Opinion: It takes a steel spine to stand for moderate pragmatism in a polarized era
You might not have heard much about us, but the moderates are in the House.
The national headlines may make it appear that the only ideas are those of my colleagues on the far left. But that’s not reality. The fact is that moderates delivered the House majority in 2018. More than three-quarters of the Democrats who flipped seats in November are now members of the Blue Dog Coalition, the New Democrat Coalition or both — the moderate wing of the party.
These are the people who campaigned on good governance and seeking bipartisan solutions that can be implemented under a divided government. The 27 fiscally responsible Democrats in the Blue Dog Coalition are leading the search for commonsense solutions to problems, and the New Democrat Coalition has about 100 members focused on economic growth and innovation.
These leaders are practical, reach-across-the-political-aisle legislators who appeal to the mainstream values of Americans. In our districts, we heard the message loud and clear: The public is sick and tired of the partisan gridlock, and people want pragmatists who will get to work on sound public policy.
A moderate is not a liberal who lacks courage. Moderates see all points of view and listen for the reasons for different viewpoints while searching for pragmatic solutions that can move us forward. It takes immense grit and a steel spine to stand for centrist principles and coalition-building at a time when ideologues on the left and the right would reduce our options to all-or-nothing hashtags or an unrealistic, unaffordable grab bag of goodies.
Reasonable voices amid reckless policies
At a recent town hall meeting in a rural Utah town of about 6,000 residents, I heard from hard-working Utahns about health care costs, transportation needs and retirement security. One man expressed his optimistic belief that his vote for me — a Democrat in deep red Utah — would result in a representative loyal to his constituents, not to a political party or ideology. Heads nodded in agreement when I said that the title “representative” is also a job description and one that I am dedicated to fulfilling.
My fellow New Democrat and Blue Dog Coalition leaders believe that Republicans have ceded huge territory in the center by abandoning opportunity, innovation and fiscal responsibility on debt and deficits. Moderates in Congress have an opportunity to be a strong, reasonable voice, in contrast with some of the reckless policies that, in truth, both parties have often pursued. As a voting bloc, there’s a lot of strength in the middle.
Heed moderate mandate or lose majority
After helping end the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history, by calling on all sides and President Donald Trump to reopen the government and engage in productive talks to fund border security, we’re looking ahead to big, complex issues. Congress must work to expand health care coverage and bring down costs, preserve Social Security and Medicare, invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and transition to a clean energy economy where there is opportunity for good-paying jobs for all Americans.
Our mandate is to be thoughtful and moderate. Fiscal responsibility must anchor our policies, and we must act in a way that builds bipartisan support. This is what our constituents asked us to do. Failure to heed this direction will come at our peril and will undoubtedly cost Democrats our majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.