Marin Voice: Staggered progress toward a more perfect union
Marin Indepedent Journal
December 21, 2016
As the presidential election results rolled in, many Californians were shocked — including children, who felt fear that someone so mean and bigoted could become our president; and parents, who struggled to explain this new reality to their children.
Since then, with each worrisome personnel decision, Twitter firestorm or conflict of interest revelation, thousands of constituents have contacted me to express their deep concerns about the direction our country might be taking. Never has an election produced such fundamental, widespread anxiety. I understand and share these feelings.
But with the inauguration of Donald Trump just weeks away, we don’t have time to waste in shock, denial or feeling sorry for ourselves. We must get moving to protect our core values and the progress we’ve secured under President Barack Obama, and look for areas where we can get things done in a new political environment.
There are some issues where my Democratic colleagues and I will work with Mr. Trump if he acts in good faith, which is a chance for bipartisan success that congressional Republicans refused to give President Obama. For example, we must re-invest in our nation’s infrastructure. If President-elect Trump’s proposal turns out to be real — and not just gimmicky corporate tax giveaways — we may be able to work together to rebuild transportation infrastructure, modernize water systems and expand broadband service to every corner of the country.
Similarly, if Mr. Trump is serious about eliminating the carried interest tax loophole that allows Wall Street investors to pay a lower tax rate than those who work in most other industries, he’ll have plenty of Democrats to work with.
But, we must be clear-eyed about the fights that lie ahead. Through his recent actions, Mr. Trump has signaled loud and clear that he is moving ahead with extreme and unacceptable policies — on immigration, civil liberties, women’s health and the environment. These are red lines and when he crosses them, he’s going to have one heck of a fight on his hands.
Consider climate change, where the battle lines are forming. As his transition team threatens to shut down climate research programs and demands lists of federal employees who have worked on climate initiatives, Mr. Trump is stocking his administration with fossil fuel polluters and climate skeptics, including Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a climate denier, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state; and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the avatar of big oil arrogance, as secretary of energy.
We’re obviously not going to get climate leadership from this White House, and if we don’t put up the fight of our lives, we could see destructive changes in short order — from pulling the U.S out of international climate accords, to rescinding the Clean Power Plan, rolling back fuel efficiency standards, attempting to revive the dirty and obsolete coal industry and pushing new oil and gas development off our shorelines.
That’s why I’m working with outgoing Obama administration officials to secure as much progress as possible in the next few weeks, and it’s why I’m strategizing with the environmental community to defend our hard-won victories of the past eight years. We’ll also need more climate leadership at all levels — from the private sector, to state and local governments, to nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
California, as usual, is in the lead and I’m grateful that Gov. Jerry Brown and our state legislators are already making plans to fortify California’s leadership so that here, and in other states that follow our lead, climate and environmental leadership will remain strong despite federal backsliding.
Most importantly, this new era is going to require every American to be more engaged in the daily decisions made by your government.
Make your voice heard and write to me and other elected officials with your concerns. Participate in peaceful protests. Volunteer for causes you care about. And join with fellow community members for strength in numbers.
I’ll be hosting town halls around my district starting this week and continuing into 2017 to foster more engagement, dialogue and active citizenship. Together, we can navigate the bumpy road ahead and continue our forward progress toward a more perfect union.