Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) represents one of the wealthiest congressional districts in the nation. Not surprising since some of the world’s technology titans are headquartered in Khanna’s Silicon Valley district. And yet in the 2020 presidential contest, Khanna is all-in for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to be the 2020 Democratic Party’s nominee for president.
This is what has fascinated me about Khanna since we first met upon his arrival for his first term in 2017. How could a guy who is wealthy himself and represents a super-wealthy district serve as a national co-chair for a man who campaigns against and promises to tax “millionaires and billionaires”? For Khanna, the answer rests in our nation’s promise of opportunity.
“No one is going to wave a wand and be the complete solution to a multicultural, multiracial democracy that we’re transitioning to, but I think he’s a move in a very positive direction for two reasons. One, he has been consistent in opposing unconstitutional wars from Vietnam, to Iraq, to his statements on Yemen, to Iran, and I endorsed him because of my work with him on Yemen,” Khanna told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “Second, when you look at the communities who’ve been left behind … I think Bernie Sanders has a plan of investment in education, in the health care, in housing, in infrastructure that gives people a basic shot.
“I’m the son of immigrants. I was born in Philadelphia in 1976. Why can’t this country give everyone the shot that I had?” Khanna continued. “I got to go to a good public school. We had a middle-class background. I didn’t have to worry about getting a hot lunch in school. I didn’t have to worry about the safety in my neighborhood. I got to go to a good college, and today I represent Silicon Valley. All Bernie Sanders is saying is, give that shot to everyone.”
That sounds great, but there are many who view Sanders’s plans for things such as single-payer health care and free education as unrealistic or radical. Khanna addressed that head-on. “They’re not radical, and what we’re talking about actually is creating more jobs,” said Khanna, who then turned his attention to President Trump’s tax cuts and the infrastructure and other projects that could have been financed by the billions of dollars that flowed to the wealthy.
“We’re talking about giving everyone the chance to have as much education as they want. Give everyone a chance to have health care. Give everyone a chance to have basic child care so they can make something of themselves in this country,” Khanna explained. “And the people who are gonna pay for it? Well, people in my district. We’ve got more millionaires, more billionaires than we know what to do with. They can pay a little bit more.”
My conversation with Khanna took place days before the House voted on a war powers resolution that requires the president to cease military hostilities against Iran unless Congress declares war or an attack on the United States is “imminent.” Many were surprised by the vote in favor of it by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the conservative firebrand more known for his sophomoric impeachment antics than sober stands on matters of war. Khanna wasn’t.
Listen to the podcast to hear Khanna talk about his amendment to the defense authorization bill that would have denied funding for an offensive strike on Iran — an amendment that was removed before the legislation made it to Trump’s desk on Dec. 20. “We had 27 Republicans who supported it in the House. By the way, people like Matt Gaetz, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, all who said the president should have no funding for an offensive strike on Iran,” Khanna said about the most prominent members of the House Freedom Caucus. “They actually believe that we should not be in these foreign wars, these endless wars. They recognize that the war in Iraq was a blunder, they don’t want us to be in another war in Iran.”