Freshman Congressman David Trone celebrated the diverse freshman class, the Democratic House majority, and Speaker Pelosi’s shrewd leadership at a WDC luncheon at Normandie Farm on March 20. Surveying the challenges confronting our nation, he stressed that through action and compassion, Democrats can restore hope for the future.
Catastrophes surround us, inviting paralysis. The president’s policies and conduct, white nationalism, economic inequality, climate change, decaying infrastructure, and the opioid epidemic (to name a few) reflect years of disinvestment—and the despondency they induce. Only by finding pragmatic solutions for all Americans, he believes, can we turn our nation around.
Fortunately, Trone insists, we have the power to do just that—but only through American ingenuity and Democratic ideals. “I know you’re going to ask me about gerrymandering,” he said early in his talk. He noted that Democrats, as well as Republicans, have used this tactic, and a key gerrymandering case involving Maryland and North Carolina is now before the Supreme Court. “We don’t know what will happen,” said Trone, “and of course we will fight Hogan and the Republicans to keep the district I represent.” But we also have to help end gerrymandering, which has polarized the country and made problem solving so difficult, he said.
House Democrats, determined to seize the moment, are crafting legislation to tackle a host of urgent challenges. The 50 freshmen, supported by Speaker Pelosi, have formed a working group to identify evidence-based solutions to our nation’s most pressing priorities, such as:
The opioid crisis: Last year, 17,000 Americans died from opioid abuse. “That means 192 people who are here today will not be here tomorrow,” said Trone. “These people don’t have a PAC or lobbyists, but they need someone to stand up for them.” He proposed putting out a series of bills that everyone—Democrats and Republicans—can sign on to and feel instrumental to addressing this crisis.
Criminal Justice Reform: “We have passed the First Step Act, but it is just that,” said Trone. We need a host of other reforms, he suggested, such as decriminalizing marijuana and eliminating “three strikes” policies and mandatory minimum sentences. “We have to end our status as the world’s greatest jailer,” he said, when we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners and only 5 percent of the world’s population.
Reentry Support: People who have paid their debt to society should not have to lose all future opportunities because of something they did when they were 21 or 24, said Trone. Our recidivism rate is 75 percent in five years after leaving prison. But companies, such as Walmart and his own Total Wine, that hire former prisoners find that retention rates skyrocket (up 14 percent) and those who are given a second chance respond powerfully to the opportunity to start a new life.
Scientific Research: In real dollars, said Trone, the National Institutes of Health budget is down 23 percent, as compared to 15 years ago. That means that previously approved projects, but not new ideas, tend to be funded, stripping away our nation’s investment in important health advances. “We have to take risks,” said Trone, noting that big data has advanced our capacity to analyze information and make strides unimaginable in the past. But progress doesn’t happen, he stressed, when short-term thinking rather than long-term investment characterizes our approach to health and other issues.
Climate Change: “Time is not on our side,” said Trone. We have the know-how and the ingenuity to tackle problems of this magnitude, as we have done in the past. So what if India, China, and other developing countries are not on board? We need to make the investment, and they will follow. But doing nothing now is not an option.
Drive for $15: We can’t afford NOT to provide every worker a decent wage, Trone insisted. In markets like Seattle and San Francisco, where his company has stores, businesses flourished, and everyone has been better off. When all businesses operate from the same baseline, no one has a competitive disadvantage. The Republican charge that a decent minimum wage drives out business has been repeatedly disproven, and now is the time to pay all workers a living wage.
When Democrats rally behind ideas like these, said Trone, we show compassion, civility, and competence, the “three C’s” he ran on, which distinguish our party from the policies now dragging our nation down. We must put aside internal divisions, unite behind our candidates, and show the nation why they should vote for Democrats. If we do this, we can win the White House and then the Senate, restoring hope for the future and a better life for our children and grandchildren.
The Q & A session touched upon a variety of topics including the Congressman’s experience as a member of the majority, selling the Democratic party “brand”, Medicare for All, immigration reform, and infrastructure,