Living in the Past: What Candidates Believed in College Isn’t Relevant Today

Are we going to look into whether they really, really enjoyed dissecting frogs in high school science class, too?

There is literally no logic in obsessing over what a Congressional candidate believed in decades ago if that candidate has fully disavowed the views they held decades ago. People evolve, and what they believe in 2018 is far more important than what they believed in 1998. Yet some folks can’t help being fixated on the long-abandoned views of Congressional aspirants:

Abhijit “Beej” Das, a businessman vying to represent a congressional district where one of five residents are foreign-born, once denounced efforts to “make America bilingual,” backed making English the country’s official language, and compared student minority organizations to Nazis under the Third Reich.

Das, 44, espoused the controversial ideas as a writer and editor-in-chief of a student-run publication at Middlebury College in the mid-1990s, two decades before he launched his first political campaign for the [Massachusetts] Third Congressional District’s open seat.

In a statement, his campaign said he no longer holds those views, and that Das, a hotel executive and self-described “dyed-in-the-wool” Democrat, has “evolved” since writing for the publication, known as “Symposium: Middlebury College Journal of Politics.” As a candidate, he believes in offering residents better avenues to government services, including “language access,” his campaign said…

Das, who is himself the son of Indian immigrants, has touted his work for the journal as an early outlet for his interest in politics and where he “wrote about everything from Aristotle to anarchy,” according to his website.

Left unsaid in campaign material, however, were his views then about bilingualism. In a piece entitled “Multiculturalism” and published in the fall of 1993, Das openly lamented what he called a “persistent movement that seeks to make America bilingual.” He cites a push to consider Spanish as an alternate “official” language, and notes he’s “even seen some bank ATMs which use Spanish as the default language.”

“The movement overlooks the factor that language plays in national cohesion,” he wrote, according to copies requested and obtained by the [Boston Globe] from the school’s archives.

It’s obvious what happened here. Das clearly listened to a heaping helping of right-wing talk radio in his teenage years, embracing Rush Limbaugh and his radio colleagues as anti-establishment visionaries, and carried his conservatism-is-cool attitude into college. Then, he got older and he smartened up. That’s something to applaud, not judge. Maybe if 62 million other Americans had smartened up and realized the fundamental con that is conservatism, Donald Trump wouldn’t be president.

What, exactly, is gained by digging through the garbage can of the past? Aren’t people allowed to grow and learn? Have we forgotten that Sen. Elizabeth Warren used to be a Republican?

Das’s campaign did not make him or anyone available for an on-the-record interview. In the statement, which it attributed to an unnamed strategist, it downplayed his writings, saying “our country has changed a lot in the decades since those articles were written.”

“His experiences studying law, working in small businesses and as a part of this vibrant community that posits roots from many places, speaks various languages and represents many different people, has given him a true understanding of what makes this country great,” the statement reads. “There’s more that brings us together than separates us.”

Das isn’t the first individual who came to realize that right-wingers were selling a bill of goods, filling him with a new desire to fight the right—and he won’t be the last. As Bill Nye once observed, the most fervent anti-smoking advocate is “the guy who just managed to quit.” The attack on Das for having once held reactionary views is every bit as illogical as the recent media crucifixion of MSNBC host Joy Reid; in both cases, folks are judging individuals for having once held poorly-thought-out views, instead of giving those individuals credit for reconsidering their radicalism and changing their ways. At some point, we have to stop judging people for the political mistakes of their past, no?

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.