This November, America will experience one of the most anticipated midterm elections in its history and could make significant updates to our country's leadership, so long as voters – and candidates with fresh ideas – show up. On the congressional end, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested, while the state and local level will see numerous contested elections as well.
Earlier this January, MTV News traveled to Washington, D.C. for a conversation with one of these such lawmakers up for re-election in November: Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA). As a sitting congressional representative and the former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, Sen. Kaine is uniquely positioned, currently working alongside a president he actively campaigned against in order to continue to serve the American people. I met with the senator at his office — lined with baseball memorabilia, tokens from his past missionary work, and nods to our mutual home state of Virginia — to discuss a range of issues affecting young people today; from the still unresolved status of DACA to what the local Virginia elections might signify for November's midterm elections.
The Narrowing Window For Renewing DACA
While the the futures of many immigrants who know no other home than America still hangs in the balance, Congress continues to seek a bipartisan solution on U.S. immigration policy. Despite the president's decision to use DACA as a negotiating chip in his quest to build a wall along the border of Mexico and the United States, Sen. Kaine assures that the idea of border security isn't a controversial one. In fact, it was already part of a 2013 Senate immigration bill aimed at protecting DREAMers. It's the wall that the senator states is "a bad idea." It's important to note, too, that the majority (80%) of the American public supports a permanent solution for DREAMers, which is something Sen. Kaine is optimistic that Congress can achieve.
Congress And The Fight Against Sexual Violence
A bipartisan bill inspired by the #MeToo movement was introduced early this year to adjust policies so that Congress may more effectively handle sexual harassment and abuse claims made under its own roof as a workplace. The bill also extended protections to Capitol Hill's youngest employees, like fellows, interns, and summer volunteers. Not only was Sen. Kaine a co-sponsor of the bill, he made a public request for details on the Senate's history of sexual harassment claims. "We ought to be, hopefully, setting an example, right?" he explains of how Congressional policy on sexual violence has a ripple effect on its ability to serve the American people undergoing the same struggles in their own places of work or study. "We'll either set a bad example or a good example. We ought to set a good example."
Net Neutrality And A Generation That's Never Lived Without The Internet
For young Americans who grew up with unlimited access to the internet and continue to trailblaze careers for themselves via digital platforms like YouTube and Instagram, the repeal of net neutrality raises a lot of questions and red flags. "The idea is to not allow the [Internet Service Providers, like Verizon and AT&T] to dictate content," Sen. Kaine, who is a staunch supporter of net neutrality, cautions, "We don't really need a top-down model of controlling what people have access to."
How Corporate Tax Cuts Affect Young Americans' Futures
Much conversation has been made about the benefits the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act of 2017 affords to corporations and the wealthiest percent of Americans, but less has been said about how that affects younger generations years down the line. Unfortunately for anyone under the age of about 37, Sen. Kaine warns of an explosion in the national deficit of over $1 trillion that eventually falls on the younger generations' shoulders to pay off if this tax policy remains in effect.
Learning From Virginia's Special Elections
Sen. Kaine's home state of Virginia was one of the first states to undergo local elections after President Trump's inauguration – the outcomes of which might serve as a political litmus test for what to expect from the midterms this November. On top of historically large turnout from young voters, there was significant new energy in terms candidates. Sen. Kaine effuses about the powerful influx of first-time candidates, candidates under the age of 35, and female candidates, but he adds with equal emphasis that those Virginia elections were also marked by extremely close races. The party that landed control of the Virginia House of Delegates was decided, essentially, by pulling a name out of a hat. "For people who don't think their vote matters," Sen. Kaine points out, "one more vote in that district would have changed the entire leadership and power structure in the House of Delegates in a state of nearly 9 million people."