One of the arguments used in support of copper-nickel mining in Minnesota raises the heartbreaking issue of child labor in artisanal cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The argument goes something like this, “would you rather have children mining in third world countries or have these minerals extracted here in Minnesota where we will get it right.”
Cobalt is used in batteries to power everything from the laptop I am using to write this post to the growing number of electric cars on our roadways. It is also one of the minerals PolyMet is seeking to mine near the BWCA and within the Lake Superior watershed. Whether we mine cobalt or not, it will have little impact on the number of children working in foreign mines. What will reduce the forced labor of our children is the enforcement of international laws to protect them from exploitation. News stories outlining the plight of child miners are beginning to to have an impact. Apple is no longer buying the mineral from the largest supplier of artisanal cobalt mines. Other major corporations say they are working to ensure their supplies come from reputable sources free of child labor.
As it was with conflict diamonds, we must demand our products are manufactured with resources free of child labor and with the full backing of corporations willing to take a stand for human rights including clean water and air.
And that brings me back to the false argument in support of mining non-ferrous metals in Minnesota’s water rich environment. Sulfide mining has never been done anywhere in the world without compromising water and people’s health.
What we need are good paying, sustainable jobs. We need investment in green energy technology, the build out of our broadband network throughout our rural communities and affordable education and healthcare for all. These are the progressive pillars that must be constructed to rebuild our communities ravaged by boom and bust economies.
I agree that copper-nickel, cobalt and other non-ferrous metals are strategic national resources. But I also believe they must be left in the ground until we are certain that they can be extracted without harm to our environment and our health.
Water is life.
Water is our most strategic national resource and must be protected. That is why I am against proposed copper nickel sulfide mining near the BWCA and within the Lake Superior watershed. PolyMet’s proposal to mine in a water rich environment is not worth the risk.
Taconite mining built many of our communities in northern Minnesota; now sulfide mining threatens that legacy. All existing sulfide mines pollute surrounding waters, and PolyMet's proposed open-pit sulfide mine would be no different. It is all but guaranteed to permanently pollute water with carcinogens and neurotoxins, destroy thousands of acres of high biodiversity sites and wetlands in Superior National Forest, and place downstream communities at unacceptable risk from catastrophic tailings dam failure.
The foreign corporations behind the push for copper-sulfide mining are notorious for environmental and human rights violations worldwide. They continue to increase automation of their processes, and would not provide good jobs for our region.
Some would argue there are plenty of rules and regulations in place to insure copper nickel sulfide mining can be done safely in Minnesota. The best regulations in the world are only as good as those who have the power to enforce them. In the current political climate we have seen efforts to chip away at regulations designed to protect us. We have seen efforts to weaken the power of the EPA and other agencies.
The risks to the health, environment, and economy of Minnesota's iconic arrowhead region are simply too great to allow this new-to-Minnesota type of mining. We need to come together as Minnesotans to create jobs that will clean up toxic messes already made and recover metals already mined. In a world where there are multiple warnings of an impending fresh water shortage, our future is our fresh water.
If elected to serve as your Congresswoman, I will always stand with the people and make sure the people’s interests come first - and that includes clean water - our most precious resource.
Today I attended an important listening session sponsored by Senator Tina Smith on the 2018 Farm Bill.
Industrial hemp production, proposed copper nickel mining and family farming were among the issues brought to the table today at the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College.
It’s no secret our family farms are struggling for their survival. Here in Carlton County, dairy farmers must rely on multiple income sources to hold onto farms that have been worked by their families for generations.
Did you know the bill has what is called a Margin Protection Program (MPP) for Dairy Farmers? It, and other programs like Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) provide farm payments when crop prices or revenues decline for major commodity crops. These programs can make the difference between selling off the herd or continuing a valued family tradition. I support any program that keeps food production as close as possible to consumers.
--One participant today urged the Senator’s staff to work on expanding industrial hemp production. I couldn’t agree more. We should be growing hemp, a plant used in thousands of products, here in the district.
--Bob, another attendee voiced concern that legislation clearing the way for copper nickel mining within the Lake Superior watershed would find its way into the farm bill. He cautioned that the proposed PolyMet project would mean the destruction of a thousand acres of wetlands, and the degradation of thousands more. I have never wavered in my opposition to the current PolyMet proposal. I too do not believe it is worth the risk to our water, which is our most important national strategic reserve.
--The farm bill is a big one, with crucial funding for our rural communities. It includes grants and loans for rural housing, broadband expansion and rural business development. It also provides nutritional assistance for low-income families, seniors and people living with disabilities.
