Stuart Baum (MI): ‘I’m Passionate About Criminal Justice Reform’
Stuart Baum (22), a Democrat from Detroit, MI, attended Jewish day school growing up and is currently student government president at Wayne State University. He is an intern at the Michigan state legislature, where he serves as a community liaison, connecting residents’ concerns with legislative priorities. As a member of the LGBTQ community, he would like to see more attention paid to gay rights in the presidential campaign.
Is there an issue you are most concerned about?
I’m passionate about criminal justice reform. In high school, I was in a credit-recovery program because I took time off when my mom got sick. There were people like me who had difficulty in school for personal reasons, but also a lot of students who had involvement with the law. That awakened me to the importance of criminal justice reform. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I also really value LGBTQ equality.
Do you think any candidates are particularly strong on LGBTQ rights?
I don’t really think so. It’s been on the back burner for a while and I hope more candidates talk about it going forward. It means a lot for Pete Buttigieg to run and to be openly gay, but you see him trying to walk away from the label, so it doesn’t become his sole definition. And it shouldn’t. We shouldn’t pigeonhole candidates into any identity, because it’s not just about the identity, it’s about the problems connected to it.
Does support for Israel as a Jewish value impact your political views?
It has informed my political views in an inverse way. In day school I was explicitly taught to be a Zionist. The history of Israel was taught through that lens. Now that I’ve been exposed to other sources, I see that my day school education wasn’t as evenhanded as I wish it had been. It’s made me doubt and be less in favor of how the Jewish community looks at the issue. I think that all people have a right to self-determination, and I support the State of Israel, but I don’t believe in unconditional support. When I see people equating justified criticisms of Israel to anti-Semitism or saying we need to look out for the interests of the state more than the morality of the state, that’s a problem.
What traits matter to you most in a candidate?
I’m looking for someone who is aggressive, optimistic and has vision. Someone who wants to try big things even if they’re not possible. I don’t view politicians’ statements as promises, I view them as things they’re going to try. As long as they’ve tried to accomplish something, I don’t feel horrible when things don’t get done. From growing up in the Obama era and participating in student government, I see that you’ll always end up with a compromise position. If you start at a lower position, you’re going to compromise even lower. Whereas if you reach higher, you’ll compromise but move the ball further.
Why do you support Elizabeth Warren?
I agree with her on the issues and I like her style. She could win. I know that she has more progressive policies, but I think she is able to deliver the message. Warren would also get things across the finish line. She has the legislative experience and could put together a team that would actually deliver on what she wants to do. I did favor Bernie in the last election, but I don’t know if he has what it takes to win or do well when it comes to implementation. In my heart I still really like him, but because I’m a pragmatist, I can’t put my efforts behind him.
Has the impeachment inquiry affected your views about the election?
I think that getting Trump out of office will have to be a battle we fight on two fronts; impeachment and the election. I am concerned that it may bleed into the election in a bad way, but it is the right thing to do. Donald Trump deserves to be impeached because of the crimes he has committed in office—from the Ukraine situation to the ones outlined in the Mueller report, to his emolument clause violations. But he deserves to lose the election because we can find a candidate that presents a better alternative to him and his vision of America. Nearly all the Democratic candidates qualify for that.