Over the next few weeks, voters in the newly redrawn 45th Congressional district will have the opportunity to send Jay Chen, a uniquely gifted lawmaker, to Washington. His resume is beyond impressive. Details of his various policy positions can be found on his website, www.ChenForCongress.com.
On Sunday, September 25, I experienced the joy of attending a fundraiser for Jay hosted by the Chugh Law firm in Cerritos. Jay’s presence highlighted a room full of energy and enthusiasm. An array of exquisite South Asian food and premium beer added to the festivities. The audience consisted of an assemblage of ethnicities that reflects the ever growing diversity of the 45th District. The program featured a number of articulate and visionary young leaders who inspire hope for our future.
My main takeaways from Jay’s brief speech and astute responses in an open question and answer session focused three areas: immigration, education, and foreign policy.
Jay attended Harvard University on a Naval ROTC scholarship after finishing high school in a public school in Hacienda Heights. While at Harvard, he majored in Social Studies and received special certification in Latin American Studies. He is fluent in Spanish and possesses expert knowledge of the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These three countries are the focus of regional instability and are the source of much of the current migrant and refugee flows to the United States.
Chen is aware that the encampments at the U.S. -Mexico border are merely symptoms of a much more fundamental problem that cannot and will not be resolved by cruel stunts and border walls. While people and drugs flow north across the border, money and guns flow south. It is impossible to address the problems of the northward flow without addressing the problems of the southward flow. The southward flow of money and guns has corrupted the various levels of government in the Northern Triangle countries.
If elected, Chen will immediately become one of the leading experts on Central American policy in Congress. For that reason alone, he is a far superior candidate to his opponent. He offers, however, so much more.
Jay Chen has an encompassing vision for public education that extends from pre-school to post-secondary age groups. Having worked with disadvantaged youth whose parents worked but could not afford the kind of childcare that nurtures the cognitive development essential to meeting the challenges of primary and secondary education, Jay is fully committed to expanding programs that correlate to the highly successful Head Start program.
Jay understands that public schools, not private charter schools, provide the nexus wherein local communities shape themselves in the most fundamental of democratic processes. Too often, private charter schools are escapes from the responsibility to provide equitable education opportunities to ALL of our children, regardless of ethnicity, income, identity, or varied abilities. As a young leader in high school, Jay was already working to ensure that everyone had equal access to the Sciences, Humanities, Arts, and Athletics.
Jay currently expresses his vision for education in his role as President of the Board of Trustees at Mount San Antonio College (Mt. SAC). Mt. SAC may be the crown jewel of the California junior college system. It effectively accommodates those looking to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to engage a vocation as well as those looking to use junior college as a transition to professional studies at a four-year institution. As such, Mt. SAC provides a scaffold for those whose parents may not have had such educational opportunities.
Education is wealth. California’s 2022 GDP is approximately that of Texas and Florida combined. In national terms, our $3.4 trillion GDP ranks the Golden State just behind Germany and just ahead of India. Investment in education will ensure future wealth. What Jay has done for education in California he can do for the nation as a whole. While Jay is fully committed to advancing education in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), he is also aware that a society does not advance on STEM alone. True education encompasses the mind, the body, and the soul!
Foreign Policy: Asia and the Middle East
In addition to the aforementioned expertise in Latin America, Jay Chens possesses a portfolio of experience in foreign policy that will establish him as a key congressional voice in that arena. He has expansive knowledge of foreign affairs in two vital regions: The Asian-Pacific Rim and the Middle East.
As the son of proud immigrants from Taiwan, Jay is keenly aware of the dangers to democracy posed by the People’s Republic of China and its leader, Xi Jinping. As a member of the broader Chinese diaspora, Jay is also cognizant of the complexities involved in engaging China firmly yet constructively. While it is inadvisable, not to mention virtually impossible, to fully extract ourselves from the economic and cultural bonds developed between the US and China over the last half century, the US can use its leverage with China to counter the threats it poses to our democratic allies in the Asian Pacific region.
Most importantly, the pandemic proved that we need to reduce our dependency on China in the production of key components for high technology. The recently passed CHIPS Act specifically addressed this problem. Chen’s opponent in the race for the 45th Congressional District, Michelle Steel, voted against this bipartisan effort to reduce dependency on China. Of course, only 24 House Republicans voted for it. This is especially disturbing in light of the latest smear that Steel attempted against Jay that was reported in the LA Times a few days ago.
In a tactic reminiscent of “show trials” that have taken place throughout the world of totalitarian communism, the Steel campaign recently issued a doctored photograph of Jay Chen that showed him holding a copy Mao’s Red Book with portraits behind him of Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Lenin. This photo was placed on a flier mostly sent to gullible voters in the Vietnamese-American community. Steel has further claimed that Jay has taken campaign donations from “communist China.” The fact is that Jay’s brother, an American citizen, sent a legal donation to his campaign while working as an investor in Hong Kong.
Anyone with even the most elementary understanding of how to engage China constructively and firmly knows the special role that Hong Kong will play in that engagement. It is unclear whether Steel is ignorant of that role, or she is merely appealing to the ignorance of her potential constituency. In lieu of real policy solutions, she engages a smear campaign.
What no one will ever hear Steel complain about is the massive lows of anonymous dark money, much of it from Russia, in support of the policies that define her. Her opposition to immigrants, civil rights, and women’s rights coincide with her advocacy for discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. These are all part of the broader Christian Nationalist movement with which her policies are aligned. On these matters, she walks in lockstep with Vladimir Putin.
The most compelling moment in Jay’s brief presentation at the fundraiser explained his recent deployment to the Middle East. In 2020 the Navy assigned him to a post there. They sent him to monitor events in Syria. In order to do this service for our nation, he had to leave behind his wife and two young sons. What he saw in Syria in the waning days of the Trump administration appalled him. In the same way that Trump abandoned all of our allies in Afghanistan, so did the former president abandon our Kurdish allies in Syria.
There were clearly three beneficiaries of Trump’s betrayal: Turkey, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. These three dictatorships benefitted a great deal from the four years of the Trump presidency. One suspects that these three nations have also benefited from the Top Secret documents Trump stole from the National Archives and Records Administration.
How You Can Help
The biggest challenge for Jay at this point is making people aware of who he is and what he represents. My experience of phone banking and canvassing door-to-door have made me realize how many people are unaware of him. It has also made me realize how many people support his ideas once they are made aware of them. I was very reluctant to phone bank and canvass. I was very glad I did. Perhaps you will be too!
Attending the fundraiser was one of the most inspiring things I have done in a long while. It was a reminder that there is a great community of dedicated people with whom I share values. The fundraiser also revealed a diverse array of gifted young leaders that can guide us toward a much better future.
Take the time and pay the price to support Jay in whatever way you can. We are battling the forces of the dark money that was behind the effort to destroy our country on January 6. Our country has remained on life support since then. This November will determine whether we turn toward the light of a bright future or head back toward the destruction revealed on January 6.
Jay is a special leader. I hope to look back twenty years from now with pride that I was part of elevating this outstanding young leader. Please join me in supporting Jay in whatever way you can.