copyright Amna Hashmi

A Muslim at the DNC

The Democratic National Convention is a crucial moment in every election cycle. The Convention, held in Philadelphia this year, sees thousands of Democratic delegates amass to officially nominate a candidate to represent the party in the presidential election, and determine the party’s official platform. This convention marks the official end to the primary season, and the beginning of the general campaign, where the Democratic candidate squares off with the Republican.

The convention began on Monday, and will continue until Thursday night. Hillary Clinton officially claimed the nomination on June 8, this aspect of the convention is already concluded. The fight within the Democratic Party is by no means over, however, as many Bernie Sanders supporters see themselves as part of a movement that extends beyond a particular candidate, and as such, want to ensure their voices are heard in the party. The convention is set to be especially heated, however, after leaked emails found the DNC conspired to ensure Sanders’ defeat.

Amna Hashmi, a delegate for the Maryland Democratic Party, is at the convention, watching it all unfold. The Islamic Monthly will be speaking with her each evening over the next few days to get a recap of what happened the night before, and hear her prescient analysis.

Stay tuned as we bring you daily coverage of what is sure to be a turning point in this tumultuous and historic election cycle.

copyright Amna Hashmi
copyright Amna Hashmi

Stay tuned as we bring you daily coverage of what is sure to be a turning point in this tumultuous and historic election cycle.

July 28

TIM: Today was the last day of the DNC. Tell our readers what happened.

AH: On the last day of the Convention, we eagerly awaited the arrival of Chelsea Clinton to introduce her mother and Hillary Clinton to accept the nomination. Of note, several Republicans, including former Reagan administration official Doug Elmets and co-founder of Republican Women for Hillary Jennifer Pierotti Lim spoke earlier in the evening on how Republicans disillusioned with Donald Trump should vote for Secretary Clinton. Overall, the evening centered on themes like an economy that benefits all, honoring fallen law enforcement officers, an inclusive America, and supporting our military.

TIM: How important is Clinton’s nomination for the country, in terms of being the first woman nominated as the candidate for either major party?

AH: When I think about Hillary Clinton being the first woman to have won the presidential nomination of a major party, I get emotional. Yes, this is a historic moment, but more so, it’s a psychological moment. When making judgements about the probability of an event under uncertainty, we use a representation heuristic, meaning that we evaluate how similar the essential characteristics of this event are to those which came before it and if it reflects the salient features of the process by which it is generated. Under this representation heuristic paradigm, the likelihood of a woman achieving the presidential nomination is effectively zero because there never has been a woman who has done so before. Now, I think of a generation of children who will never question that a woman can be nominated for president because they’ve never existed outside of this reality. Several elected officials during the Convention retold a story of young children asking how a white man can be president because in their minds, only a black man has ever been in the United States. I cannot wait for the moment when their counterparts ask how a man can be president. According to the World Economic Forum, the number of female leaders has more than doubled since 2005, and half of women leaders are their country’s first, so this is a relatively new phenomenon. Countries like Latvia, Liberia, Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea have succeeded in electing a female leader before the U.S., so it’s time for us to catch up.

TIM: What will Clinton need to do in upcoming months to defeat Trump?

AH: Both Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump are some of the most unpopular presidential candidates in history. The enigma of Trump is that he has behaved despicably but has still not alienated his supporters. In fact, he once said, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” In this bizarre election, Secretary Clinton can neither sway his supporters by attacking his policies (he has none) or his character nor appeal to those who decidedly dislike her; she must instead appeal to those who are undecided or Republican but dislike Trump. Thus, in the upcoming months, Clinton must reaffirm her stronghold with her supporters, must bring around Sanders supporters to her camp by showcasing how she has embraced some of his proposals into her platform, and must draw in undecided or Republican voters who could never stomach the idea of a Donald Trump presidency. In the end, elections are not decided by large margins but by a couple of million votes, so by ensuring that groups like millennials, women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Muslims register and come out to vote, that can ensure her victory.

 TIM: What’s her biggest weakness? How can she overcome it?

AH: While some argue that Secretary Clinton is not an effective orator, I disagree with them in that our rubric for judging speech makers is largely gendered and biased toward a male nature of speaking. Secretary Clinton does not espouse that charismatic style of speaking that appears to come naturally to President Obama or President Bill Clinton, but she has improved throughout the campaign. Her biggest weakness is that she represents the establishment vote at a time when many Americans are frustrated. Even though a case was not brought against her for her private email server and she weathered the House Benghazi committee hearings, an air of doubt regarding her integrity and judgement prevails. She must overcome the misrepresentation by revealing her lifelong dedication to public service.

TIM: What was your favorite moment of the convention?

