Charting the path forward

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Within the space of a few days we marked two events in America.  First, many of us exercised our cherished democratic right to vote.  Second, we honored those who served in our Armed Services, who sacrifice to ensure our democracy remains free.

I greatly appreciated the encouragement I received in this recent election, my third in a district that stretches along I-35 from South San Antonio to North Austin. We had some remarkable local victories in Bexar with strong voter turnout.

Instead of the statewide setback we suffered in 2014, modest progress was also made in limiting the size of our losses across Texas. Yet we continue to be a low turnout state. Despite the efforts of so many, this year Texas only advanced from 48th to 45th among all states in total voter turnout rate.  Too many Texans still do not believe that elections impact their daily lives enough to bother voting.

Nationally, of course, many of us share shock and incredible disappointment. In the face of so many pockets of hate, so many incredible and outrageous comments from Donald Trump, some will no doubt yield to the impulse to withdraw. We just cannot do that. Democracy is hard work that demands permanent commitment.

 

Speaking eloquently the morning after the loss, Secretary Clinton reminded us that “building an America that is hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted” requires following the command of Galatians 6:9 “Let us never grow weary in doing good, for in good season we shall reap.”

We love our country too much to give up on it.  Even at this troubling time when the votes of too many Americans have imperiled our future, we are called upon to renew our faith in democracy. The majority does not always get it right—and this election got it so very wrong, but only through determination and perseverance do we ever bring about progress in achieving a more inclusive, just and responsive government.

I recently returned to Washington for a “lame duck” session that will stretch into mid-December to consider a number of matters, including appropriations for continued governmental operations through next September.  And I am already working with colleagues regarding our response to what Speaker Paul Ryan calls “unified Republican government” — one that controls the White House, Senate, House and soon possibly the Supreme Court.

Immigrants have expressed the fear that they are no longer welcome. DREAMers have asked if they will be forced out of the only home they have ever known.

I will continue fighting to ensure that our government keeps the torch lit on the commitment expressed by the Statue of Liberty, honoring our promise to minister to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Our collective duty, now more vital than ever, is to convince our neighbors that immigrants — parents, children, sisters and brothers like all of us—deserve help, not scorn.

It is a big challenge for all of us. Yet recall that I was first sworn into this job on the same day that Newt Gingrich was sworn in as Speaker of the House.  Through almost all of my tenure in Congress, Democrats have been in the minority. Being outnumbered is not new to me.  But I will not be outworked.

Now, I will seek to learn from shortcomings, continue listening carefully to local concerns, search for potential areas of agreement with some Republicans; however, never, never back down from defending our values and advancing reasonable alternatives to the many meritless, thoughtless policies that Mr. Trump has proclaimed.

We have seen Trump’s “diversity” – he announced his first appointments which stretch all the way across the spectrum from Reince Priebus, the insider who has chaired the Republican National Committee for the last five years, to Steve Bannon as chief strategist.

Before joining the Trump campaign, Bannon headed the alt-right media outlet, Breitbart News, known for misogynist, racist and xenophobic postings. The Southern Poverty Law Center posted that “Bannon has a long history of bigotry.

If this is to be the “strategy” of the Trump regime, we are in for a long struggle that must strategically utilize every nonviolent opposition tool available.  As always, I welcome your advice and counsel.

 

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