Progressives must listen to voters and stand for our values in 2018

Progressives must listen to voters and stand for our values in 2018
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On the heels of his failed promises to protect Dreamers, President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE delivered his second budget proposal to the American public this month. For the second time, he is asking Congress to decimate programs critical to American families. When it comes to lending support to vulnerable or marginalized communities, the Trump administration continues to make its values and priorities crystal clear.

Progressives should do the same. The progressive agenda as we know it is founded on values of opportunity, freedom and equality. We believe government can be a force for good. We believe that government should not only ensure equal opportunity, it should protect and nurture it. As negotiations, debates and legislative markups on Trump’s proposed budget continue, progressive members of Congress need to remember the values and policies critical to their base. For most, these are same values and policy platforms that got them elected.

People of color, women of color, and millennials are the backbone of the Democratic Party. These voters are clear. They do not stand for hate. They do not stand for division. They do not stand for turning our backs on hardworking men and women, brought here as children, who contribute every day to our society. They do not stand for removing critical programs that support economic opportunity and equality.

Progressives support ensuring children have food to eat. We support ensuring families have heat during the winter and air the summer. We believe that all human beings, rich and poor, deserve access to quality health care. These are the values that make up the progressive base. This is what we stand for. But equally important to defining our values is making sure our policies reflect them.

The Center for American Progress recently asked Americans what they thought about Trump and Republican congressional leadership attempting to cut the social safety net of key programs that help cushion the financial blow when unexpected life events happen. Americans know that when more than half the population experiences poverty or near poverty in their lifetime, this cushion is critical.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, for example, is the federal program that helps individuals pay their heating and cooling costs. Almost 80 percent of voters oppose any cuts to this program. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides benefits to ensure low-income individuals and children have access to food. More than 65 percent of voters oppose cutting funding to this program. Medicaid, a program that provides health care to low-income individuals. About 80 percent of voters strongly oppose cutting this program.

Time and again voters remind us that it is not enough to be against something. We, as a progressive caucus, must also stand for something. Recently, progressives showed up in Virginia to vote against racism, fear mongering and a flawed economic agenda. They voted for the candidate the embodied their values. They elected a candidate that supports public education, health care and a living wage.

Democrat Ralph Northam won with 87 percent of the African American and 67 percent of the Latino vote for governor of Virginia. In Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones won with the support of 98 percent of black women in his bid for the U.S. Senate. Progressive candidates should rest assured knowing that your base will show up if you give them something to believe in.

So, fellow progressives, as you cast your vote, it’s important to ask yourself, “What do I stand for?” Progressives stand for ensuring health care. Progressives stand for feeding the hungry. Progressives stand for energy assistance. Progressives stand for a strong safety net. Allowing these essential programs to get gutted is not an option. Standing by as racism inflames the country is not an option.

Don’t break your promises. Don’t concede your values. Why? Because those actions, the actions of this administration, are not reflective of our progressive values. Progressives, heed the words and actions of your base. In the political coal mine, people of color are your canaries. They are singing. Please listen.

Danyelle Solomon is senior director of the Progress 2050 project for new ideas on diversity at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.