Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D), a first-term state lawmaker slated to deliver the Spanish-language Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, is not concerned that her unabashed progressive stances will alienate moderate voters who tune in.
Asked whether she plans to modulate her views to accommodate the national audience, Guzman answered unequivocally that she would not.
“What happened in Virginia was a message that if we stick to our values, we can win elections,” Guzman said, referring to the November election that brought her into office. “And that’s what Americans want to see. They want to see us fighting for the right issues.”
“We cannot be centrist any more,” she added. “We have to go back to our values.”
The mere fact that Democratic leaders selected an outspoken liberal like Guzman to speak to the country on Tuesday reflects a leftward shift in the party’s balance of power.
Guzman, who emigrated from Peru 20 years ago, is both a proud immigrants rights activist and an economic progressive in the mold of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Guzman passionately backed Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and credits his admonition to run for office with inspiring her bid.
Guzman ran for Virginia’s House of Delegates on a platform of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, securing paid sick days and universal pre-K. She also supports single-payer health care, commonly known as “Medicare for all,” and was one of 13 victorious Virginia House Democrats who signed a pledge to refuse campaign money from the state’s two largest utility monopolies. (In Virginia, which has no campaign finance limits, many critics believe that large utilities use their largesse to secure favorable legislation that effectively allows them to evade regulation.)
“For the Democratic Party ... choosing me to do this speech I think is a message that we are ready to be united,” she said. “There is no more ‘progressive’ and ‘establishment.’ We want to be together.”
Below is a complete transcript of her exchange with HuffPost about the matter:
Most people would say you are solidly in the progressive corner of the party. You were endorsed by Our Revolution. Do you think it represents a change in the party to give you that platform? And how will you balance the need to address more moderate voters?
We are just one Democratic Party.
We have to be reminded that we are the party of the working class. I mean, if you go back in years, we need to remember that the Democratic Party was formed by the unions. It was the party of the working class.
We have to remember our values and stick to our values. The more we stick to our values, the more we are going to continue to win elections.
What happened in Virginia was a message that if we stick to our values, we can win elections. And that’s what Americans want to see.
They want to see us fighting for the right issues.
We cannot be centrist any more. We have to go back to our values.
For the Democratic Party acknowledging, number one, that the progressive values are the Democratic values ― to giving me the opportunity as a person of color, I mean, for choosing me to do this speech I think is a message that we are ready to be united. There is no more ‘progressive’ and ‘establishment.’ We want to be together. We want to be one party fighting for the right issues and the progressive issues are the Democratic issues.