The Farm Bill is the perfect vehicle to drive our rural economy and support our way of life in rural Minnesota so that we not only survive, but thrive.
The U.S. House is expected to take up the farm bill next week.
The U.S. Senate hopes to pass a measure yet this year to address the multiple needs of today’s and tomorrow’s farmers, our rural communities and the importance of locally sourced food here in America.
President Trump is stepping up his attack on the working poor and the middle class--and this time he’s taking aim at our kids. His latest mean-spirited proposal is one in a long list of reasons we must build our own wall this fall; a big beautiful blue wall in the U.S. House and Senate to protect families in the 8th District.
Faced with ballooning budget deficits in the wake of the $1.3 trillion tax cut that largely benefited the rich in America, President Trump has once again set his sights on programs for the poor.
In announcing plans to cut $15 billion in previously approved spending – about 0.4 percent of total government spending – Trump has targeted the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Let’s be clear. Republicans in Congress have once again targeted a bipartisan program that will hurt middle-class families and low-income children so conservative special interests can feel better about giving wealthy individuals and corporations huge tax breaks that have blown up the deficit. They intend to use a law to rescind the money already authorized, a law that hasn’t been used in almost 20 years.
CHIP was created and authorized to provide healthcare to low-income children. Several months ago, congress voted to extend the program for six more years. Now, the Trump administration wants to cut $7 billion from the insurance fund and contingency fund. Additional cuts will come from the Affordable Care Act, railroad unemployment programs, and other programs already approved.
Many of our Republican lawmakers road into office pledging to cut the deficit. The truth is, the Trump White House and the GOP-led Congress have greatly expanded the budget deficit since Trump was elected, leaving a deficit of $665 billion last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The deficit this year is projected to widen to $804 billion and then hit $981 billion in 2019. In 2020, the government will record deficits that exceed $1 trillion.
Some Republicans have complained that Congress is spending money like “drunken sailors” and have called for fiscal restraint while others within their party have largely shown an indifference to spending, even going so far as to approve more money for the Mexican border wall.
But, when it comes to food assistance programs for low-income Americans (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - SNAP) that provide economic benefits to communities and make up the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, or health coverage for 8.9 million eligible children through CHIP, this administration and Congress are turning a blind eye.
I doubt our Republican opponent will challenge his party on these spending cuts even though he must recognize the importance of these programs to residents within our congressional district. When given an opportunity I’ll get him on the record so everyone knows what choices we face when it comes to selecting our next Member of Congress.
I love mission statements. Whether you are a business, a political campaign or a non-profit community organization they go right to the heart of why these things exist.
Here is the mission statement of Planned Parenthood:
Planned Parenthood works to educate and empower communities, provide quality health care, lead the reproductive rights movement, and advance global health. Planned Parenthood believes sexual and reproductive health rights are basic rights.
Simple and to the point and it is the reason I support this important organization.
And yet--there are those who would do everything in their power to disrupt this important service for women and families.
White House advisor Kellyanne Conway reportedly went to see President Trump this past Friday to once again recommend he follows through on his campaign promises to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The Trump administration is debating whether to cut off abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood from Title X family-planning funding, a move that would potentially force the organization to choose between losing the funding or ending abortion referrals.
According to some sources, Conway informed Trump about the "prayer and protest" rallies that ran over the weekend at more than 140 Planned Parenthood locations throughout the country, where activists called on Trump to stop taxpayer funding of abortion businesses. Conway also highlighted that Planned Parenthood spends millions on political races.
Some conservative leaders believe the President won’t make any decision until his daughter Ivanka weighs in on the policy.
The proposed changes to Title X, which provides grants for family planning programs and is separate from Medicaid, would resemble the Reagan-era rule that prohibited health care providers receiving Title X funding from providing abortions, or information and/or referrals for abortions. Providers also had to physically and financially separate a clinic's privately-funded abortion services from its Title X services.
Title X has a budget of $286 million and provides funding for around 4,000 clinics that serve about four million women. Planned Parenthood says it makes up about 500 of the clinics, and serves about 1.5 million of the patients. The bulk of Planned Parenthood's federal funding (75%) comes from Medicaid, and would not be affected by a proposed Title X change.
This new effort to restrict Planned Parenthood funding comes at the same time Cecile Richards steps down as president of the organization after more than a decade of service. Richards also has released a new book (Make Trouble) which chronicles her life of activism and the lessons she’s learned. Richards has vowed to direct her energies towards voter registration and the 2018 elections.
