Haverford’s State Senator Daylin Leach stepped into the spotlight of the resistance to President Trump last month when he referred to the president as a “fascist, loofa-faced shit gibbon” on Twitter after Trump threatened the career of a state senator in Texas.
Two weeks later, he visited Haverford to continue his message of defying Trump, giving a short speech on effective resistance in our current political climate and hosting a casual Q&A session with eighty or so students, faculty, and staff packed into the DC basement.
“I wanted to bring Daylin to campus so students would know that there are people in the government who are stepping up to the plate and not shying away from controversy,” said Rachael Garnick ‘17, who organized the event after running into Leach at a march in solidarity with the Liberty City LGBT Democratic Club. “He’s the kind of politician who gives politicians a good name. He is someone you can believe in and count on to fight for you; he truly cares about his constituents and his country.”
Leach began the night by saying how excited he was to see so many people coming out to talk politics, joking about the low turnout during his last visit to campus. He said the newfound activism he has been seeing is the “one silver lining” to the Trump presidency.
During the dinner, topics ranged from the role of the media and fake news to the difficulty of resistance without turning obstructionism into a cycle to the deep divides within the left.
“I wanted students to have the opportunity to ask questions,” said Garnick of the informal format. “This is a very confusing, overwhelming time in our country’s history, and many of us are struggling to figure out the most effective ways to get involved, so it’s helpful to hear the perspective and advice of someone from the inside. Plus, Daylin’s a funny guy, so there’s that.”
Several times throughout the night, Leach denounced what he called “democratic purity,” the tendency for those on the left to “not vote for someone [whose policy views] align much better because they’re not 100% perfect. That’s how we got Trump,” he added. “It’s self-defeating.”
“What he said [about Democratic purity] was spot on: if Hillary had been elected, we wouldn’t have the Muslim ban, we wouldn’t have Steve Bannon, and we wouldn’t have anything close to the nightmare we have right now. It’s that simple,” said Nick Barile ‘18. “I totally support people rallying behind their preferred candidates during the primaries, but I agree with Leach about the importance of being united come November.”
Leach also addressed a question about his use of the word “fascist” in his tweet. “We need to distinguish him from normal Republicans, and although ‘fascist’ may not be exactly the right term, we need one that conveys exactly how abnormal [Trump’s presidency] is…We need to use all the energies we can from all directions to fight this.”
“Daylin does not shy away from embracing his liberalism, and I like that about him,” said Garnick. “He’s an outspoken advocate for women’s rights and redistricting reform, and steadfast in his pursuit to combat the normalization of Trump’s dangerous rhetoric.”
When asked about the biggest problem facing politics today, Leach cited gerrymandering, which is the practice of dividing legislative districts to favor a certain party or candidate. Leach–and most political scientists–believe gerrymandering is a major reason why Republicans have been able to hold onto a disproportionate number of seats in Congress and state legislatures. Leach has made redistricting reform a cornerstone of his campaign.
But the overwhelming message of Leach’s visit was the importance of resisting. “Trump is an existential threat to our democracy,” said Leach. “Our institutions will be tested…In times like these, it is our obligation to become activists.”
Josh Fried ‘18 echoed his sentiment. “For too many years, political apathy has been the status quo at Haverford. Maybe, the tide is turning at Haverford and students are finally realizing that political activism is imperative for a vibrant and tolerant Haverford in the Trump Era,” he said.