The following is a guest contribution and reflects the author’s views alone. For information on how to submit an article to the Opinion Section, click here.
On Dec. 19, more than a month after George Santos was elected to represent New York’s Third Congressional district, the New York Times revealed that Rep.-Elect Santos had fabricated large swathes of his résumé, including where he went to school, where he worked, and even where he lived.
I was outraged.
I was already in disbelief when Santos won. I had worked on a congressional campaign in the same district in the lead-up to the Aug. 23 primary, and everyone there knew he was extremely suspicious as early as April. I couldn’t wrap my head around just how thoroughly he had crafted his persona to trick the more than 145,000 Democrats and Republicans that voted for him.
I wasn’t sure how yet, but I knew that I had to act, even as I balanced the workload and life of a Princeton student. I share my experiences now to show my fellow Princetonians that although activism can be hard, the difficulty should never dissuade you from fighting for a cause you care about. I decided that I had the opportunity to contribute to real change for the 750,000 people of NY-03, and that I was ready to join the fray.
I hopped on a train back to New York the next day (also the day before my ECO 100 final — sorry, Professor Noonan!) to speak out against the Congressman-Elect at a press conference organized by Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan outside of Santos’ alleged Queens home. At the event, Lafazan quipped, “If you've seen ‘Inventing Anna,’ this is ‘Inventing George Santos.’” This comment was referencing the Netflix miniseries where a prolific liar fakes her way into New York City's elite.
Essentially, that’s exactly what Santos did. He portrayed himself as a successful businessman to trick the people of NY-03 into voting for him. This is bigger than just any regular politician lying. Santos fundamentally misrepresented who he was — not just an aspect of his person, but his whole identity. Now voters feel that the man representing them in Congress isn't the same person that they voted for.
There’s no definitive list of every George Santos lie (the best I can find are here, here, and here). By the time this is published, there might be a dozen more. On top of his bald-faced lies, his campaign and personal finances are allegedly so fraudulent that he’s being investigated by the Nassau County District Attorney, the New York Attorney General, the Federal Election Commission, the Justice Department, the FBI, and even law enforcement authorities in Brazil. Santos has shown bigoted behavior in the past as well, suggesting that Black people are more prone to criminality, lying about being Jewish and descending from Holocaust survivors, and even joking about killing Jewish and Black people.
Like many people in the district, my first thought was, “What can I do to get this fraud out of office?” Shortly after I spoke at that first press conference, I was reached out to by Jody Kass Finkel, a political maven with lobbying experience, to join a bipartisan group of angry Long Islanders she called Concerned Citizens of NY-03 (CCNY03). The group has one goal: get Santos out of office, whether through resignation or expulsion, as quickly as possible.
When I joined, CCNY03 was mainly composed of moms and mid-career professionals. I was the only college student, which naturally meant that I was volunteered to handle social media for the group, despite never having managed an online presence before. Since taking on the responsibility, I’ve felt pressure to dedicate time daily to browse Twitter for Santos-related content to tweet and retweet, and I’ve often found it difficult to limit my activity when assignments start piling up.
The group started small, but we quickly positioned ourselves as the main interest group organized in opposition to Congressman Santos. We were fortunate enough to have a connection to Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15), an avid Santos critic, to help present his “S.A.N.T.O.S. Act” at a press conference in Great Neck, a town in Santos’ district. The bill would require all candidates in Congressional elections to disclose additional information about their educational background, military service, and employment history in order to prevent another grifter like Santos from slipping past FEC oversight. We gained national coverage, and we began to plan how to build on this success.
We immediately organized a “lobbying” trip of sorts down to Washington D.C. On Feb. 7, about 50 NY-03 residents piled on a bus to show George Santos what his constituents really thought about him. Likewise, we coordinated with Rep. Torres and Rep. Goldman’s offices and Courage for America to hold a press conference just outside the steps of the House of Representatives and then deliver our petition calling for expulsion to Rep. Santos and Speaker McCarthy’s offices, among others. I was able to speak at that press conference, highlighting how young people feel about Santos’ flagrant disregard for the truth. I had initially considered not going; I would be missing class and would start falling behind on my homework. Nevertheless, I knew that this was an important opportunity to advance our cause.
When we approached Santos’ office, our group's leaders asked to meet with him to hand him our petition. We were told by a staffer that he was inside but would not come out to see us. Santos later referred to us as a “mob” when we protested outside his district office in Douglaston, N.Y. Despite repeated requests, Santos has refused to meet with us in both his D.C. and Douglaston offices. The day after our D.C. demonstration, Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA-42) introduced a resolution to expel Rep. Santos from Congress. I’d like to think that we influenced that decision by showing up on Capitol Hill and demonstrating how driven Santos’ constituents are to get him out.
The bottom line is: when a cause is important, you make time for it, even when other important events are going on in your life. I’m not going to sugarcoat it — there are going to be times when you feel like giving up and moving on. I understand that inside Princeton’s work culture, sometimes you feel so swamped that you have to take a step back. I still have readings to catch up on due to the D.C. trip. We do not only exist in the Princeton bubble — we are members of this country with its many states and districts, as well as countless other communities. Our voices matter. And when you’re on the front lines fighting to hold an impostor occupying your Congressional seat accountable, for the integrity of our nation’s institutions, and for common decency, you choose to stay in the fight, every time.
Aidan Davis is a first-year from Plainview, N.Y. He is a member of the steering committee for Concerned Citizens of NY-03, and an advocate for youth and veterans causes on Long Island. To follow Concerned Citizens as we fight to get Santos out, please follow our Twitter (@CCNY03) and Instagram (concernedcitizensofny03).