Open Letter to Senator Charles Schumer, Democratic Minority Leader:
Dear Senator Schumer,
Let me start by thanking you for your leadership in resisting the absolutely abhorrent policies that POTUS and the GOP are enacting that will destroy many of the progressive advancements we’ve made over the last 100+ years. I know it must be exhausting to face this barrage of ultra-conservative nominations and wave after wave of regressive racist, sexist, and xenophobic policy initiatives. Rest assured, your constituents and the Democratic Party at larger have your back and encourage you to continue to RESIST!
Having said that, I was horrified to see the two Democratic defections and one abstention in the Pruitt confirmation vote. Many are arguing that Heitkamp and Manchin are from states that are dependent on the fossil fuel industry and their constituents expect them to vote to preserve these self-interests. I reject that notion. It’s not clear to me what Donnelly’s motives were except perhaps fear of challenging POTUS in a state that helped elect him.
As Democrats we have a set of core values that clearly define what we stand for and preservation of the environment and sustainability of the planet are NON-NEGOTIABLES. These were formally cemented into our very foundation through the official 2016 Democratic Party platform. Perhaps these three Senators did not read the section entitled, “Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice”?
If Democratic Senators don’t hold to our basic progressive Party principles (and none are more basic than protecting the environment) who cares if they get re-elected? What use are they for advancing (more like preserving these days) any sort of progressive agenda? If they sign on to represent our Party, take a spot on our ticket, receive support from our members, they need to have the gumption to defend the basic principles of our Party platform. Sorry, but there are no substitutions on this menu – they don’t get to selectively pick and choose issues on a convenient ala carte basis.
Representing their constituents under our Party’s banner is not a damn personality contest. As you well know, there are real and dire consequences to these votes. With the current assault against the EPA, we are literally and figuratively fighting for our lives – in this case the quality of the very air we breathe, water we drink, and food we eat in the short-term and the ultimate sustainability of Planet Earth in the slightly longer term. As an environmental scientist I know that it’s far too late to kick these issues down the road and let future leaders deal with them.
Are these “so-called” Democrats going to vote to approve any of the eight current bills to abolish or gut the EPA being contemplated by the House? Rather than bury their heads in the sand and take the easy way out, why aren’t these Senators voting for the progressive values we embrace and going back to their constituents to explain why, convincing them our values are in the people’s best interest? Bernie and HRC did not shy away from this delicate issue, although Bernie was much more aggressive in making the necessary case that if we invest in new clean, renewable energy technologies now, we can ease the inevitable economic hardships associated with the need to abandon fossil fuels as quickly as possible.
Now more than ever, as Democrats and progressive-minded Americans, we must be vigilant and speak with one voice. In the words rooted in the struggles of the very same coal miners as they fought for the right to unionize…we need to shout loud and clear, and repeatedly demand to know,
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
“They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on boys?
Which side are you on?”