Conservatives and conservative media outlets have long targeted and attacked Planned Parenthood. So, it was somewhat surprising and amusing when a recent Fox News poll found that Planned Parenthood was more popular than the National Rifle Association. In fact, of the organizations mentioned in the poll, Planned Parenthood was the most respected political organization; more popular than the FBI, the #MeToo movement or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The results should come as no surprise given the trusted relationship that many Americans have with Planned Parenthood. For over a century, the organization has fought for the rights of people to control their bodies, to choose if and when to have families, and to decide their own futures. Each year, Planned Parenthood health centers provide millions of patients essential critical reproductive health care services, including birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, safe and legal abortion, and more.
Anti-abortion politicians in Congress and state legislatures might say they represent voters, but the show of public support for Planned Parenthood suggests otherwise. The recent show of support indicates that the attacks on reproductive health care are completely at odds with public sentiment.
It’s clear that Americans share the belief that all people should have access to quality, affordable health care regardless of income, insurance or immigration status. If politicians don’t share these values, they don’t deserve to represent us.
Cecile Richards is right when she says we must elect leaders who will fight with us for the world we want. It’s why millions marched, and why we’ll vote to ensure access to safe and legal abortion, affordable birth control and health care equity. If we move forward together, we will win.
Earlier this week, we witnessed the latest attacks on working class Americans by the Trump Administration as it attempts to make federal programs harder to access under the guise of “welfare reform.” Make no mistake, this effort to slash nearly every program designed to help low-income families get by is deliberate.
Without much fanfare, the President signed yet another executive order that redefines everything from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to Medicaid to Unemployment Insurance to child care as “welfare” as noted in the language of the order: “The terms “welfare” and “public assistance” include any program that provides means-tested assistance, or other assistance that provides benefits to people, households, or families that have low incomes (i.e., those making less than twice the Federal poverty level), the unemployed, or those out of the labor force.”
This order tears at the very fabric of what’s left of our safety net in America. For instance, SNAP provides an average of $1.40 per person per meal; most families exhaust the benefit by the third week of each month. Housing assistance reaches 1 in 5 eligible families. Those without aid spend up to 80 percent of their income for rent and utilities. Fewer than 1 in 4 poor families with children get help through Assistance for Needy Families. In some states, children are more likely to be placed in foster care rather than be allowed to stay in their homes that receive as little as $6 a day in benefits.
In his executive order, the President seeks to impose harsh work requirements despite decades of research that show work requirements do not help anyone work. Yet, this effort is at the heart of the conservative strategy that reinforces many of the myths about poverty in America – remember “welfare queen” and “they just don’t want to work” claims?
As I wrote recently, it’s easy to pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you have bootstraps. In reality, millions of Americans are working two and three jobs to make ends meet. We know that half of all Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Recent studies found that nearly half of all Americans have less than $400 in the bank, and that 70 percent of us will turn to some form of means-tested assistance – like SNAP or Medicaid – in our lives.
We can do something about this. Wage reform would be a start. I find it shocking that there isn’t a single state in the country in which a minimum wage worker ( $7.25 ) can afford a one-bedroom apartment at market rate. And yet, Republicans in Congress just gave millionaires and billionaires a massive tax cut. If they really wanted to improve people’s lives, they might have recognized that a wage of $12 would have saved $53 billion in SNAP alone over the next decade. Sadly, the President didn’t consider a wage increase in his order to “promote opportunity and economic mobility.”
What’s behind this divide and conquer attitude? We know Americans don’t want Medicaid cut. There’s overwhelming opposition to cuts to SNAP, housing, Social Security disability payments, home heating assistance and many more programs that sustain families.
Regardless of political party, Americans want programs that will help families realize what we once recognized as the American Dream. Instead, we’re confronted with an administration that seems intent on betraying the “forgotten men and women” who depend on the very programs now under attack.
I promise to keep talking about these issues and intend to share the stories I hear during my campaign with others so they know they’re not alone in this fight to preserve and protect programs so vital to the entire working and middle class in our country.
Early on in my campaign I said – quite emphatically – that if voters were looking for the candidate who had raised the most amount of money from special interests they didn’t need to look in my direction. I’ve made it quite clear – this is a people’s campaign, not one that will be driven by powerful lobbyist’s dollars.
Unlike Mike Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). He told banking executives and lobbyists on Tuesday that trying to sway legislators with campaign contributions was one of the “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy.” He wasn’t done. Mulvaney went further, telling banking executives that, as a congressman, he would meet only with lobbyists if they had contributed to his campaign.
