I’ve been reading a lot about the incoming class of freshman Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. It’s great to see the enthusiasm and energy that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Kyrsten Sinema are bringing to their new jobs and to jumped immediately in the fray. They occasionally make rookie mistakes. But I’m hoping they learn from their mistakes and take the time to learn about how to get legislation passed in Washington D.C. They’ve shown that they are adept at using social media to build support for causes that they believe in. For instance, I like how Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal has reignited a debate on how to deal with the problem of climate change.
As a history buff, I hope these freshman Democrats look to the great progressive legislators of the past for inspiration and guidance: Ted Kennedy, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm, Paul Wellstone, Robert La Follette, Hubert Humphrey, Robert Wagner, Ron Dellums, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. And there are great progressive role models in Congress right now that they can learn from: John Lewis, Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren.
One worry that I have is that these freshman will get mired in an insult-war with President Trump and right wing trolls. I see how Trump can get his opponents trapped into constantly answering back to his personal insults of “Crooked Hillary”, “Little Marco”, “Lying Ted”, “Low Energy Jeb”, “Pocohantas”. I think Elizabeth Warren made that mistake. I worry that Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Omar might get caught up in constantly answering back at right wing trolls. Senator Ted Kennedy was constantly attacked by the right wing. Instead on answering back, Senator Kennedy focused on getting legislation passed.
So I hope the freshman Democrats learn about how Congress works. Maintain communications with grassroots groups and keep listening to your constituents. Develop friendships with Democrats and Republicans and learn about areas of common ground where you can collaborate on legislation. Find out the arcane rules of Congress and learn to be a good political strategist.
Here is a video of Bella Abzug, a noted advocate for numerous liberal and leftist causes. These included civil rights cases in the South and cases related to the advancement of womens rights. In 1971 she was elected to serve New Yorks 19th District in the House of Representatives where she served until 1977. Her tenure in Congress was notable for her unflinching support of womens rights. She was one of the loudest and most visible supporters of reproductive rights and the Equal Rights Amendment. In this video, Bella Abzug talked about how she helped secure equal credit for women.
As the Edward M. Kennedy Center for the United States Senate opened in 2015, Face The Nation talked to Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, and former Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, about Ted Kennedy’s legacy.
In 2018, women in politics talked about the importance of Representative Shirley Chisholm. She was the first African-American woman elected to Congress, but Shirley Chisholm’s legacy extends far beyond the senate steps.