Dogged Democrat

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

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


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.

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

MOTHER JONES NEEDS YOUR HELP

We have about a $200,000 funding gap and less than a week to go in our hugely important First $500,000 fundraising campaign. We urgently need your help, and a lot of help, this week so we can pay for the one-of-a-kind journalism you get from us.

Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” where we lay out this wild moment and how we can keep charging hard for you. And please help if you can: $5, $50, or $500—every gift from every person truly matters right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate