Watch Rep. Rashida Tlaib speak on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” at 7 p.m. ET on CNN.
Rashida Tlaib likes to tell a story about how when she found out she had been elected to Congress, her 13-year-old son whispered in her ear, “See mama, bullies don’t win.”
“He was talking about Donald Trump,” Tlaib said in a recent interview before she sworn in to Congress, describing in a matter-of-fact way what her oldest son Adam told her when she won her race to represent Michigan’s 13th congressional district.
Tlaib made history with her swearing in as the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress. She and incoming Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota are the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress.
Tlaib also immediately caused controversy. Hours after her swearing in, Tlaib defiantly told the audience at a progressive event, “we’re gonna go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherf****r,” a reference to the President.
The comments provoked an uproar and generated criticism from some fellow Democrats, but Tlaib didn’t back down.
“I will always speak truth to power. #unapologeticallyMe,” she tweeted Friday.
Tlaib has made headlines before. More than a year before she ran for Congress, she was also in the news when she was thrown out of an event in Michigan where Trump was speaking after interrupting the then-Republican presidential nominee to ask if he had ever read the Constitution. She later described it as “the most American thing I could ever do.”
During her campaign, Tlaib – a member of the Democratic Socialists of America – embraced progressive ideas like Medicare-for-all, a $15 dollar minimum wage and debt-free college as well as calls to abolish ICE.
With the new Congress underway, Tlaib has a high-profile platform on Capitol Hill to confront the President and try to shape the agenda of the new House Democratic majority. The question now is what will she do next?
Tlaib has broken barriers and glass ceilings before
The 42-year old has had “first” status before. She is the first of 14 children born to Palestinian immigrant parents and the first in her family to graduate from high school as well as college. She was also the first Muslim woman to serve in the Michigan state legislature.
“When I won it was just a moment of light in this time that was pretty dark for a lot of us,” Tlaib said, reflecting on her election to Congress.
The 2018 midterm elections led to an “incredible array of ‘firsts,’” she added, pointing to the election of other women who made history like incoming Democratic Reps. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, who will be the first Native American women elected to Congress.
Those victories created a sense of “hope,” Tlaib said, “reminiscent of the America we want to live in.”
Although she sounds optimistic about the possibility her political future holds, Tlaib also sounds anxious about the backlash that will come along with it.
“My mere existence, I realize, no matter my positions, even if I didn’t say anything about any issue after I won, just complete silence from me, I would still be a target,” she said, “just because I exist.”