Nearing the 2020 federal elections, Mississippi’s first congressional district has stepped into the spotlight. Antonia Eliason, an associate law professor at Ole Miss and a Democratic Socialist, is running for Congress. Trent Kelly, the Republican incumbent, is running against her. In an interview with Y’all Politics, she explained that she decided to run because she wanted to ensure that a Democrat runs against Kelly. Eliason is the first to run as a Democratic Socialist in Mississippi.
Eliason sees eye-to-eye with progressive superstars Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but if you are a conservative who is tired of false promises from the GOP, she might be the best candidate for you. Let me explain.
You probably realize how important small businesses are to our state. In fact, 99.3% of Mississippi businesses are small businesses, and almost 50% of Mississippi employees work for them. Mississippians do not just count on small businesses, they depend on them –– if not for their income then for countless conveniences in their daily lives.
Eliason knows this. She’s an expert in the field of economics. At our law school, Antonia has taught, among other things, International Trade Law, International Investment Law, Contracts, EU Law, the Law of Armed Conflict. She knows how the economy works, and she knows that large corporations do not favor Mississippians.
Building businesses from scratch and cultivating local economies is what Mississippians do best, and it comes with a lot of advantages. Small businesses are able to have closer connections with their employees. Small business owners have the privilege of speaking face-to-face with their employees and community and know what each needs to thrive –– not just survive.
Since small businesses are so important to our state, why does the National Small Business Administration (NSBA) only receive 6% of the Commerce Department’s budget? Why do hardworking Mississippians continue to struggle? The answer is in our congressional representation.
Kelly does not have congressional history of helping Mississippians. In 2019, Kelly voted against multiple bills that had the opportunity to help small, and often vulnerable, businesses. These include the Raise the Wage Act (H.R.582), the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019 (H.R.5038) and an amendment to create outreach to small businesses impacted by retaliatory tariffs (H.Amdt.682). He’s had his chance for the last five years; it’s time for fresh blood.
“Democratic Socialist” is an intimidating label for a lot of folks in our state –– it is often incorrectly associated with Communist regimes across Europe and Asia. Socialism is used as a scare tactic even though few people can agree on its definition. However, Mississippians’ needs are constantly changing, so we should be represented by a person who isn’t tied down by definitions and can advocate for what we need, when we need it. Try not to let the label scare you, especially when it could benefit your future.
Mississippians, if you’re tired of a political climate that doesn’t seem to serve its constituents, then try something new and vote Democrat (it doesn’t turn you into one).
Emily Stewart is a freshman international studies and Arabic major from Columbia, Tennessee.