Dogged Democrat

A true outsider, she brings real-life experience into the House.

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Lynn Rivers (D-Mich.) is an anomaly. She’s a 39-year-old, liberal, working-class freshman Democrat from Ann Arbor, elected to Congress in the very year her party suffered its worst debacle in a generation. She’s not likely to vote for any budget that depends on cuts to Medicare or Social Security. She believes in universal health care; education funding is sacrosanct.

Maybe she can swim against the tide, because, unlike many of her colleagues, she has had to survive in the real world. Rivers and her husband married the day after their high school graduation. They had two kids before she turned 21. Rivers sold Tupperware, became a realtor, and worked her way through college and law school. Her husband, Joe, still works as a boiler operator for Ford back in Ypsilanti.

When Rivers was elected, the couple moved her furniture to Washington in the back of Joe’s pickup. In committee meetings, some of the coarser GOP members roll their eyes when she enters, toting her bulging canvas bag. “I don’t exactly look like a politician,” she says. She doesn’t get treated like one, either. The new Republican majority assigned her an office so small, some of her staff are on a separate floor.

Rivers stays close to the people in her district, which covers a broad spectrum — from lefty, affluent Ann Arbor, to suburbs full of Angry White Males, to down-at-the-heels Ypsilanti. In ’94, Rivers was liberal enough to win big in Ann Arbor, but also edged out the GOP in blue-collar towns.

Joe Fitzsimmons hopes to change that. The retired Republican millionaire wants her spot and plans to spend “as much as it takes,” painting her as a big-spending, criminal-coddling friend of Bill Clinton.

Maybe it’ll work and maybe it won’t. The Republicans don’t like to admit the real source of Rivers’ strength: She remains more of an outsider in Washington than do the radical GOP freshmen who rode into town railing against the very institution they fought so hard to join.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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