Dem Leaders Rebuff Ocasio-Cortez & Grassroots Organizers Ask Questions, Too. Roundhouse Update. Yikes

 AOC’s response to mostly gentle criticism from the Dem leadership and activists is spot on. Gabe Ramos to replace Morales in the Senate. And that is a problem. Word that ALL gun bills will be heard on one Saturday? The chaos begins. Women’s March Saturday details.

Roundhouse Roundup  

Ramos appointed to Replace Morales. While it has been reported that the Governor had discretion in selecting a replacement, it appears her hands were tied. According to a comment in the Santa Fe New Mexican, the NM State Constitution has language concerning the appointment of Senators and Representative to vacant seats. Here it is, Article 4, Section 4:

“If a vacancy occurs in the office of senator or member of the house of representatives, for any reason, the county commissioners of the county wherein the vacancy occurs shall fill such vacancy by appointment.”  It appears that MLG can only select from those nominated by the County Commissioners from the Counties Morales represents: Catron, Socorro, and Grant. Grant County, where Ramos lives, appointed Ramos. Socorro supported that appointment and Catron did nothing. With only one appointment, the Governor’s hands were tied. The upshot, one of the more reliably progressive Democrats has been replaced by someone viewed with a great deal of skepticism.

From the New Mexican:  “But it was Ramos’ support for the Central Arizona Project that spurred the ire of environmentalists who wanted to scuttle his appointment. The Central Arizona Project has been working on plans to divert the Gila River in New Mexico — an intensely controversial idea for what remains a wild river as it wends through the southwestern part of the state. And more broadly, some argued Ramos would be too conservative in a year when some of the most contentious priorities for liberals will come down to tight votes in the Senate. “A lot of us feel that if you look at the definition of a DINO — Democrat In Name Only — there’d be a picture of Gabe Ramos,” Larry McDaniel, a Democratic activist in Silver City, said earlier this week. Our job in the Senate just got tougher. Don’t be fooled by the 26-16 Democratic majority, there are far too many DINOs in that majority.

First Hearings on Gun Violence May Be Heard on One Day: Saturday, Jan. 26. Around midnight I heard from one of our strongest allies, Miranda Viscoli, Co-President of New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence. It appears that ALL gun violence prevention bills will get their initial hearing on Saturday, Jan 26. I knew that the Legislature would be jammed with bills and this appears to be one consequence. It is very early to have such important business held on a Saturday, something more typical toward the end of February. But here we go. Hold the date. This is still unconfirmed and we will update you as soon as info is available.

Hearings today.  Announced between 5 and 6pm yesterday, there will be action on both Senate and House floors, largely introduction of bills, a mostly administrative function (House) and six Memorials of little consequence in the Senate. There is also a committee hearing in the Senate on SB 1, the Feed Bill.  In a House Committee, reports will be presented on evidence based education strategies and climate change. Click here if you want to check this out yourself.

I’ve been to the Roundhouse the first two days and aside from the Governor’s speech, there has only been housekeeping/administrative committee work. We will periodically post updates on our Facebook page and in this blog, but the best way to stay informed is to sign up for the Rapid Response Network. Click here to JOIN. 

NO THURSDAY MEETING THIS WEEK. Stay tuned about next week. We need to get a few days of hearings under our belts so we can see what kind of adjustments will be needed. But keep Jan 24, 6-8 pm open in your calendars, as by then we may have enough data to make it worth getting together.  If you have signed up for the Statewide Rapid Response Network, you will begin receiving alerts Sunday or early next week.

 

Retake Our Democracy on KSFR,101.1 FM, 8:30am Saturdays! Jan. 19 at 8:30, tune in for the inaugural Roundhouse Roundup.  For the remainder of the Roundhouse session, I will be serving as a roving reporter for KSFR, recording interviews at the Roundhouse during the week and piecing together a show that will air each Saturday at the usual time. This Saturday’s show should be an adventure as I’ve never spliced together interviews with commentary, but this will serve as a kind of update on what has happened during the past week and what may be coming. Tune in. On Jan 12, I did a solo show previewing Retake Our Democracy’s legislative priorities and our Rapid Response Network. From the middle of November to the present, shows have also focused on the Roundhouse with interviews with representatives from Common Cause, New Mexico Health Security, Sierra Club, NM to Prevent Gun Violence, and several elected members of the Roundhouse. You can listen to podcasts of previous shows at KSFR.org. Go to the programs menu, scroll to podcasts, and then scroll down to Retake Our Democracy.

