“Based” Congressman Shri Thanedar represents Detroit in his own unique way

Congressman Shri Thanedar is desperate go viral.

He hangs out with the Democratic Socialists. He proudly advertises that one of his office numbers is “420”. And he loves the “Big D”.

He once referred to Detroit as the “Big D” in a since-deleted tweet in early April that included a photo of him smiling while standing in front of the city’s skyline, part of which is in his neighborhood.

“We in Detroit call Detroit the ‘Big D’. Today, people in Dallas call their city “Big D.” I didn’t know that,” Thanedar said in an interview with The Daily Beast.

Thanedar continued, if you go to the riverfront from the Canadian side and look at Detroit, it’s just “a beautiful shot.”

“So, I just stood there … asked someone to take a picture of me. And they took this picture and I just wanted to share this picture because I really loved the skyline from that angle,” he said. “And I basically just said, ‘I love Big D.'”

When people started noticing the innuendo, he took the post down. But it’s Thanedar’s love of pushing boundaries on social media that seems to be the point.

He’s no ordinary congressman. And for internet viewers, Thanedar is “based” in the internet jargon of our time – which simultaneously means, in true internet fashion, that Thanedar is both his authentic self and that people agree with him.

When thanedar is a bit to Online, that might be the point. He has already had several touches of internet fame, such as when Thanedar was seen in the background of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union, smiling, standing completely still and staring straight at the camera while Biden spoke to another member.

“He’s just always in his own world,” says an off-voice on TikTok. “He’s really quiet unless he knows you. But he’s funny as hell.”

When The Daily Beast called Thanedar about the moment this week and offered that we don’t know if Thanedar saw the video, his rep was quick to intervene on the call. “We all saw the video,” the spokesman said.

The congressman wasn’t shy either.

“It was just amazing to be able to talk to the president, to see him in action,” Thanedar said, noting that he shared some of Detroit’s struggles with Biden in a brief exchange. “And I was like a kid in a candy store, whatever you call it.”

Thanedar’s role in Congress is quickly evolving into someone who’s a kid in a candy store — or whatever you call it.

He told The Daily Beast that he was just “thrilled” to be there on State of the Union night. “I still see myself as that person who is fighting in India and has nothing, and I’m just amazed every time I go into the chamber of parliament,” he said. “It’s very surreal to me.”

In fact, Thanedar grew up in rural India, in what he describes as a lower-middle-class family with strong values. He came to America to do his PhD in chemistry. Lantern in American dream fashion, he built a successful chemical company and amassed a fair amount of fortune.

But his fortune has also sometimes undermined the progressive values ​​he stands for. Thanedar faced some setbacks after winning his Democratic primary in 2022, beating a crowded field. He told The Daily Beast he doesn’t see the two as mutually exclusive ideas.

“Most people think of me as my later years of financial prosperity and wealth, but I’ve never forgotten the 24, 30 years of my life that I spent in poverty and struggles. And that’s me at my core,” he told The Daily Beast.

The congressman, in behavior that in turn earned him a “based” fandom, dragged the line of that progressivism in March when he appeared at a protest by the Democratic Socialists of America about tax breaks in Detroit. In another photo from a picnic 2022, Thanedar wears a t-shirt that reads “Democratic Socialists of America”.

In the comments below the protest posts, viewers applauded Thanedar for “very well founded” and have “big rizz’ – a term used for someone of exceptional charm or attraction.

When asked specifically whether he considered himself a democratic socialist, Thanedar gave an ambiguous answer. “I’m not much into labels,” he said.

“Someone has to fight for them. And when I fight for them, when I fight against $800 million in tax breaks for the billionaires who want to build hotels, apartments and offices in downtown Detroit, it worries me.” “And that’s why and that’s why I went and stood in front of the town halls and protested.”

The District of Thanedar encompasses a sizable portion of the Detroit area and some surrounding suburbs. And in continued “based” energy, Thanedar’s district office is in suite 420: a point he emphasized very clearly on social media when April 20th rolled around.

The congressman, who is a supporter of marijuana legalization, says he didn’t choose the office. “That was just the draw of the bag,” he said. “Actually, Brenda Lawrence, my predecessor, held that position.”

He also said, as in other moments of his career so far, that he didn’t get the joke at first. But in a jubilant tone, Thanedar described it as a happy coincidence.

“I found out about this because I put my office address on the internet and said we had opened an office, which is our Suite 420 in downtown Detroit. Come on if you have any problems and all the trolls commented on that. And they draw my attention to Suite 420. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of that until then,” he said.

Congress was not Thanedar’s first step into public life. He served in the Michigan House of Representatives. And in 2018, he ran for the Democratic nomination for governor of Michigan, ultimately losing to the incumbent governor. Gretchen Whitmer.

(In a recent also deleted tweet, Thanedar praised Whitmer as “Big Gretch” before calling it “Gov. Whitmer.”)

Before entering politics, Thanedar actually wrote a book, The Blue Suitcase: Tragedy and Triumph in an Immigrant’s Life. The Daily Beast read the book in its entirety, and there are more than a few notable parts.

Roughly the first quarter of the book chronicles Thanedar’s early years in America — stepping off the plane from his small town in India on just $20, sleeping in his car, and sometimes struggling to adjust to the English language and American culture. He writes about being a waiter, worrying about his family back home, sending them money to make ends meet.

The book also chronicles, in sometimes stunning detail, Thanedar’s early love life, including his first three romances. One was his former student from his teaching assistant days, who in the past “wore short skirts and sometimes sat in a way that distracted me.” Another was a woman who “wasn’t what you would call pretty,” although he noted that he adored her.

And the third was a young woman named Merlyn who, according to Thanedar, was struggling with addiction. Thanedar once tried her lithium meds, which he said hit him on the back for 24 hours.

In another section of the book, bordering on the erotic, Thanedar discusses losing his virginity to the woman at the age of 24 – which he described as “not an unusual age for a young Hindu man”.

“She started to be very attracted to me,” Thanedar wrote. “In the beginning I was too naive to feel the change. But she soon made her wishes clear. Our rooms were next to each other and she started knocking on my door late at night to talk. In the privacy of my room, I usually just wrapped a piece of light fabric around my waist… When Merlyn started coming to me in nightgowns, I realized I’d better switch to pants – the fabric would be thicker and, well, less revealing.”

“She wasn’t modest in the slightest; she would tickle my tummy or tug at my sarong playfully, and her robes were almost see-through. Even I caught the message,” the current congressman wrote.

(In 2018, when Thanedar was running for governor, his book was adapted into a play.)

Thanedar found his first wife through an ad he placed Indian times, which he wrote, led to the “romantic equivalent of a job fair”. He chronicled his love for her — and his heartbreak when she died by suicide, an event that still informs his mental health political ambitions.

Later also via an advertisement in indian times, Thanedar found his second wife, who he is still with today.

Now, a year and a half before his first term, the congressman is biding his time, hoping to influence policy while Democrats strategize to regain their majority. And he plans to take his excited energy, his “base,” with him on the trip.

“It’s not just any other job for me,” he said. “I love my job. You know, I love representing people’s lives and making a difference.”

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