AH: By far, the remarks by Khizr Khan was my favorite moment of the Convention. Khizr’s son, Humayun S.M. Khan, was a UVA graduate and enlisted in the US Army. Khan was one of 14 American Muslims who died serving the United States in the ten years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. His presence demonstrated the contributions Muslims have made in serving this country, and lines like, “You [Donald Trump] have sacrificed nothing and no one,” resonated deeply. Khizr even pulled out his pocket U.S. Constitution and said, “Donald Trump, you’re asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you, have you even read the United States Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy. In this document, look for the words, look for the words, liberty and equal protection law.” The moment was electric.

July 27

TIM: Can you give our readers a summary of what happened tonight?

AH: On Wednesday, we began by officially nominating Tim Kaine as the Vice President nominee via a voice vote. It was an emotional evening, as the daughter of a heroic principle of Sandy Hook Elementary and the mother of a victim of the Pulse nightclub shooting spoke against gun violence. Former Mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg delivered one of the most critical remarks of the night as he made the case as an independent on the critical and fundamental need to vote for Hillary Clinton. The evening ended with phenomenal addresses by Tim Kaine, Vice President Joe Biden, and President Barack Obama, and of course, the embrace between Obama and Hillary.

TIM: What did you think of Obama’s speech?

AH: Throughout Obama’s speech, I felt an enormous wave of gratitude for his service, but at the same time, he expressed his gratitude to us for electing him and to this country for enabling his story to be possible. If there is any country that deserves him, it’s the United States. In his speech, he detailed the progress made during his term, attacked Donald Trump for his fear-mongering, and reaffirmed his belief in the abilities and values of Hillary Clinton. He exuded integrity and humility, and I cannot express the magic hush that fell over the room as he spoke.

TIM: Clinton’s Twitter account sent a tweet with Muslim woman depicted in the photo crying stating it was because of Clinton winning. It turned out she was a Sanders supporter? What’s your reaction to that?

AH: I did not hear about the tweet, but I am inclined to give the Clinton campaign the benefit of the doubt.

TIM: What’s the mood in the DNC like tonight? I’ve heard a lot of reports that Sanders supporters were getting kicked out, that the lights were shut off to try to get people to stop chanting, etc. Is it as adversarial on the ground as it sounds like it is?

AH: It is definitely not as adversarial as it sounds. From what I saw, no protesters who had the credentials to be in the hall were kicked out, which aligns with the Democratic principles of allowing non-violent protests for freedom of speech and expression. Most protesters stood and carried anti-TPP signs silently during speeches, which was respected as their right.

TIM:What’s happening tomorrow?

AH: Tomorrow, we will hear from Chelsea and Hillary Clinton as the latter accepts the nomination. I can’t wait to say the words, “Madame President!”

July 26

Listen to the interview here or read below.

TIM: Can you start by giving our readers a summary of what happened at the DNC?

AH: The beginning was the official roll call state by state for the nominees for president. So each state would say how many votes for Hillary, how many votes for Bernie, how many abstaining. It was a really cool opportunity just to see all the different states have that moment to describe their major platform that they feel really proud of as a state and continue to say their delegate count.

As expected, Hillary did have the number of delegates that she needed, so she is the official Democratic nominee that we have made her today for President of the United States. That in itself is a really great moment to you know be a part of history. Each step of history is just another crack in the glass ceiling.

And then after that, we heard amazing speeches from a firefighter who was one of the first responders of 9/11, as well as another survivor of 9/11. Those were two that really stuck out in my mind. And of course, Bill Clinton, who was amazing per usual. I think it’s the most personal I’ve seen him.

TIM: What was the mood like tonight at the DNC compared to yesterday?

AH: Complete night and day from yesterday. Even yesterday it was really not that bad. I think mostly what it was is that Bernie supporters are really passionate which is why I’m so glad we have Bernie supporters on our team because they brought in such a vigor and energy to this primary season.

I think today it was just a lot less of the chanting over speakers, which I think is just more respectful of the event. I mean what they were doing yesterday I don’t think was out of frustration as much as out of passion. They just really love Bernie Sanders and just really want to see his progressive policies come to fruition. You have to respect that passion and energy.

TIM: How is the platform shaping up? What do you think of it so far? I have heard that it is being called the most progressive platform for the Democratic Party ever? Is that accurate or is that kind of overstating it.

AH: So before coming here I read through the entire platform, all 30-40 pages of it. I really wanted to understand what I was coming into, what was I for, what was I against, what did I want my voice to mean?

Secondly, I took a survey of my networks to see how they felt about this platform, because as empowered as I am by my own opinion, I thought that I’m coming in as a millennial, as a woman, as a Muslim and have a vastly different experiences based on so many different factors.

This platform is very progressive. I think it’s very progressive in the way it is approaching Wall Street. I think it is advocating placing a financial pact on banks, quote on quote breaking up the big banks. For me personally, that doesn’t necessarily align with my views. I’m not exactly sure what breaking up the banks means, but I think having that language in the platform, abolishing the death penalty, having language like Black Lives Matter and racial justice in the platform, it is really an inclusive platform and it touched on so many different issues that matter to so many different people.

You know the $15 minimum wage? That is a very progressive policy. Once again this is something that I think earned income tax credit would be more suitable in terms of wealth distribution, but I’ll say it it’s a very progressive policy. Things like that, to be free community college, there are so many new things in this platform that Democrats have always wanted but not had the sort of political or the popular support that we’re seeing right now.

TIM: How much of that can be attributed to the movement of Bernie Sanders? How much did Bernie Sanders put pressure on the Democratic Party to incorporate some of these more progressive things that may not have been seen in the past?

AH: You know the thing is, as much as I love Bernie, I wouldn’t attribute it just to him. I think of people like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, or this entire collection of very progressive leaders we have right now. I’m actually thinking that Bernie Sanders had the vocabulary and the charisma to express a lot of things that Hillary is also passionate about, but Hillary is also more aware of the economic necessities to have those platforms. And so, when several economists say that the math of Bernie’s economic plans don’t add up, and they’re the leading economists for the country, I’m going to trust them and trust their expertise whereas I think some don’t and I think Hillary does. And that’s why progressivism works and that’s why it’s really critical where it’s feasible is when it’s pragmatic and it’s possible. I think Bernie’s place for him is to be in the Senate because he can really help push the Senate toward those policies. But as President, he has to work with an entire bipartisan body and I don’t know if his policies could be in the center enough to actually come into fruition whereas I feel Hillary, with her historic record, of bipartisanship can.

TIM: Anything else to add?

AH: As a Muslim person you have a responsibility to vote for Hillary Clinton. Even today, with the amount of attention and consideration they have given to Muslims. The opening prayer was by a Muslim, in the videos they have women of all different backgrounds, including Muslims, women Muslims who don’t wear hijab and those who do. There is such a conscious effort to be inclusive, to be respectful and to understand the issues that Muslims face. Every single time a speaker goes up to talk about inclusivity and the promise of the future of this country, they always say how wrong Trump’s anti-Islamic sentiments are. So for me, this is personal.

July 25

TIM: Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

AH: Born and raised in Baltimore to a mother from Pakistan and a father in India, I grew up bridging worlds and communities. Upon graduating as valedictorian of the Bryn Mawr School, I was selected as one of only 141 Presidential Scholars in the country, the highest achievement a high school senior can achieve.

This past May, I graduated cum laude in computer science from Harvard. At Harvard, I reported for The Harvard Crimson and was granted the opportunity to consistently interview University President Drew Faust. As a Crimson News executive and editor, I wrote “Being Muslim” about my Muslim-American experience in my last semester. I also chaired WECode, the largest student-run conference for collegiate women in computer science in the country.

I will begin working as a software engineer at Better Outcomes, a Boston-based health technology start-up that aims to improve health outcomes through data, this fall. In two years, I will attend the Stanford Graduate School of Business for my MBA so I can be empowered to build my own company focused on improving everyone’s access to quality health care. I became a delegate by submitting an application to the Maryland Democratic Party, and I’m so thrilled to be pledged to Hillary Clinton and represent my communities.

TIM: Can you give our readers a brief summary of what happened last night?

AH: Last night, we approved the rules of the Convention and the Democratic platform. We heard from incredibly speakers, including Maryland’s own Elijah Cummings, and the crowd stood to their feet for Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Michelle Obama.

TIM: What do you make of Sanders’ speech? Did he do enough to get his supporters to vote for Clinton?

AH: Sanders’ campaign highlighted many issues important to progressive, and all, Americans, including economic inequality, climate change, and racial justice. I believe his speech acknowledged the efforts Hillary’s team has made to incorporate the proposals he championed, like free community college, and he was gracious in thanking his supporters but forceful that we must vote for Hillary and defeat Donald Trump.

TIM: What do you make of Sanders’ speech? Did he do enough to get his supporters to vote for Clinton?

AH: Sanders supporters (largely localized around California) did chant throughout the night, but even on the floor, it’s often difficult to discern between “Hillary” and “Bernie.” The vast majority of Bernie delegates were respectful of the speakers, and we wanted to show a united front, but it is difficult to soothe a crowd of chanters by chanting over them. Sanders’ representatives were a part of the process to craft the most progressive Democratic platform ever, but appealing to all is rarely achievable.

TIM: Do you think the DNC leaks have been properly dealt with thus far?

AH: Debbie Wasserman did not gavel in the Convention as expected, and I do not predict that she will be making an appearance. I completely abhor the tactic implied in the leaks to discredit Sanders’ faith. However, at this moment, there is no evidence that the talk in the emails was anything more than talk, and I do not believe it changed the outcome of the election.

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