WASHINGTON — Congressman Andy Levin has represented the 9th district of Michigan in the US House of Representatives since 2019. The son of previous 9th district Representative, Sander Levin, and nephew of longtime US Senator from Michigan, Carl Levin, he comes from a family with a long history in Michigan and national politics. All Democrats, the Levins have had a long and positive relationship with Michigan’s and Metro Detroit’s large Armenian community. Therefore, when Levin announced that he was conducting a virtual coffee hour to discuss issues with community members and open the floor to questions, the move was both welcome and anticipated.
It was especially crucial at this time, given the recent war in Artsakh, the incoming Biden presidency, and the prospect of the official US recognition of the Armenian Genocide. With these issues in the forefront, as well as a desire to speak to the Armenian community about the Covid pandemic, Levin held the “coffee hour” discussion with Armenian community members over Zoom on Saturday, April 17.
First of all, Levin shared that he found the situation in Artsakh this past year “troubling,” and stated that he had personally focused on it in a “pretty bipartisan way”. (Based on this discussion , bipartisanism without abandoning his progressive values seems to be a hallmark of Levin’s pragmatic political approach.) A member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Levin has a large role in foreign policy issues discussed in Congress. He was one of the original co-sponsors of H.Res. 1165, “Condemning Azerbaijan’s military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh and denouncing Turkish interference in the conflict,” which was introduced by Representative Jackie Speier of California. Levin also stated that he has urged President Biden to support better relations with Armenia as well as to support Artsakh. Levin shared with community members the fact that Turkey and Azerbaijan are lobbying in a major way in Washington, and spreading false information.
Question and Answer Session
As the floor was opened to questions, Levin was asked “what’s your driving force behind your support of the Armenian community?” Though he seemed to find the question unexpected, his answer came quite naturally. “The Armenian community is not an abstraction to me,” Levin stated, and shared that growing up in Metro Detroit and being part of the Levin family in politics, there was always a relationship with the Armenian community. He recalled yearly attendance at the St. John’s food festival/bazaar in Southfield, as well as other Armenian affairs and interactions/relationships with the Armenian community.
Levin further shared his personal experiences. “Growing up Jewish in [the Detroit suburbs]…there was a ton of anti-Semitism,” even to the extent of other children asking why if he was a Jew he “didn’t have horns.” These early experiences led Levin to a place where he is “always for the underdog, and religious minorities around the world.” He mentioned that “National borders grow up because of random things and historical accident. Artsakh is an Armenian place but surrounded by Azerbaijan, so [the issue is] how do you protect people?”