During times of crisis we need our leaders to show up and fight for us. Not for corporations. Not for the powerful. For us, the people. Right now we are in the midst of a crisis far greater than any other we have seen in our lifetimes. Where are our leaders that are fighting for us?
A number of governors and mayors are stepping up to the task to fill the void that the vacuum of federal leadership has left us. What do they all have in common? Not party identification. But rather a shared belief that nothing comes ahead of the health and safety of the citizens under their charge. True leadership in moments of great need does not know the constraints of party politics and dogmatic ideology. It requires empathy and a willingness to work for the people who pay your salary, not the ones who fund your campaigns.
This is why my one priority as an elected public official always has been– and always will be– my constituents. As a state legislator that means the constituents of my rural House district. As a candidate for Congress in Montana that means my possible future constituents in the entire state. And when our current Congressman– Greg Gianforte– decides to not show up to do his job and fight for his constituents, somebody has to step up.
When healthcare workers in my district called to tell me they desperately needed more personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators I pushed for the president to invoke the Defense Production Act to immediately increase production. It’s been weeks since myself and others– including the entire Congressional Progressive Caucus– have made that call and it has still not been invoked to cover our shortages. There have been reports that the Chamber of Commerce, along with top CEOs, have been lobbying the president not to invoke this act solely on the basis of a rigid ideology and belief in the powerful invisible hand of the free market. This is not who you should be fighting for.
When constituents called me up worried about making their rent and utility payments after they were laid off from work, I looked at how government could work for them. First, we called on NorthWestern Energy– Montana’s largest energy provider– and other utilities to suspend disconnections for nonpayment for the duration of this crisis. A day later NorthWestern’s CEO released a statement doing just that and announced that the health and safety of Montanans was the greatest priority. We then called for unemployment insurance to be extended and expedited to all workers affected by the pandemic. Soon afterwards our governor did just that. Both of these leaders stepped up for their constituents/customers without delay. Now we are calling on a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures while the federal government decides if they want to fight for renters and homeowners or the banks and Wall St.
When the water went out in hundreds of homes in my district’s largest trailer court, I worked with the DEQ to ensure that the water main was fixed and potable water made available. While the landowner tried to duck out on their responsibilities to their tenants our community stepped up and connected the residents with the supplies they needed. Empathetic neighbors didn’t have time to wait around for bureaucracy or red tape. Next up, we will be having a Zoom Town Hall with members of that community this week to make sure that their government is working for them and to go over how we prevent this lack of oversight from happening again.
None of this is sexy work, nor anything that deserves much praise. It’s simply showing up to your job and getting the tasks in front of you done. It’s something that countless essential workers are doing all across our country at much greater stakes. Yet, this is still something that seems to be in short supply from our political leaders.
When tasked with crafting a stimulus bill to save our economy from ruin, who was it that the politicians fought for? When all was said and done we spent over $16,000 for each American, yet only $1,200 of it is going directly to workers’ wallets. Yes, there were lots of victories that made it into this stimulus package that were won mostly by the progressive champions we sent to DC. But it should be crystal clear that we don’t have nearly enough warriors for the people in Congress.
That’s why it’s never been more important that we vote for true leaders this election. Ones that keep a level head and get things done. But most importantly: ones that fight for us.