It's our duty to find excellent candidates like Kylie Taitano but it's especially wonderful when we get a really good candidate running against a really bad one-- and that's how the San Diego CA-50 race is shaping up. All-in progressive Kylie Taitano is taking on wealthy corrupt conservative New Dem Scott Peters. You may remember Peters as one of No Labels' "Intractable Nine," or whatever they called themselves, pushing hard against Medicare's ability to negotiate fair drug prices and jeopardizing passage of Build Back Better in the House.
And that pretty much sums Peters up. According to ProgressivePunch, he has the 6th worst voting record of any Democrat in Congress. Taitano is more likely to have one of the half dozen best voting records. Please read what she has to say in her guest post and consider contributing to her campaign here or by clicking on the Blue America 2022 congressional thermometer below. This is a nice blue district-- D+12, where Trump barely won a third of the vote-- and it doesn't need a DINO like Peters representing it in Congress.
"Being Progressive Is All I Know"
-by Kylie Taitano
Aligning with progressive policies has always been a no-brainer for me, because of my heritage.
I was born and raised on the beautiful US Pacific Island territory of Guam. I’m half Filipina and half Chamoru, who are the indigenous people of the island. One of the values that I was taught and has stuck with me throughout the years was that when the community prospers, we all as individuals prosper. There is a Chamoru word to describe this, called inafa’maolek (pronounced e-na-fah mao-lek). It’s the idea that the social currency that we exchange with one another is based on respect, reciprocity and caring for the well-being of the whole. A prime example of this in our culture is how we organize our social gatherings. Everybody pitches in, in some form. It is understood that you bring or offer what you can, from food to supplies, money, or labor.
What we don’t do is calculate down to the penny the value of what each person has contributed. The most beautiful aspect of inafa’maolek is that you know that if you contribute anything to the community, the community will be there to help you in your time of need. A person that is in need at the moment might not be able to return the favor in the same value that you’ve been able to help, or even return the favor right away. You just intrinsically know that they will have your back down the road when you need it.
I loved growing up on Guam. It’s about 30 miles long, and only takes a few hours to drive around the island. You live life at a slower pace, everybody knows everybody, and of course the beauty of the island is magical. But even as a young child, I understood that there was a vast difference in being a territory, not a state. “Disenfranchisement” wasn’t in my vocabulary until I was older, but I most definitely knew what it felt like.
Growing up, I heard adults speak disdainfully about politics. I often heard commentary like the federal government didn’t care about us, and politics was corrupt. But the complaint I heard over and over again was that we couldn’t vote for our president. That was the one thing that people desired the most.
The only positive political memory I had was when President Bill Clinton visited the island in 1998, when I was 6 years old. I didn’t know his politics, but I understood back then how monumental that event was. It wasn’t every day that the US President visited your city or state, let alone a territory. I remember feeling pride watching him stand at attention on stage toward our Guam flag in our capital, while a choir sang our Guam hymn Fanoghe Chamoru in the background.
I was hungry to learn more about what being from a territory meant, politically. At the time, the only access to a large swath of information about the world I had was through my grandparents’ set of encyclopedias. I learned what I could from them, what the book definition of a territory was, and discovering the list of the other territories the US had in its possession. The more I read, the less it all made sense. There were too many confusing terms in the first place - commonwealth, unincorporated, corporated, unorganized, organized. What did those mean? I learned that residents from American Samoa were classified as US Nationals, not US Citizens. What was the difference?
It didn’t help that, after my family moved to California, that people out here didn’t know what Guam or territories were either. I felt like I had a quasi-immigrant experience, even though I was born on US land. I got asked, even by adults, if we had power on Guam, if we wore grass skirts, if we lived in grass huts. I was even told that my English was good, when that was the only language I spoke. My youngest sister was born in California, and around the time of her birth I recall a conversation my parents and grandparents had about her opportunities. They were discussing how she’d be the only one in the family with the ability to run for public office, because she was born on the mainland. Back then, I had zero desire to be in politics, but I was saddened at the thought that I had different rights than my sister just because we were born in different places.
Eventually I got all my childhood questions answered thanks to technology. It’s embarrassing to admit that I didn’t understand my political status as someone born on a territory until I was ready to go to college. I learned that I was a natural-born citizen (and that American Samoans, as US Nationals, are not). To be fair, Google searches weren’t as helpful in the early 2000’s as they were in the early 2010’s.