Since being appointed to CFPB, Mulvaney has frozen all new investigations and slowed down existing inquiries by requiring employees to produce detailed justifications. He also sharply restricted the bureau’s access to bank data, arguing that its investigations created online security risks. And he has scaled back efforts to go after payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies accused of preying on the vulnerable. Republicans are now attempting to strip the independence of the agency, putting it squarely in control of the Congress and Republican lawmakers who complain it is too aggressive in trying to punish financial firms.
This is not the first time I’ve warned about the corruption money brings to our politics – it won’t be the last. It’s just that in this administration, the influence of campaign dollars is so openly front and center whether through this example or the EPA or HUD or Education or almost every single layer of leadership and department.
It’s become so perverse that Republican candidates across the country feel safe mimicking the administration’s behavior, and it’s getting uglier by the day and week. In multiple GOP races across the country, candidates are employing phrases such as “drain the swamp,” “build the wall,” “rigged system” and even “fake news.”
The question all this raises is whether there is a large swath of GOP voters who are fully prepared to march behind Mr. Trump. Perhaps here in our 8th district? I know there will be opportunities in the weeks and months ahead to debate the issues with my fellow candidates within the DFL, and, hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to debate Mr. Sandman and Mr. Stauber.
I look forward to those opportunities. If and when they occur, I hope you’ll listen to what we say. Just as importantly, I hope you’ll pay attention to the money that comes into our campaigns. Not always as a sign of strength. Rather, as a sign of what might come of it. So that when we speak of “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy” we’re not talking about government only for the highest bidder, but leadership for all Americans regardless of their wealth and ability to finance a political campaign.
Are you as stunned by that headline as I am? Wondering whether that’s true or just another #FakeNews claim from our President?
The Center for Responsive Politics reports that 20 individual donors gave more than $500 million combined to political organizations in 2016. But, as they say on TV game shows: Wait, there’s more. The 20 largest organizational donors also gave a total of more than $500 million, and more than $1 billion came from the top 40 donors. Sadly, because of “dark money” we may never have an accurate counting of who gave and just how much to which candidate.
Which leads many people to ask: Can anyone successfully run a campaign supported by people donating small amounts of money when we allow big-money donors unregulated power in our electoral process?
Like you, I’ve long been concerned about the influence of money in our politics. I’ve made it one of my major campaign themes. Believe me, as a candidate for office, I’m acutely aware of what’s expected of me by those who question my viability based on my campaign financial statements.
As time allows, I try to read as much as I can about campaign finance reform. Sometimes, the volume of stories I put aside for reading becomes overwhelming, filling my email folder with links to stories I hope to read and digest. For example, here’s one I added just this week which discloses some of those big money donors: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/04/19/who-will-protect-elections-us-oligarchs
While many people focus on money, there’s another assault on our electoral process we can’t ignore. Multiple efforts are underway to undermine, reshape and rig voting in America. Recent stories from neighboring Wisconsin about voter suppression in 2016 and Governor Walker’s refusal to call special elections should alarm everyone. Here’s a story that examined how Wisconsin’s voter ID laws suppressed the vote: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/voter-suppression-wisconsin-election-2016/
We remember that President Trump repeatedly claimed that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, going so far as to create a commission to investigate. Even though the commission disbanded, the Trump administration refused to let the matter die. Now, it appears they’ll be successful in changing the 2020 census in ways that will undercount people of color.
This campaign by Republicans is certainly not new. They’ve been at it for years:
If you have time, I hope you’ll read some of these articles and, please, feel free to share others here that you think would be of benefit for those who follow this page.
Recent news headlines announced there were 167 overdose deaths in Minnesota’s St. Louis County between 2011 and 2016. In human terms that equates to 167 families torn apart and left grieving the loss of a loved one. Beyond the pain and suffering, this epidemic is stretching our medical and social service systems beyond the limit. Multiply these tragic deaths by the 87 counties in the state....we can begin to understand the size and scope of this crisis touching the lives of our families and friends.
Our nation faces one of our greatest battles, the opioid epidemic. Opioid is just another name for synthetic heroin. Opioids are prescribed legally, heroin is not; but make no mistake, they are the same. Since 1999, the death toll from opioid overdoses has increased by a multiple of 5. HHS latest data shows that in 2016, over 42,249 Americans died from overdoses, of which 40 percent were from prescription opioids. Overdoses now exceed the number of deaths from car accidents, and has actually lowered our nation’s life expectancy rate.