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Saturday, Jan. 19, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Northern New Mexico Women’s March.  Demonstrators will meet at the state Capitol and march to the Santa Fe Plaza for a rally. For more information check out this article from the New Mexican. 

See you Saturday!

Differing Views on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC)

If you read this blog, you know that I am a huge fan of AOC. She has come to Washington with an uncompromising attitude and a set of priorities that have galvanized many of us. How can you not like someone who has strongly endorsed the Green New Deal and then when challenged on how she’d pay for it, unflinchingly responds, “Create a top income tax bracket of 70%.” That’s what I’m talking about. We need more of that.

As might be expected, this uncompromising approach is being met with open arms from centrist, established Democrats who are accustomed to new members of Congress being more deferential and earning their stripes over time. What I hadn’t realized is that AOC is also the subject of some gentle criticism from grassroots activists. Together, this is an indication of the difficulty involved for any freshman Congressperson entering the fray with a sense of urgency.

A recent THINK report describes AOC’s blunt honesty, clear set of priorities and, perhaps even more importantly, her unvarnished and unscripted passion — something Washington utterly lacks and badly needs. THINK noted that this approach is something that threatens both Republicans and Democrats and cited her absolutely wonderful MSNBC interview in reaction to Trump’s speech to the nation. THINK points to the contrast between AOC’s commentary and Trump’s totally scripted talk (or whatever that was) and Speaker Pelosi and Sen. Schumer’s equally scripted and stiff rebuttal. The video of AOC’s remarks are a stark contrast and definitely worth watching, Both videos were in last Saturday’s post.

From THINK:  “The American people don’t want a string of facts that have been repeatedly proven to be false. They don’t want to be lectured. What they want is for their political figures to respond to the challenges of our time with empathy, authenticity and candor. They want to hear their elected representatives talk about these issues with the same vocabulary that they talk about them around their kitchen table or in their living rooms.”

AOK’s unvarnished honesty plays very well with progressives, but as evidence of AOC not being met with respect by more established Democrats,  a Politico report from Saturday amplifies on McCaskill’s comments:  “Lawmakers have been quietly criticizing the New York newcomer and are hoping to rein in her criticism of those in her own party,” Politico reported, citing nearly 20 lawmakers and aides. The report described lawmakers as fearful of Ocasio-Cortez’s ability to swing progressives against more establishment Democrats and anxious to utilize her influence to unite the party.”

Specifically, many mainstream Dems are not happy with Ocasio-Cortez’s criticism of Pelosi’s implementing the “pay as you go” policy, a fiscally conservative approach that could severely limit investment in many progressive initiatives from the Green New Deal to universal healthcare. AOC has also not been timid about reacting to the Democratic Party’s creating a climate change committee with no teeth. But if you view climate change as the real national emergency facing our country, are you supposed to spin your wheels for a few elections until your head-in-the-sand Democratic colleagues decide to retire and become industry lobbyists to stall your agenda?

It isn’t just a difference of styles that separates AOC from established Congressional representatives, it is their approach to substance as well. Congress has long been all too deliberate in studying matters that should be treated urgently. Issues like healthcare and climate change are not treated with urgency largely due to many Dems being all too deferential to corporate lobbyists. Going back to efforts to curb logging, restrict advertising on tobacco, reduce smog-causing fuel emissions, rein in pharma costs, and create more affordable health care — in each case, industry lobbyists and too deliberate Congressional hearings have stalled meaningful action.  

In another report from OTHER WORDS, in relation to Pelosi’s promise to create a strong climate change committee, I found this passage that indicates that Democratic leadership doesn’t get it:

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to address these demands [a strong climate change committee]. But she hasn’t kept her promise. Instead of a real Green New Deal committee, she formed a toothless advisory body with no real power. First, Pelosi’s committee doesn’t have a mandate to come up with a plan that matches the required scale and speed. That’s like easing off the gas but not hitting the brakes on a car speeding off a cliff. Second, it doesn’t have language on race, income, gender, or other inequalities. When even wonky scientists address the unequal impacts of climate change, it’s galling that our elected representatives don’t see fit to acknowledge this reality. Third, the committee doesn’t have the power to issue subpoenas. It can merely “recommend subpoenas and depositions” to other committees.

