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The New Democrat Coalition’s take on the road ahead

Greg Nash

The Democratic Party is as far out of power as it has been for generations. The Republican Party suffered a takeover by a brash New Yorker now tweeting his way through an unsuccessful Presidential roll out. Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle are finding themselves restrained by the challenges of actually governing. It turns out that repealing the Affordable Care Act, quickly balancing the budget and tearing up the Iran deal are all harder, and less wise, than promised.

Several weeks ago, I was honored to be elected Chair of the New Democrat Coalition at a tumultuous and pivotal time for our country and political parties. The New Democrat Coalition is a vibrant group of 54 policy-oriented, forward-looking legislators from districts ranging from rural Wisconsin to suburban Connecticut. We are a solutions-oriented coalition seeking to make progress by finding new ways to think about and address our national challenges. Amongst the confusion of the first few weeks of the Trump administration, we wonder how best to advance the urgent goals of shared economic growth, improved education, updated infrastructure and better national security.

{mosads}Given our history of seeking bipartisan agreement on legislation, New Democrats are well-positioned in a Republican-led Congress to continue working for progress across party lines. Initially, though we shared the disappointment and concern of a majority of Americans with Donald Trump’s divisiveness, business conflicts and inexperience, we were encouraged by his stated commitment to reconciliation, economic prosperity and infrastructure. Now we wonder where those priorities have gone.

New Democrats are serious about creating policies for the opportunities and challenges of the future. We have tapped into the knowledge and issue area expertise of our diverse membership by creating new policy-focused taskforces that will strategize policy solutions to ensure all Americans can succeed in the 21st century economy. We work closely with the Republican-led Tuesday Group to get members listening to each other and identifying issues we can work on together. We need to have a sensible approach in Congress to things like health care, tax reform and infrastructure. Without thoughtful policy conversations across the aisle, we will not achieve lasting action on top priorities for the American people. Attacks on the judiciary, free press and the freeform lunacy and alternative facts radiating from the White House cast a bleak outlook on the possibility of thoughtful policy conversations on these issues and others.

To his credit, in his address to Congress, President Trump gave a more positive speech than his typical doom and gloom. But actions matter and sprinkled platitudes won’t make healthcare more affordable or our nation more secure. If President Trump can move beyond tweets, in-fighting, and dangerous unilateral action into something more Reaganesque, there will be opportunities for New Democrats and the president to work together. New Democrat Coalition Leadership sent a letter to President Trump imploring him to begin focusing on policy. Despite calls for a zero-cooperation policy from elements of our party, most of us believe that our constituents want us to work hard for progress.

It is Congress as a whole, after all, not the minority party, that is constitutionally intended to serve as a check and a balance on presidential power. Constitutional niceties aside, if President Trump’s approval rating continues on its present trajectory, many Republicans may start eyeing the lifeboats.

Politically, in our hearts and souls, we are Democrats. We will fight for our country’s most vulnerable citizens – especially communities of immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, anyone who has felt oppression – and defend their rights and their freedoms. And we will continue to fight for more jobs in our changing economy, for good stewardship of our God-given planet, for safety and for basic decency. We know we will sometimes adamantly disagree with our GOP colleagues. But we also know that the government and country advances best and most enduringly when we find ways to work together.

Rep. Jim Himes represents Connecticut’s 4th District and is chairman of the New Democrat Coalition.

The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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