Home Climate change Three Newly-Elected Virginia Congresswomen Join “New Democrat Coalition” (Note: What About Climate...

Three Newly-Elected Virginia Congresswomen Join “New Democrat Coalition” (Note: What About Climate Change???)

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As Lowell discussed, the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) just announced 30 new members from newly-elected members of Congress.  This includes all three of Virginia’s new members: Rep-Elect Elaine Luria (VA-02), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), and Rep-Elect Jennifer Wexton (VA-10).  Don McEachin, Don Beyer, and Gerry Connolly (VA ) were already members. Thus, of the Virginia delegation in the House, only Representative Bobby Scott is not an NDC member.  While Lowell’s discussion is well worth the read and attention, some additional thoughts as to the NDC (and Virginia House member membership in it).

The NDC self-describes itself in this way:

The New Democrat Coalition is made up of 68 forward-thinking Democrats who are committed to pro-economic growth, pro-innovation, and fiscally responsible policies. New Democrats are a solutions oriented coalition seeking to bridge the gap between left and right by challenging outmoded partisan approaches to governing. New Democrats believe the challenges ahead are too great for Members of Congress to refuse to cooperate purely out of partisanship.

Others might describe it as ‘an effort to be responsible adults in the face of (criminal) GOP irresponsibility and juvenile approaches to governance.’  And, well, there is a lot of that to face and redress — and not just from the #CultOfTrump era.

While, to be honest, there is much appeal as to the need for “responsible policies” from Congress, some questions about the NDC (for Virginia’s House members and others) to consider:

  • Climate Change is arguably the most serious challenge and most significant opportunity before the nation. (And, if not the most, at least one of the most without question.) Look at the NDC issues page. 1,162 words under 13 different issues. (Essentially) Absent from the discussion: climate change, environmental, energy, ….
    • While some might be able to argue that these issues are, implicitly, embedded within discussed issues (‘regulatory reform’ arguing for thoughtful approaches to regulation, ‘innovation’, …), these are all (intertwined) spaces and issues that shouldn’t be relegated to second-, third-tier consideration. Reading the NDC ‘platform’ certainly suggests that this is the case.
    • nothing that hints that the NDC is even in the zone of being able to engage with progressive members striving to put a Green New Deal on the agenda.
    • no suggestion or seeming recognition that aggressive movement on climate change and toward a clean energy future will provide the exact sort of returns that the NDC members seek to have in other arenas.
  • It’s Environment AND Economy that has to be core to policy making. The NDC emphasizes that it is “pro-economic growth” and fails to discuss environmental issues, in any manner. Implicitly, this suggests that the NDC is onboard with the false (outdated) narrative that we face a choice between the economy and the environment rather than recognizing that, for example, to put resources to #ActOnClimate is an investment that will provide significant returns (a significant ROI) in the near, mid, and long-term.
  • The core Democratic Party principle, the thing holding it together, is a belief that government has a role in solving problems, can create benefits for citizenry (even if with great disagreement as to how much). The GOP, on the other hand, is united in describing government as the enemy (and seeing it as a place to loot for benefits and a tool to harm adversaries).  With that in mind, one of the core elements of the NDC is hard to read. “Refuse to cooperate purely out of partisanship” promulgates a right-wing sound machine effort to ‘blame both sides’ for the problems of governance rather than recognizing a reality that the real problems have been generated by the Republican Party.
    • From the House GOP’s use of a child molester Speaker’s “Rule” of ‘majority of the majority’ (that, in control of the House, under the Hastert Rule, nothing would be sent to the floor for a vote unless a majority of GOP Representatives supported it even it if would easily pass with 49% of GOP and 100% of Democratic Party members) to Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s shredding of Senate norms over the past decade, the damage to the system has been driven by GOP action, by the Republican Party. And, Democratic legislators and presidents have uniformly made serious efforts (bending over backwards) to seek to get Republicans onboard for legislative action. Here are two major examples:
      • The ACES (American Clean Energy & Security) Act that passed the House of Representatives had many compromises to GOP desires even as the GOP voted against it.
      • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was, in essence, written at the (far)right-wing Heritage Institute twenty years earlier and built on Republican Senator-Elect Mitt Romney’s health insurance program that he created while Governor
    • The question to ask: where are the Democratic Party cohorts that have refused, no matter what, to work for and vote for legislation that moves the nation forward even if the idea originated with a Republican member or, even, in Trump White House?  Looking at voting patterns certainly suggests those cohorts simply don’t exist.

Six of Virginia’s seven House members, come January, are members of the NDC.  In many ways, this can be seen — across the board — as reflective of a concept of seeking effective, fiscally responsible, (often too) business-friendly governance that is promoted as (the best of) The Virginia Way.  E.g., in line with what might be desired and expected across Virginia’s electorate.

Perhaps these Virginia House members could reflect, however, on the clear short-comings in the NDC’s platform and issues and leverage the reality that they are nearly 10 percent of the total membership to help the NDC move to a mission statement and issues focus on energy, environmental issues, and climate change that better reflect the challenges and opportunities before (the) U.S.