How did this happen?
In the 1990’s, pharmaceutical companies assured the medical community that opioids would not cause their patients to be addicted to opioid pain relievers. The medical community did not question this assertion. Consequently, healthcare providers began to prescribe them at great rates. The United States makes up less than 5 percent of the world’s population and yet consumes over 90 percent of the opioids prescribed in the world. 70 percent of all Heroin users report using prescription opioids at the start of their addiction. The drugs were either prescribed by medical providers or stolen from medicine cabinets.
The terrible cost of this epidemic is in the tragic death tolls of our children. In addition to the death toll, this epidemic is estimated to cost our nation over 500 billion a year in treatment, inpatients hospital, medical examiner, criminal and judicial costs.
The people of the 8th Congressional District have not escaped this deadly epidemic. St. Louis County leads the State of Minnesota in opioid overdoses per capita. Our counties and cities have made substantial increases in spending to supply EMS responders with Naloxone also called Narcan to reverse the opioid overdoses, thus saving many lives. Our law enforcement has increased officer staffing in order to stop heroin dealers whom triple their profits by selling their “product” here in the Northland. Fentanyl, a deadly drug, imported from China, that is 50 times more deadly than heroin, is being added to heroin and other drugs, increasing the death toll.
How do we fight this Opioid Epidemic?
First, we must increase availability of treatment programming to addicts. Currently, it can take 5 to 7 weeks to get placed in a treatment program. That is unacceptable and reckless. Asking a heroin addict to stay clean for 5 to 7 weeks is almost impossible. Anyone who has tried to quit smoking knows how tough it was. Heroin withdrawal without medical supervision can cause serious side effects and death. Opioid addicts who have abstained from using for a period of time are more likely to overdose and possibly die when they resume using. We must have treatment available when the addict agrees to seek help. Help may come from a 12 step based treatment or medically assisted treatment i.e., the use of methadone or Suboxone, or a combination of both.
We need to support Harm Reduction programs.
These programs provide clean syringes and other items used to shoot up heroin. These programs reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C, and provide testing for such diseases along with counseling. We should also consider safe injection sites where addicts can safely inject their drugs and limit the exposure of discarded needles in our public spaces. These safe injection sites although controversial would also provide outreach and counseling to promote and provide access to treatment. Families and addicts must be supplied with the overdose reversal drug Naloxone (Narcan). This drug must be readily available to communities and our First Responders. We need to reduce the stigma associated with this deadly addiction. Families and individuals must feel safe and encouraged to ask for help and support.
Two other areas that must be part of this solution are Support and Education.
It is one thing to provide treatment to the addict, but our drug courts have proven that long term support of the addict is what creates long term sobriety. We must develop best practice programs for long term support; and as a community, provide programs and job opportunities that encourage and reward success.
And let’s not forget the children and families of those addicted. St. Louis County again leads the State of Minnesota in children placed in foster care programs per capita. This is a huge financial burden on our Counties and School Districts. If elected, I will work to obtain Federal funds to assist our local agencies who work with the victims of addicted family members.
Educational programs must be funded to provide education in our schools and public announcements created to keep our prescriptions out of the reach of drug seekers. Mandate that prescribers and pharmacies join a nationwide reporting and drug tracking system, to reduce drug seekers trying to use multiple doctors and pharmacies to obtain opioids. Prescribers must also be educated in lowering the amount of pain medicines prescribed to patients. I have heard too many parents tell me that their children came home with 40 Oxycodone pills after having their wisdom teeth removed. We must change our practices. Prescribers who continue to provide large amounts of opioids need to be investigated by law enforcement and prosecuted.
The big pharmaceutical companies - Big Pharma - are responsible for creating this epidemic. I will hold them responsible. I will call out those who accept campaign contributions from Big Pharma, as well as those who refuse to hold them accountable.
When I am elected, I will work to increase federal funding for residential treatment programs, harm reduction programs and support and educational programs. I will do whatever it takes to assist and increase financial support of our children in foster care and their families who also suffer from this deadly epidemic. Anyone who wants and needs help should be able to get help. This is a national tragedy. We cannot lose any more children to this deadly epidemic.
When I was talking with people at the DFL forum at Fond du Lac Community College about Enbridge Energy and the actions of our Environmental Protection Agency and its leader, Scott Pruitt, I got to thinking about President Trump’s insistence he was going to “Drain the Swamp” when he got to Washington.
