Arab Americans are Increasingly Running for Public Office
By Dan Gil / Arab America Contributing Writer
One of the most integral and intrinsic aspects of our democracy is the right to vote. In order for the entirety of a diverse society’s needs to be represented, a significant portion of each minority group must actively participate. Although presidential elections tend to take up the most amount of media coverage due to their national and international significance, small and more local elections tend to give us a better glimpse of the country and its changing demographics. While large scale national elections set a plotted course for US politics over four years, smaller and more local elections show us how the country is changing and why.
These types of smaller, even statewide, elections can give us an idea of how demographics are shifting in the United States. This is especially true of Arab Americans, who continue to play an increasingly more prominent role in the American political sphere as demographics change.
This is in direct response to the American political climate, which has vilified both Arabs throughout the world and within the United States. The rhetoric Arabs face running for public office is seething with palpable dislike and contempt, similar to the kind of rhetoric directed at the Arab minority group following the September 11 attacks. However, this has emboldened many Arab Americans across the United States to fulfill the public’s demands for diversity in public office. It has, in fact, worked well as a motivation to inspire many Arab Americans to show their communities and their country that they are so much more than what is seen on the news when Arab Americans are being covered. The recent tide of bigotry against the Arab American and Muslim communities in the United States has been met with consistent opposition.
According to the Arab American Institute (AAI), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization created to nurture and encourage the direct participation of Arab Americans in political and civic life, there are eight Arab American candidates running for seats in congress for the 2018 midterm elections and 19 more running for public office in 2017. AAI compiles a list of Arab Americans currently in political life and running for public office, some of who you might’ve already heard of. These following Arab American politicians should be people you’ve heard of if you’re an Arab living in the United States.
Fayrouz Saad, for example, is a Lebanese American running for a congressional seat in Michigan against Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham, Michigan in 2018. The 34-year-old is the second Democrat to declare her candidacy in the race. Her parents immigrated to the United States over 40 years ago from southern Lebanon. She plans to be a heavy anchor to weigh against President Trump’s rhetoric against women, the media, and Arab Americans. Saad grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, which has the highest concentration of Arabs in the U.S. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2004 and went on to claim her master’s degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2014. She supports health care reform and climate change science, among other things.
Abdul El-Sayed is another name which may ring some bells. El-Sayed is an Egyptian American running for governor of Michigan in 2018 and his message to his home state of Michigan is gilded heavily with a hope that his state may see a brighter future. His parents fled Egypt for greater opportunity in the United States and his Arab roots are something he holds dear to him. El-Sayed has a strong focus on bettering education in his state, which he believes has become dilapidated and is not benefitting Michigan’s children the way it could be. El-Sayed plans to stop polluters from cutting corners and wants to clean up Michigan’s environment. He also wants every Michigander to be able to live on a working wage.
Dr. Matt Heinz is another name which the Arab community in the United States should be aware of. He is running for a U.S. congressional seat in the hot state of Arizona in its 2nd congressional district, one which is highly contested. The doctor of Lebanese descent was elected to the Arizona state house in 2008 and has since then helped to better the state’s handling of recording medical information. He has also helped healthcare providers with implementing the affordable care act.
There has certainly been an increase in the number of politically active and engaged Americans since last year’s election. However, it is important that Arab Americans are especially becoming a growing part of this political phenomenon as their representation in the United States government could be hugely beneficial to the growing demographic.
For a FULL LIST of Arab Americans running for public office click here