Robert Reich, who strikes me as a good man and someone worth listening to, declared last week that President Trump has abdicated his presidency. “He is not governing. He’s golfing, watching cable TV and tweeting,” said Reich, an economist who served in the Administrations of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. “Trump’s tweets are no substitute for governing.”
Amen to that. If only the media appreciated Reich’s insight. If they did, Virginia Congresswoman Elaine Luria would be under contention as Joe Biden’s running mate and possibly even would have been the Democratic 2020 nominee. It would also spare the country the continuous musings of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a woman of no particular accomplishment before being elected to Congress and her only notable feat since is amassing a Twitter following of more than seven million people. Luria, by comparison, has a paltry 19,000 followers.
That’s why few people outside of Luria’s district are aware of her impressive background and accomplishments. Although only 22 percent of U.S. adults are on Twitter and ten percent of the users account for 97 percent of tweets mentioning national politics, the social media site is where reporters peddle their stories and they view the gutter chatter as being representative of national opinion. That possibly explains why most had no clue about President Trump’s election chances in 2016; the site’s users are overwhelmingly anti-Trump.
Luria understands Twitter’s exaggerated importance and mostly limits her tweets to promote her prodigious legislative initiatives and community activities. “One thing I’ve seen in office, that what’s said on Twitter or Facebook doesn’t represent the views of my community,” Luria told a Tablet reporter last year. (As Luria doesn’t court the media little has been published about her; I’ve relied heavily on this Tablet article and this Washington Post article for biographical material.)
Luria’s community is Virginia’s Second Congressional District, located on the state’s southeast coast and home to several military bases, including the U.S. Fleet Forces Command. The district is historically Republican and voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. Luria won election as a Democrat in the 2018 midterms, narrowly beating popular Republican and former Navy Seal Scott Taylor with a platform that advocated tighter gun laws, a minimum wage hike, and higher corporate taxes.
Luria’s entire life has been groundbreaking, and she doesn’t fit any stereotypical molds. She was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama where her father ran a prosperous scrap metal business and her mother worked at the city’s art museum and was active at the local synagogue. Luria, 44, attended a private boarding school called Indian Springs, where she won state and national level grammar championships and earned a black belt in karate.
At 17 Luria joined the Navy, an unusual career move for someone with her background. “It would have been the last thing someone coming out of a Reform Jewish background would have grabbed onto,” a family friend told the Post.
Luria quickly rose through the ranks, having been named an officer by 2000 and becoming one of the first women to be admitted to the Nuclear Power School, one of the most intellectually rigorous training programs in the Armed Forces. Eventually, she commanded various nuclear-armed ships, deployed in the Middle East and elsewhere, some combat ready.
After retiring from the Navy, Luria and her husband Robert Blondin, also a Navy commander, jointly ran a novelty gift shop in Norfolk, selling ceramic mermaids mounted on wood pedestals. Politics beaconed, and Luria was elected first time out of the gate.
Despite her limited time in office, Luria has shepherded a wide range of legislation, some of considerable strategic importance and others more notable for their symbolism and underscoring Luria’s humanity and empathy. Unlike AOC’s legislative initiatives like the Green New Deal that have only engendered mild Democratic endorsement and likely will never pass, virtually all of Luria’s efforts have bipartisan support.
Luria hit the ground running as soon as she entered the halls of Congress. One month after taking office she introduced the Veterans’ Compensation Cost of Living Adjustment Act, which became law seven months later. A bill to rename the Virginia Beach post office the Ryan Keith Cox Post Office also quickly passed. Ryan Keith Cox was an account clerk credited with saving the lives of a half dozen office workers before he was murdered in a June 2019 mass shooting in a Virginia Beach office building. Luria has been adamant about keeping the horror of the shooting and the memory of its victims alive.
Luria’s most recent legislative effort was co-sponsoring a bill that reduces the nation’s dependency on Chinese pharmaceuticals while identifying vulnerabilities in the medical supply chain. The bill was introduced by Florida Republican Michael Waltz, underscoring Luria’s bipartisan capabilities. In late May Luria sponsored the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Act, a bill to increase the amount of loan forgiveness to teachers.
In addition to her background, what inspires me about Luria is her unwavering commitment to her principles and values. Luria was responsible for shepherding legislation to condemn anti-Semitism in the wake of a slew of antisemitic tweets by Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilan Omar, questioning the “dual loyalty” of Jews to America and Israel and implying that Israel’s American allies were driven by money. Luria didn’t appreciate the “dual loyalty” allegation having dedicated her adult life to commanding naval ships to protect the country. Omar in 2019 was named “Antisemite of the Year” by an advocacy group focused on combating hatred of Jews.
Luria stepped aside after her proposed legislation was watered down to include other forms of bigotry. But in her first speech on the House floor she declared, “I’m a Jewish American woman who served for 20 years in uniform and continue to serve in the United States Congress. At the age of 17, when I entered the United States Naval Academy, I first took the oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign, and domestic.”
Luria also supported the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump, a potentially suicidal political position given her district overwhelmingly supported him. “I’ve come to find throughout the course of my career that there are things I should speak up for,” she told the Post.
Luria strikes me as qualified, if not more so, than any of the other candidates that ran for the Democratic presidential nomination. As a naval commander familiar with the intricacies of nuclear reactors, Luria obviously has an aptitude for technology, which is how the next major war will be waged. Luria would be a commander-in-chief with real-life experience as a commander. She appreciates the serious threat China poses to America.
Luria isn’t a seasoned politician, which I see as a plus. And she has the respect of influential people in both parties. Former Republican Senator and Secretary of the Navy John Warner recently endorsed her reelection.
Media pundits and broadcast talking heads will argue that Luria isn’t known nationally, but that’s to their shame. The media has become little more than an aggregation service of Twitter tweets, an audience hardly known for its enlightenment or deep thought. Trump instinctively understands the vileness of the site, which is why he thrives on it.
A Luria presidency would return Twitter to what it was before Trump was elected – a place for celebrities to promote themselves and their activities. Most Americans would be spared the daily leakage of the site’s toxicity and we’d have a president that we can admire both for her intellect and her integrity, combined qualities in short supply in Washington.
Luria possibly isn’t interested in becoming president. But as Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Luria’s record indicates that if called upon, she will serve.