At 26, Noah Baron’s career is just getting off the ground. The Washington attorney and ardent Bernie Sanders supporter has already received undergraduate and law degrees from Columbia University and Georgetown University, respectively. The New Jersey native is serving a one-year fellowship in the office of the District of Columbia’s attorney general. He writes on the side for the Huffington Post and Washington Blade.
How did you get interested in politics?
My first political memory was in fifth grade, during the 2000 election, and staying up all night on election night to see the outcome. Eventually I fell asleep on the couch and my parents made me go to sleep up in my bedroom. And [the election] was decided several weeks later. That was nuts.
What made you decide to be a lawyer?
When I was a freshman in high school I became more of an activist. I found out about sweatshop labor and became very invested in that and activism to stop it. And so I’d make my friends go with me to the local shopping mall and we’d protest sweatshop labor as these ninth-graders.
And this is actually how I decided to be a lawyer. Every week we’d go and we’d get kicked out by management, and eventually ninth-grade me was thinking, “What about free speech?” So I did some Googling. I found this New Jersey state Supreme Court decision which found that the state constitution extended the right of free speech to shopping malls. So I printed out the decision, and next time we went we brought it with us. We showed it to the mall manager when he tried to kick us out. He had to let us stay.
What do you do at the district attorney’s office?
I’m working with the office of the solicitor general on appellate-level cases ranging from the appeals of administrative hearings to constitutional law questions. I have my own cases and I also do research assignments for other attorneys.
On the one hand, my work is interesting because it’s no specific practice area, so you get a little taste of everything. On the other hand, you feel like you’re not knowledgeable about the subject at hand because you’re not focused on one area, so you’re always having to teach yourself.
What types of activities were you involved with in college?
I became president of the Reform Jewish group on campus. I became involved with opposing referenda to bring ROTC back to campus. I got involved with a group called Students for New American Politics PAC, which is an entirely college-run political action committee designed to promote progressive candidates for political office. And I helped out with the Green Party candidacy for mayor of New York. That was fun.
How has Judaism played a role in your life?
I went to a Quaker high school, and I was somewhat involved with the Jewish organization on campus, but we were also required as students to attend meetings for worship where we’d sit in contemplation for an hour. That really reinforced my Judaism, because I was able to reflect on Jewish values. I think since college, my Judaism has become the inspiration behind my political beliefs in terms of tzedek tzedek tirdof — “justice, justice shall you pursue,” The idea that all people are created in the image of the divine. All these things really dovetail into my passion for progressive politics.
Do you have a political role model?
When Sen. [Bernie] Sanders was elected to the Senate in 2006, I first found out who he was. And since that time I’ve been hoping and praying that he would run for president. Because he is so many things that I admire. He’s Jewish. He’s from the New York area. He’s been principled throughout his entire career. He’s on the left much more than most Democrats. And he has this style of not really caring what the rules are and just speaking his mind, but in a way that’s different from [Donald] Trump and in a way that’s principled and progressive and meaningful.
Regardless of the outcome of the nomination process, has the Sanders campaign had an impact?
I think that the Sanders campaign is the best thing to happen to the American left in literally decades. I think that there’s a really interesting parallel with the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign. Goldwater ultimately lost — and here Sanders is losing — but that campaign laid the foundation for the very beginning of conservatism to be taken seriously as a force in American politics. What we see today is that normal conservative views were not taken seriously or considered things that intelligent people would seriously entertain, and I hope that the Bernie Sanders campaign will have a similar effect for Democratic socialism and for left political ideas.