In 2016, Bernie Sanders woke me up from my apathetic, political slumber. Honestly, I was excited about Hilary running for president, solely because of the deep-seated childhood memory of the Clintons visiting Guam. Funnily enough, I had first heard about Bernie when I was out on a date. My date and I had an animated discussion about politics and history, and at one point he asked if I was going to support Bernie. Not knowing who Bernie was but wanting to impress the guy, I emphatically said yes. As soon as I got home, I did my research on Bernie, and was immediately hooked. Here was a politician who not only had been relentlessly fighting for decades for policies to create a level playing field for all, but what resonated with me the most was that he embodied the same community-first values I had as a Chamoru.
Being new to anything political, I was fairly shy going into any sort of volunteer opportunity for the 2016 campaign. I attended a few phone banks and canvasses in San Diego, but what really got me fired up was learning that Guam could vote in the Presidential Democratic Primary. It still didn’t make sense that we couldn’t vote in the general, and Guam only had 7 or so delegates allocated to send to the DNC. In any case, I figured that this was a great opportunity and every delegate counted. I volunteered with the Guam for Bernie team, attended phonebanks directed mostly to residents of the island, and even canvassed a Chamoru festival here in San Diego to get the word out. It was disheartening hearing that my people were still disenfranchised. When I was making calls, as soon as the residents heard me say “President” and “Vote,” no matter how much I tried to simplify that they could vote in a primary, I was immediately met with disbelief and skepticism. Even though we had access to more information about what rights we did have politically, the systemic disenfranchisement I felt during my childhood still permeated my community back home. Every call I made, the responses I got were either that they couldn’t vote or that they had something better to do, like hang out with a friend or go to the mango festival that day. I get it-- after a lifetime of being told you couldn’t vote, who was going to believe you if they told you that you could?
The defining memory I have from my childhood on Guam, was the reason that drove my parents to decide to move us out to California. In 2002, we were hit with one of the worst typhoons to impact the island, Typhoon Pongsona. It caused over a billion dollars worth of damage and completely wiped out our infrastructure for a few months. I remember my dad having to hand feed my siblings and I so we wouldn’t get dirty, to help conserve our utilities. My mom put out buckets of water to sit in the hot sun all day, just so we could have a hot bath at night. Being a schoolteacher, my mom had told me that her paychecks were delayed because government services were completely upended. And we were the lucky ones. The roof of my cousin’s house ripped off completely during the storm, and they lost everything. My family went to visit them to make sure they were okay. I distinctly remember looking up to where there was ceiling just days before, and instead seeing an endless grey sky. I looked down to where their living room was, only to see complete and utter destruction. My parents were so sick of living through the aftermath of the typhoons that hit the island, that the very next year in the summer of 2003, we moved out to California.
It wasn’t until very recently that I realized my family were climate refugees. It almost doesn’t feel real that this happened on US soil. With the lack of action or solutions toward addressing and solving the climate crisis, we know it’s only going to get worse.
I’m running against Representative Scott Peters, a nearly 10 year establishment incumbent who has the power and influence to easily outraise and outspend any opponent. Knowing this, I’m ready and willing to put myself out there, because my generation is out of time. Representative Peters’ middle of the road, status quo style of political leadership won’t ensure us a future. A recent example that shows his lack of leadership and political courage was voting against a version of the Build Back Better bill that would have invested half a trillion dollars into fighting the climate crisis. Here in San Diego, we’re already experiencing the consequences of the climate crisis. The threat of wildfires grows greater every year, so much so that insurance companies are dropping fire coverages from homes in the county. Additionally, in a time when the cost of living, housing, and healthcare are skyrocketing, Representative Peters voted with Republicans to kill the government’s ability to negotiate prescription drug prices. To no one’s surprise, he is the largest recipient of pharmaceutical donations to his campaign.
We do not have the time nor the luxury for half-hearted compromise and incrementalism. We can’t expect change when our leaders serve their real constituents-- big corporations. I’m going to fight for the Green New Deal, Medicare For All, and other policies that work for everyone so that we can be guaranteed a tomorrow. I’ll do it all without taking a single penny from corporations or lobbyists.
I know what will keep me grounded in Washington DC, and that’s inafa’maolek. I have always been driven by never forgetting where I came from. Join us in the fight for change at KylieTaitano.com