Washington, D.C. — Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) on Wednesday blamed House conservatives for “political arson, grinding much of the business of the Congress to a halt” and discussed the dangers this political brinksmanship poses to American democracy and the nation’s leadership abroad.
“This brinksmanship is being driven by a coterie of extremist voices,” he said. “Voices that echo the same destructive forces that are eroding our democracy.”
His remarks came at the Center for American Progress IDEAS Conference, which brings together elected officials and other leaders from around the country to discuss urgent policy challenges and the big ideas fueling the progressive movement. This year, the event celebrates CAP’s 20th anniversary as a leading think tank that helps generate and implement progressive policies.
Warnock said it’s too easy to just focus on the drama in the House and the “narcissism of a handful of partisan actors.” Instead, he raised the problem of partisan and racial gerrymandering.
“Electoral outcomes are being distorted because of partisan and racial gerrymandering driven by cynical politicians who are committed to winning elections at any cost, even if the cost is democracy itself,” he said.
“We’ve got to give the people their voices back, because change does not happen from the top down,” he said. “It happens from the bottom up. And if the people can get their voices back, I believe that anything is possible.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) discussed the slew of progressive legislation that he pushed through the state Legislature by the slimmest of margins. That includes legal protection for abortion rights, paid family and medical leave, sick leave, transgender rights protections, increased voter access, and a major investment in affordable housing. There were also historic investments in education and clean energy, as well as universal school meals.
Joined by E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, Walz explained how he’s managed to build progressive change in an increasingly polarized environment and provided lessons for tomorrow’s leaders.
“If you truly believe in these ideas and you truly believe they’re going to improve people’s lives, why wait? Why wait to get them done?” Walz said.
He said it was critical to make the most of a rare opportunity when Democratic leaders in the state had a trifecta—control of the governor’s office and both chambers of the state Legislature—for the first time in many years.
“We approached it saying we’re not going to peel off one group. We’re not going to pit one against another. We’re not going to demonize this. We’re going to come across and say all these things fit together,” Walz said.
Video of the discussions is available online at “2023 CAP IDEAS Conference.”
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