Morgan Harper
"We need a new generation of leadership in the Democratic Party"
Democrat Morgan Harper is one of dozens of young progressives that are challenging centrist Democrats across the U.S. and changing the face of the party forever.

Since a young Latina Democrat from the Bronx -veteran of the Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign- decided to challenge Democratic Congressman Joe Crowley in 2018, the progressive movement within the party has taken on a sweeping force. The squad of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar could grow by 2020. Dozens of young progressive Democrats are challenging the seats from centrist Democrats across the United States.

LPO spoke with Morgan Harper, who is running for Congress on Ohio's 3rd District. A native of Columbus, raised by her adoptive mother, a working-class Trinidadian immigrant, Harper earned scholarships to study at top institutions such as Princeton and Stanford, and has dedicated her career to the study and development of public policy at agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, designed by Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

Harper is challenging the seat of Democratic Congresswoman Joyce Beattie.

"We can win Texas, by 2020 we will have 400 thousand more Latino voters than in 2018"

You are challenging Joyce Beatty. There has been a lot of criticism against the progressive movement within the Democratic Party for supposedly weakening and putting at risk the party's position.

You know... this "risk" point is a little foreign to me, and especially coming from people within the U.S., a country that does uphold this idea of competition. To think that we wouldn't benefit from having a diverse perspective representing our political sector to me is a bit contradictory, in my opinion, even to the core values of this country. I think it's very odd and I think that any attempts to keep young people out [of the political arena], keep women of color out, keep different, diverse voices out, really is part of the political establishment. [These challengers] they tend to be a little bit more representative of what people are living and that's the idea: having people who represent their constituents and have something to say. We should be seeking ways to encourage them, and not trying to find ways to keep people out or making it difficult

Is it fair to say there is a revolution happening inside the Democratic Party?

Well... I don't know about a revolution. I would say there was a period when Democrats believed in big programs and big ideas that were working, serving people in this country, real people. We recognized the power of the federal government, and in fact, the necessity of the federal government to step up when markets might not be addressing all that was going on. Looking back post-WWII and things like the G.I. Bill, I mean, that was an investment in our people, and I think we've been duped in a lot of ways over the last 40 years, into thinking that somehow the federal government cutting resources behind and investing in us, in people, in our communities, is an irresponsible use of resources. I am saying, What's a more responsible use of resources, right? We need to make sure that everyone in this country can meet their basic needs.

I am no longer comfortable thinking that what I was doing was enough, so now I'm gonna put the agenda out there, and try to achieve policies that benefit everyone and make a difference. And that is the only U.S. where we should feel comfortable living in

So, as you see it, the progressive movement is returning the party to its original principles.

Exactly! Yeah, that's a funny thing, with a race like this, I thought this was what the Democratic Party was all about, making sure people meet their basic needs, that workers are protected in the workplace, that we are balancing out a corporate sector that has virtually infinite resources to advocate for itself but has now gotten into a place of disproportion in the political sector as well. That's why my race is so important, it means to have no input of the corporate sphere, this means that if you don't free yourself from the corporate money, you can't truly advocate for the people. That is the point of having the people that represent us in the government and the institutions, because corporations that have money can come to Washington, they can make sure that their interests are served, and we've got to have similar advocacy for us, in the government, to make sure that they take on account the interests of the people we are to serve.

Why are you a better choice than incumbent Joyce Beatty?

I think we have to take stock of the things that spurred me to run for Congress was that I wanted to take office to help out the communities. The third district in Ohio is a place that has undergone a lot of economic growth over the past ten or twenty years, it has kept growing even through a recession. But you walk around here and you see that there are communities, neighborhoods, and people who have virtually seen no change in their economic conditions over the same period, and if anything, it has got more precarious. And for me, that's no longer acceptable.

What was the tipping point for you?

I've never been okay with it, but it got to the point regarding, for example, housing, when I said "Okay, if our policies haven't solved core issues, such as these, with people with not enough money to live, without a place to live in, then we are not doing enough, and we are not going far enough", right? Not to mention the existing climate crisis. We need to go further, and if we don't do something now, we haven't got a lot of time. I am no longer comfortable thinking that what I was doing was enough, so now I'm gonna put the agenda out there, and try to achieve policies that benefit everyone and make a difference. And that is the only U.S. where we should feel comfortable living in. I mean, it's a good thing that we are having growth, but it shouldn't be at the expense of millions of people that live here.

How are the Democratic presidential candidates doing?

