Me. I. We. Us.

“They want our state…. When folks come here and they want to come to our state, they need to come as citizens of our country and citizens of this commonwealth — not to change the people that we are.

Those are comments Republican Delegate Margaret Ransone made to the Washington Post this week. Her comments stunned, and then angered me. Enough to open up my computer and start writing.

A couple months ago, I heard former President Bill Clinton speak. He focused his remarks on how we interpret the constitution in modern days. What it means today to invoke “We the People.” 

When those words were written, “we the people” was really, “we, the white, male, land-owning people.” We started small. Limited. Exclusive. Through this nation’s history, who we include in “we” has changed. Expanded. Morphed. Contracted. Evolved.

Clinton’s point was we should evaluate presidents by who they define as “we the people.” Is their definition broad? Would they restrict who qualifies as “we the people”? Exclude people of color? Women? Immigrants? Who are “we”?

In just a few short words, Margaret Ransone told us who she thinks “we” are. Her “we” is limited. Small. Exclusive. “We” are already here. “We” are citizens. “We” are like me. In between her words, I see White. Conservative. Traditional. 

When we were naming the Virginia For All Of Us campaign, we cast around for the right language to define our vision, our values, who we are and who we are for. We landed on Virginia for All Of Us because it’s true. Our definition of “we the people” is broad. It’s expansive. It’s not limited by race, by sex, by gender identity, by sexual orientation, by citizenship status, by geography, by ideology. WE ARE THE PEOPLE. We’re for us. No. Exceptions. 

How we define “we the people” isn’t just a question to ask the people running for president. It’s a query to everyone who wants to lead us. Who are your people? 

Margaret Ransone’s people are small. Her “we” is really an “I”. When the people in her district go to vote this November, they can ask the question: am I part of Ransone’s “we”? 

All of us have that opportunity. Every member of Virginia’s General Assembly is on the ballot this November. They are asking to represent us which means we have a responsibility to ask: Who are your people? Who do you think “we” are? Does it include me? Does it include my community? Does it include my people?

Expanding the “we” in “we the people” isn’t just the job of the people we elect. It’s ours, too. It’s our responsibility to ask the questions, to vote for the candidates who will fight for all of us. Vote for candidates who will build a Virginia for All Of Us. Because we can’t afford to make any exceptions.

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