Scott Taylor is the current representative of Virginia’s 2nd District. I’m currently a resident of the district. He’s running for re-election, and I’m far from convinced as to whether or not he should keep his job. Bearing in mind Norman Mailer’s excursion into politics and how easy it is to do the job wrong — you can almost hear the tricycle tires squeak with caution and care as you read that piece — I have been wondering about what it would mean to run against Scott Taylor.
To run would mean to make the argument against Taylor and make the argument for one’s self — and I think my argument would hinge on my getting up in town halls and restaurants and saying again and again, “You belong.”
You belong here as an immigrant, where you can brag about the faerie lights in the waters back home in Vieques Bio Bay. You belong here as a member of the military, because of course you do. You deserve a community. A roof over your head. A medical system that doesn’t leave you feeling like you want to climb up the walls. You deserve not only the best food and water, but food and water from someone clearly dreaming about tomorrow. You deserve to belong in a world where you aren’t told one thing and given another. You belong in this place.
Policy-wise, I’d advocate for better roads. I’d advocate for tenants unions. I’d advocate for one or two farmer’s co-operatives. I’d look to expand Medicaid. I’d advocate for development that reflects the fact that people actually live here — for more livability and fewer over-planned communities. I’d see if I could find a way to expand beach access to the James River without turning it into Virginia Beach 2.0. I’d advocate for the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay. I’d look for ways to advocate for improvements to Amtrak so that Norfolk, Richmond, and Washington D.C. can be drawn closer together. And — though I have broader ideas about gun control — I’d happily argue just in favor of universal background checks, which 94% of Virginians backed in April of 2017 — and which — for some unknown reason — Taylor claimed wasn’t true in a joint interview with Congressman Seth Moulton in October of 2017. (It’s also worth noting that Taylor voted for the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act.)
And — of course — I’d draw the contrast between Scott and myself. I would note that I would probably not take the time to vouch for a memo created by a Chairman that somehow seemed to suggest that an American citizen was improperly surveilled during the campaign when this American citizen had been brought to the attention of the FBI years earlier and was one of several people being investigated by the FBI for their activities with regard to Russia anyway, nor would I stay silent if someone released a memo clarifying the contents of a previous memo, as was the case with Adam Schiff.
I would note that my opponent has consistently championed tax cuts — to the point where he was even sharing news stories where bonuses that had already been negotiated between companies and unions were now — somehow — bonuses that existed because of tax cuts. (He was also sharing letters of recommendation from people who simply weren’t there.) I would note that companies were spending their tax cuts on buybacks, not on wages — and I’d note that they might not be taking their tax cuts as an incentive to invest either.
If I ran, won my party’s nomination, and arrived at some hall or studio where I would debate Taylor and the debate entered the phase where we could ask each other questions, I think I would ask Taylor if he knew Colin Kaepernick got the idea for a kneeling protest from a military vet. I would ask him if he ever talked to the innumerable African-American residents of Newport News, Hampton, or Norfolk about Kaepernick. (Given how the district is gerrymandered, it would be a little silly not to seek to expand the conversation beyond this ‘down the middle slice’ that makes its way down the peninsula and include as many people as possible in the conversation.) I would ask him what he thinks about all the different charities Kaepernick donated money to. Then — once the easy bit was done — I’d ask him for his thoughts on criminal justice reform.
In other words: he goes out into the district and … what does he hear? Per his Facebook account, it seems that he hears about a single mother getting $77 more dollars in her paycheck every two weeks.
I listen to the people of this district and what do I hear? I hear about the first stop light that came to town. I hear about a club you can only join if you’ve lived in the area for 50 years. I hear about how someone marrying their wife was the best thing they ever did. I hear about a younger brother making the drive down from Charlottesville to see his older sister and older brother, the latter of whom flops face-down onto the lawn in front of us while under the influence. I hear a young woman process her shock that someone hit on her, as no one had ever hit on her until she went to a bar that night. I hear a young woman talk about just getting a job to work on immigration law in South Africa, even though she had never been to South Africa before she got the offer. I listen to a restaurateur muse out loud about what sort of dish he’d make if he could only use three ingredients. I listen to a man who runs security on behalf of multinational oil corporations in Iraq compare and contrast his time spent protecting oil companies with his previous long-standing career in the military. We talk about what it means to have “skin in the game.”
There was a time when I was expecting the work I was doing to engage with a certain notion of transformation — like a temple from Kyoto on wheels — with people entering silently, reciting waka poems, and leaving silently once again — but I don’t know what I think about that expectation now. If I ran against Taylor and won, how quickly would my sense of expectation move from engaging my constituents and colleagues with studies and papers under my arms to perpetual fundraising?
Work is one way in which we can imagine our future selves. And yet: no country is a credit rating, Leonard Cohen once said to a Spanish audience. In discussing the reaction to the Euro crisis, the writer Marilynne Robinson said of Greece that “it is apparently understood that economics, as the word is presently understood, not only can but should regiment national culture.”
Was I expecting a political transformation when I took this job? No flag fit for The Durham Miner’s Gala flies through the sunroof of the car, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t meet scrupulously polite people either, people who buy me water, offer up directions, and tell me to drive safe.
“People here know me,” is the reason Taylor gave The Virginian Pilot as to why he thinks he’s a shoe-in for re-election. “They know what I’ve done.”
By the end of 2017, Scott Taylor had claimed responsibility for two bills in the House — one being a bill that “expresses support for the use of public-private partnerships to bring computer science education to more K–12 classrooms throughout the country,” the other being a bill that sought to keep senior employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs from giving themselves promotions.