This is a serious omission. Powerful fossil fuel corporations have stymied climate action for decades by lobbying to weaken commonsense measures, funding disinformation campaigns, and bribing politicians to the tune of $78 million in spending on the last election alone — in spite of knowing the dangers of their own business model for decades.

It’s about time Congress conducted an investigation of this predatory industry, and how better to do it than through a committee dedicated to the climate crisis?”

Pelosi’s actions indicate clearly that House Leadership is not ready to make a u-turn from their utterly inadequate response to climate change.

And while AOC has caused Democratic leadership to wring their hands for her failure to consult with them and follow their lead, AOC has received a similar message from environmental and social justice activists. It is instructive how differently AOC has reacted to similar criticism from very different camps.

From the GRIST: “Newcomers like Ocasio-Cortez may be leading the charge, but grassroots leaders who have spent years advocating for low-income families and neighborhoods of color most impacted by fossil fuels say their communities weren’t consulted when the idea first took shape.” And: “The Climate Justice Alliance, a network of groups representing indigenous peoples, workers, and frontline communities, says its gut reaction to the Green New Deal was that it had been crafted at the “grasstops” (as opposed to the grassroots).”

Shortly after Ocasio-Cortez put out her proposal for a select committee, the Alliance released a statement largely in support of the concept, but with a “word of caution. “When we consulted with many of our own communities, they were neither aware of, nor had they been consulted about, the launch of the GND.”

The GRIST article goes on to discuss the views of a wide array of environmental and social justice activists with the gist being, that for the GND to ever gain traction, there needs to be a good deal of grassroots engagement, town halls and community meetings where people can lend their views as to the shape the GND takes. Right now it is a concept…and a very, very good one. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to realize that without the involvement of experienced grassroots climate and social justice advocates and their communities, there is a very good chance policymakers and politicians, no matter how well-intentioned, will get it wrong. And in doing so, rob it of the grassroots support that will be needed to pass the GND.

So, how has AOC responded criticism from the Party and from grassroots activists? She thumbed her nose at Democratic leadership with her comments yesterday about supporting progressive candidates in primaries against centrist Dems. “If you’re a one-term Congress member, you can make 10 years worth of change in one term if you’re not afraid.” This being just one comment from a nine-minute announcement of her support for Justice Democrats’ campaign to primary centrist House Dems in 2020. Politico published a lengthy report last night highlighting the divisions within the Party about supporting primary challenges to incumbent Democrats. AOC and the Justice Democrats have ruffled feathers but appear undeterred as they announced a challenge of Rep. Cuellar (CA), the only Democrat in the caucus who is strongly pro-life. The battle is already on.

And AOC’s response to criticism from activists has been to embrace those criticisms and begin holding meetings with those same activists. The perfect response.

The Democratic Party has a choice: recognize and embrace AOC’s immense potential to galvanize the next generation of voters, or by undermining AOC, risk losing the energy and interest of a whole new generation of Dems. I highly recommend you read the Politico article. It does an excellent job of previewing what will be a defining battle for the heart of the Democratic Party.

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

One thought on “Dem Leaders Rebuff Ocasio-Cortez & Grassroots Organizers Ask Questions, Too. Roundhouse Update. Yikes

  1. Our corporate dems don’t appear to be aware of where we are now. or their part in it. They seem to be glossing over a lot of it. Progressives should be monitoring the well funded campaigns designed to undermine key issues. The Health Security Act, vs Think NM’s NM Health Compare, another Gas Light. They trotted this out with the ACA, and have been discussing it for over a decade. Proponents of Free Market Healthcare, For Profit Healthcare, are still claiming the public can shop for heathcare. This is simply not true.

    AOC’s ideas have been years in the making they are not anything new.

    It looks like they are re framing the Gila River Diversion to the less awful sounding Central Arizona Project.

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