Letter to the editor: Running for my daughters

Melanie D'Arrigo is a Democratic candidate for Congress in New York’s Third Congressional District. Photo courtesy of Melanie D'Arrigo

Melanie D'Arrigo is a Democratic candidate for Congress in New York’s Third Congressional District. Photo courtesy of Melanie D'Arrigo

By Melanie D'Arrigo

Just about a year ago, I held hands with my daughters on the steps of the Supreme Court, protesting Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. Surrounded by thousands of women, we felt a groundswell of fierce energy from all around us—women chanting, over and over, “We Believe Survivors.” 

At the time, my daughters were just eight and four. With leaders like Trump and Kavanaugh casting doubt upon women and our daily, lived experiences, I wanted them to know: there are strong, fierce women who will support and stand with you. I wanted them to know, from an early age, they would never be alone.

We all know what came next. The Senate confirmed a man to the Supreme Court credibly accused of sexual assault, nominated by our President, who happens to also be a man credibly accused of sexual assault.

I never thought that such shameless gaslighting and mockery of a survivor could happen in 2018. But that’s exactly what the hearing was. Our country watched in real-time as a powerful, elite man won: not only by ignoring the rules, but by deliberately breaking them—with the help of other powerful, elite men. His confirmation was the patriarchy laughing in the face of women like Dr. Christina Blasey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, other survivors, and all of the champions of women’s rights who fight daily for our bodies and our dignity. 

 I wanted my daughters to understand that no amount of prestige should allow someone to get away with how Kavanaugh treated women. But I also wanted them to see that when faced with injustice, we have an obligation to do more than sit on our couch and yell at the television. We have an obligation to act.

 I traveled down to D.C. on the same day that Jeff Flake postponed the vote by calling for an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh’s conduct. He did this only after Maria Gallagher and Ana Maria Archila confronted him in the elevator, cementing themselves in the doorway and demanding to know if he believed Kavanaugh. 

 Theirs was a courage that spread, epidemic-like, through the crowd outside. Women from all over the country, from all walks of life—students, nurses, teachers—followed their lead. Together, we occupied the Capitol steps and blocked roads while chanting “We believe Blasey Ford” at the top of our lungs. We vulnerably shared our own stories, and were supported by the crowd in a way I had never witnessed before. 

As I stood at the foot of the Supreme Court, I felt something inside me shift. I had come to our Capitol to fight what I knew would become a stain on our country’s history. What I hadn’t anticipated was the focus and determination that everyone there would take away, to ultimately challenge the toxic mix of entitlement, power, and patriarchy back in our own communities. 

As the week progressed, It became clear that Brett Kavanaugh would indeed be wrongfully confirmed. I realized that while I couldn’t control the outcome of the nomination, I could control what I decided to do about it when I got home.

One year later, I'm running for Congress. My district, NY-3, is represented by Tom Suozzi, a Trump-Democrat who consistently betrays women and marginalized communities. He voted in favor of increasing ICE funding with zero regulations to ensure the humane treatment of asylum-seekers, stands in the way of his fellow Democrats impeaching Trump, and continues to support the Hyde Amendment, preventing women across the country from accessing the reproductive healthcare they need. What’s more--he has used his power to reward his powerful political allies and donors. 

I cannot stand by and watch a man who empowers Donald Trump masquerade as a true Democrat. I am running to fight for a country that ensures every person plays by the rules--and faces consequences if they do not. A country that welcomes all people, regardless of race, sex, orientation and religion. A country that works for all of us, equally and unequivocally.

The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings taught me that no one is coming to save us but us. The 2020 elections are a referendum on this country’s legacy. Will we continue to be a country made for, and by, entitled men like my opponent? Or will we summon our courage to build the inclusive land of freedom our founders intended?

We need everyone in this fight, standing shoulder to shoulder. I'm proud that my daughters will be able to look back and know I didn’t stand idly by. I was on the front lines of the fight. 

Melanie D'Arrigo is a Democratic candidate for Congress in New York’s Third Congressional District.