addiction specialist, or sometimes a mental health worker. We’re able to find all this money to invest in the police so we maybe we can take that money to invest in our own school, maybe we should transfer some money into our failing schools across the country.
That’s defunding the police, demilitarizing the police, in a nutshell. A couple of other policies that we support include ending cash bail because you shouldn’t be able to get out of jail just because you’re rich. We want to end qualified immunity, we want to end the death penalty. We also want to end for-profit prisons and dismantle the prison industrial complex. We also want to legalize marijuana at a federal level and expunge the record of people with marijuana convictions because that law in particular has just really sent so many black people to jail.
So those are some of the things that we think need to happen right now.