Dissatisfaction with Government/Poor Leadership is at an all-time high and the issue that matters most to American voters, according to a new Gallup organization survey. Our leaders in Washington give us fresh examples of ineffective leadership on our behalf each and every day; Scott Pruitt is just the latest example. As of this writing, his days on the President’s Cabinet may soon be over – and, rightfully so. His abuses in office are scandalous even for the Trump administration.
How did we get here – and is there a way out? Before I answer that, let’s first look at what some Members of Congress who are leaving office have had to say upon announcing their retirement.
“I think what matters in Congress is finding a group and then validating or ratifying what they already believe. I like jobs where facts matter, I like jobs where fairness matters. I don’t see that in our current modern political environment.” – Rep. Trey Gowdy, (R) SC
“The political center is collapsing. What I've found is that we have become enormously polarized here in Congress, and that polarization has led to a paralysis.” – Rep. Charlie Dent, (R) PA
“There just is no market for being one to compromise. And until voters will value that again, we're going to have the problems that we do today. There's just no reward for governing right now. – Sen. Jeff Flake (R) AZ
Those are Republicans; the party that holds the White House and both branches of Congress. Already, 38 House Republicans have announced they are retiring. Republican leadership has announced it has a problem. While midterm elections are historically tough for the party of the President in power, it's too early to tell how things will unfold this year. But seats are opening up all over – just as one has here in our 8th District.
In his retirement announcement, Rep. Rick Nolan said, “Despite the fact that our nation is being challenged by some rather troubling politics, let’s remember that our founders foresaw difficult times and gave us the tools to see them through. Our constitution is strong, our people are resilient, and the elections of 2018, 2020 and beyond provide continuing opportunities for progress, reform and necessary change.”
All of us – Democrat, Republican, Trump supporter, Trump critic – should be able to agree that our democracy is in need of repair. Whatever side you were on in the 2016 election, the campaign brought our divisions front and center. This would have been the case no matter who won.
A few months ago, the Washington Post asked dozens of conservative and liberal writers to look beyond the day-to-day party struggles and propose one idea that could help fix our American democracy. https://wapo.st/2GLkJBG Several of their suggestions are worthy of consideration:
I was criticized recently for suggesting that we needed more compromise in Washington – not less. When I suggested our elected representatives needed to spend more time talking to one another and less time on the phone begging for money, some called that naïve. Well, let me just say something you might have heard during last year’s campaign: “What have we got to lose?”
Like it or not, Donald Trump captured the imagination of enough American voters to win, and the Democratic Party and progressives have become anxious or depressed. Some of us have engaged in various form of activism, but we must do more.
Key to our future in this 8th District is to recognize that while we once recorded large victories throughout the region, we now have counties that vote 70% or more Republican. We can turn the tide by presenting an alternative to Donald Trump, by addressing the life experiences, the sense of losing ground among those who began to feel like a stranger in their own land. Trump voters saw Democrats as beholden to corporate and special interests – just like the Republicans.
We can’t turn things around unless we get out the vote. Those of us who live in liberal areas need to reach out to those who reside in regions or belong to groups very different from our own. We might disagree, but it is important we get to know them and important for them to know we’re as uncomfortable being labeled as they are. A Pew Research study last year found that nearly half of Hillary Clinton supporters had no close friends who were Trump supporters.
I know there are liberal pundits who argue we need to hold on to our anger. I don’t think we need to worry about that. I also know that I’m not about to confuse any potential alliance with the other side as surrender, nor will I consider empathy for their plight as weakness.
Six million voters who chose President Obama in 2012 switched to Donald Trump in 2016. We need to be talking to them. We do agree on quite a few issues: getting money out of politics, rebuilding our infrastructure, reducing our prison populations, expanding renewable energy, the need for a better healthcare system, and several more crossover topics.
Some see hope in the more than 70 grassroots groups that have risen across the country, attracting several million supporters. Groups such as Living Room Conversations, Bridge Alliance, Common Good, Better Angels, American Public Square and AllSides.
We need to create new ways to bridge our differences. Some might say I’m naïve and dreaming, but when will we begin to address the issues and questions that bitterly divide us if not now? Will we continue to drift away from democracy? Will the American Dream be an unfulfilled dream?
Crossing the partisan divide and political aisle will not resolve the crisis we face in America – not right away. But it could help us to begin to slowly rebuild our country, to really begin draining the swamp so that no American need ever feel like they’re a stranger or that no one is listening to them.
Robert Kennedy often talked about the role of government in bringing people together, including these words: “We can perhaps remember -- even if only for a time -- that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek -- as we do -- nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.