Daniel Biss discusses campaign lessons, fallout at Northwestern Israel Week event

    State senator Daniel Biss expounded upon the moral motivations for his election to office, as well as how his Jewish, middle-class upbringing influenced his policies Sunday at an event sponsored by Northwestern Hillel and College Democrats as a part of Northwestern Israel Week.

    Biss has never been one to shy away from touchy questions concerning the greater moral issues that Americans face today. As a candidate for the recent Democratic gubernatorial primary Biss primarily focused his campaign on helping middle-class families with progressive reforms, but also attempted to dispel constricting views of American identity. Biss lost the March 20 primary to billionaire rival J.B. Pritzker.

    “I grew up in a middle class home with safety and security,” Biss told the crowd at Kafein. “This is the fundamental moral question that faces all human beings: what do you do with that knowledge [that you did not face any big challenges in your life]? Do you learn that all people may potentially be in a vulnerable position and therefore need extra security? Do you use this historical fact pattern to open your mind or close your mind?”

    Biss learned from his upbringing to empathize and connect with struggling, vulnerable, or underrepresented communities. His maternal grandmother was taken from her home in Romania to Auschwitz during World War II, and through her story he found a rationale for helping communities vulnerable to exclusion, ostracization and disparagement.

    ”There is tremendous fragility and precariousness in the human condition, and we have a profound responsibility to recognize our privilege,” Biss said.

    As Biss moves away from the campaign, he hopes that Pritzker remembers the problems caused by inequality that motivated Biss to run for office, as these messages are a part of the larger Democratic message to the rest of the nation.

    “Our society cannot sustain this situation for that much longer,” Biss said. “As a tiny number of people become more wealthy and powerful, ultimately democracy is going to break. The election of Trump is first baby step toward a terrible authoritarian breakdown that comes if we fix this problem in the wrong way.”

    Biss ended his conversation by turning his attention to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), the controversial movement that made its way into the primary as Biss disagreed with his former running mate Carlos Ramirez-Rosa when Ramirez-Rosa made a supportive comment of BDS. Although Biss disapproves of the current Israeli government’s decisions regarding aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he does not believe that BDS is the proper solution in this context.

    Romie Drori, College Democrats vice president of programming, said that Biss was consistent with his messaging from the campaign trail, and saw his calls for discussion as a reminder of the benefits of being politically open-minded.

    “My main takeaway was the necessity of reaching out to people with differing views, especially with very contentious topics like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and using your own background as a way to bridge the gap,” Drori said.

    Drori will attempt to implement Biss’ messages as a blueprint for future College Democrats events, as well as with her own political interactions in the future.

    “Part of our mission as a club looking forward is to work more with College Republicans as well as the Political Union,” Drori said. “I hope to take the philosophy that he was espousing today and put it into action by collaborating on various events and reaching out to people with differing views.”


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