What I think is really inspiring, right now, is working with people that bring forward their agenda, facing themes that should be talked about, such radical ideas that I don't know why we are still considering radical, such as Medicare For All and other standard themes that we should talk about, and now are being talked about. And that's where I think we need to be, we need to discuss which are the policies, which are the programs that will help to make a difference for all people. And if [a candidate] is not on that side, well, we need then to have a real discussion about it. It's good to see that these themes have shaken up the powers that be and the status quo within the party: the Green new deal, equality, housing, healthcare, etc.

"We are living the civil rights movement of the Latino community, journalists must speak up against injustices"

Are you openly supporting any of the candidates at this point?

I'm kind of just watching like everybody else, seeing what's developing. I mean, this is the third district of Ohio and I am really encouraged to see that there are many candidates, some of whom are really putting serious issues out there on the national stage of discussion, and the translation here is that it makes such themes as the Green New Deal, easier to talk about because it has come up in a presidential discussion, and as an entry point these debates have been really helpful. Julian Castro was mentioning police reform and I think we see at a local level, the impact of not having community cruising approaches, and that's something we should be educating the public about. It's encouraging to see as well.

I am aware that your district doesn't have a significant Latino population, but how do you think the party is doing with these demographics on the national level?

From my vantage point, it's kind of difficult to assess how the Democratic Party is approaching the prospective Latino vote. I think that now there is much more awareness about the growing Latino population on the country, and it was something expected. I mean, when I was younger people asked me "Why do you spend so much time learning Spanish?", well, because it will become the second most spoken language in the United States, and it turned out to be so. However, here in my district, in Ohio, it is a little difficult to ascertain how much this community will play a role in the [presidential] election."

Donald Trump should be impeached. Not only is he unfit for his position, but he is also demonstrating that he has a great hate for this country. Making people think that somehow his legitimate position is to be harping against people of color, against immigrants, it's truly, truly damaging

What should comprehensive immigration reform look like?

My mom immigrated to Ohio from Trinidad, in the West Indies, so it's very important to me that we recognize first how immigrants have had a huge role in building this country, and people who came here and made a life here, are now being terrorized by ICE, and very aggressive policies. Even here in my district we have some people who have applied seeking sanctuary against deportation orders. People who seek their citizenship and fight the bureaucracy, they deserve something better, and it takes a long time to get there. That would be one of my main priorities, the activities along the border are also important. We need to decriminalize a lot of things.

Have you made your mind on the subject of impeachment against the President?

Yes, Donald Trump should be impeached. Not only is he unfit for his position, but he is also demonstrating that he has a great hate for this country. Making people think that somehow his legitimate position is to be harping against people of color, against immigrants, it's truly, truly damaging, because for generations we have felt pride for what our leaders are and what they have done for our country and our people, and Trump is really troubling. I am absolutely convinced that he should be impeached, and if it happens, it would be beneficial all across the world.

How is Democratic leadership -Speaker Pelosi- doing on the impeachment front?

I'm afraid I don't follow the strategy that has been pursuing on impeachment. I think it is very clear that he has broken the law, and has obstructed justice, so why not pursue that and get rid of this guy! I really think we need to be more aggressive, and I think that is a theme that connects with your first question, of why we should challenge these people, these conservative democrats, and well the point is, if you are not representing the interests of our people, then we need to have representatives that are willing to do that, to be more aggressive and assertive, to push harder. That's why here in the third district, where even though we are virtually not at risk of losing the democratic seat, we are pushing so much harder. The person in the White House should get quite clear the message that he isn't representing our country, and pushing our agenda is our only chance to reach those seats in Washington.

I do get that question sometimes about ?How do we pay for it?' and I say ?The same way we pay for anything: we make it a priority and we get it done

Is it time for a change in the Democratic Party leadership?

The reason that I launched this campaign is that we are in a very atypical moment in our country right now. We need a new generation of leadership in the party. A bold generation that is unafraid, unbiased, unbought. We all must understand that we have to have people in these positions who are uncompromised, and that means not taking any corporate tax money and being free to fight for us. The sooner we get more people in Congress operating from that perspective, the better shot we have to make our policies a reality. I've met people of all ages who know that the point is to understand that we need a new generation of leadership, a new style of wielding power. It's going to be about us, not about the way things were done before, this is a crisis and we have to move on, now.

A common criticism against the progressive movement is that there is no way to finance these social programs. As a policy person, what is your position on funding?

My position is that in this country we make decisions on a federal level, and we set priorities for what we care about and what we're gonna get done. And they are addressing things I don't understand. Why are we spending so much money on Defense? I think how some of those resources can be redirected to be invested in social priorities, on domestic programs that could build an investment in our people and in our communities. I do get that question sometimes about "How do we pay for it?" and I say "The same way we pay for anything: we make it a priority and we get it done". Some people in the party want to take us away from that way of thinking. But yeah, we will get it done. 

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