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A warm welcome at Fremont town hall meeting for Ro Khanna

February 22, 2017
In The News

Hundreds of Democrats showed up in Fremont on Wednesday night to cheer Rep. Ro Khanna’s full-throated support of a new, far more progressive Democratic Party.

“I’d rather have a slightly smaller party, but one that’s a morally consistent party,” he told the overflow crowd at Ohlone College.

The event was Khanna’s first town hall since he trounced long-time incumbent Mike Honda to take the congressional seat in November, and the crowd had plenty to talk about.

Unlike GOP representatives across the country, who have faced overflow crowds of constituents angry with the young Trump administration, the 40-year-old Khanna is a Democrat in a district so deeply blue that the pair of Republicans in the June primary could only pull 17 percent of the vote between them, setting up November’s Democrats-only showdown between Khanna and Honda.

There wasn’t a discouraging word aimed at the rookie representative, who drew cheers and applause whenever he slammed Trump and the Republicans or suggested that the Democrats haven’t been tough enough on the GOP.

Democrats can’t work with Republicans if it means giving them cover for bipartisan support, he said.

“Look at the voting records and hold those Democrats responsible,” Khanna said, as cries of “Feinstein, Feinstein” broke out among progressives unhappy with a number of the California senator’s more moderate stands and support for some of Trump’s nominees.

“Democrats have to stand united and not give in,” he said. “We won’t win if there’s not moral clarity on our part.”

But that didn’t mean there weren’t plenty of tough questions from the 500 in attendance, especially since the 17th Congressional District, which runs from Fremont around the edge of the bay into Santa Clara, Cupertino and Sunnyvale, is full of voters who are either immigrants or, like the Philadelphia-born Khanna, the children of immigrants.

Trump’s immigration order, he said, is an affront to American values, “not Democratic values or Republican values.”

There were plenty of anti-Trump voters in the Fremont crowd, but unlike GOP Rep. Tom McClintock in his Monday town hall meeting in Mariposa, Khanna didn’t have to put the best possible spin on everything the new president has said or done.

In his first month in office, Khanna already has slammed the president not only for his attempted ban on immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, but also for Trump’s efforts to join congressional Republicans in repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

But he made it clear that he had no interest in talking about impeaching Trump or making the president the focus of his goals in Congress.

Democrats “are not going to win, nor will we deserve to win if we focus on Trump,” Khanna said. “We have to be talking about concrete solutions for making people’s lives better.”

For Khanna, the town hall was a way to highlight his shift from candidate to congressman, telling the crowd of voters not what he hopes to do if elected, but what he’s done and what his plans are for his time in office.

He talked about his plans to oppose Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court, his backing of a $15 minimum wage and his plan to introduce a $1 trillion boost to the earned income credit, which he argued is the sort of bold approach Democrats should be taking.