Only weak minded and self-deluded Republicans were surprised by Ed Markey's healthy win yesterday in the Massachusetts special election to fill John Kerry's old Senate seat. Markey has been the foremost champion of climate change amelioration of any elected official in the entire federal government. And the Republicans put up some wealthy, crooked, right wing businessman to oppose him. Gomez spent his last days of the campaign blaming his defeat on the Republican Party. "They're wrong on too many issues. I mean, you know, you gotta realize, they gotta realize we’re in the 21st century." That helped Markey run away with a 10 point lead yesterday, despite the last minute flood of money from rich rightists and hatemongers from around the country.
As Alan Grayson, Markey's colleague in the House, put it last weeked, "Who cares about climate change? Ed Markey does." Grayson explained what thay means for the country.
Ed Markey served as the one and only Chair of the U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, during its four years of existence. Let me explain to you what an utterly thankless job that is. If you are the Chair of a committee on global warming, you've got Big Oil against you. You've got the electrical utilities against you. You've got the auto manufacturers against you. You've got the pipeline and tanker and drilling companies against you. What kind of person would want all of those headaches, just for a shot at saving Planet Earth?
Ed Markey. That kind of person.
After the Democrats took over the House in 2007, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted action on climate change, so she chartered a new House Committee, and put Ed Markey in charge of it. The Republicans named Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) as their Ranking Member. Sensenbrenner has said that the science of climate change is a "global conspiracy." Sensenbrenner has said that labeling carbon dioxide as a pollutant is "propaganda." Mocking concerns over climate change, Sensenbrenner once suggested that we "put catalytic converters on all our noses." Ignoring the havoc that climate change and extreme weather have wrought, Sensenbrenner suggested that climate change might help "crop yields go up." When Nobel Prizewinner Paul Krugman called climate denial "treason against the planet," Sensenbrenner boasted, "I plead guilty as charged."
For almost four years, Markey and Sensenbrenner battled it out, through 80 committee hearings and briefings. Markey gamely publicized clean energy technology, and the risks caused by climate change. Markey pushed forward legislation like H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (which passed the House, and then Republicans filibustered it to death in the Senate). Markey's Committee educated the nation about global warming facts both horrifying (according to the World Health Organization, climate change already causes 150,000 deaths each year) and ironic (by 2030, there will be no glaciers in Glacier National Park). Markey faced down Big Oil, and ignored the steady drumbeat of nonsense and distraction from the see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-evil Republican tools and zealots on the Committee.
With enemies like that, Ed Markey needs friends. And deserves them.
When the Republicans took over the House of Representatives after the 2010 election, they shut down Ed Markey's Committee. But Ed Markey remains the leading environmentalist in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Who speaks for the trees? Ed Markey does.
No one thinks Markey's win yesterday means it's time to relax. In fact, the very next thing we need to do is fill Markey's own House seat. It's a deep blue district and a Democrat will certainly win there. While Obama was winning the state of Massachusetts last November with 61% of the vote, he was winning Markey's district (MA-05) with 65%-- while Markey was being reelected with a stunning 77%! There are 24 counties in the district and Markey won every one of them. His "weakest" performance was a healthy 58% win in Southborough. There are a number of Democrats running for the seat, even progressives, but only one, state Rep. Carl Sciortino, is of a leadership caliber worthy of Ed Markey and the kind of people who elected Ed Markey. Grayson is meeting Carl today to give him some advice about how to win his race. And Blue America endorsed him a couple of months ago.
"Ed Markey’s win today," Carl told us last night, "is not just a victory for the people of Massachusetts, but a victory for the progressive movement. As Americans, we are fortunate to have his voice in the Senate-- but it comes at the cost of losing a true progressive leader in the House. There are real differences in the race to replace Senator-Elect Markey and we, as a movement, need to come together and make sure his legacy as a progressive leader in the House continues." Amen! And there's no one running quite like Carl, one of the organizers of the Massachusetts legislature's progressive caucus.
He reminded me that "in 2004, I was told by my Democratic state representative that 'we’ve done enough for ‘you people,’ when I asked him why he wouldn’t support marriage equality. Then and there, I decided to run against him in the Democratic primary-- and I beat him by 93 votes. When I got to the Massachusetts House, I was told by liberal members that the state wasn’t yet ready for a Transgender Equal Rights bill, but I filed the bill, organized a coalition, and now Massachusetts has protections for its transgender citizens. When the Democratic leadership decided to slash the retirement funds public sector employees had been promised when they signed up for their jobs, I stood up to the Democratic leadership and fought and voted for middle class workers."
Yes, so maybe you can see why Blue America-- and why House progressives-- are so enthusiastic about Carl taking over Markey's seat. I just got off the phone with him and I hope I wrote this down right:
"In Washington, there’s no question we need more strong progressives-- not just working on issues of civil rights, but on issues of economic justice. Never in American history has the gap between the wealthy and the rest of us been so great. Families are working hard, but only just able to afford the bare necessities. I will sign onto the bill to raise the minimum wage and index it to the cost of inflation. I will join the fight to close corporate tax loopholes at the federal level, just as I did in Massachusetts. And as a citizen signer of the Grayson-Takano letter, I will fight to protect Social Security, as well as fight to keep protections for those living in poverty that are so often left out of the public debate. Please help me keep Ed Markey’s seat progressive by supporting my campaign."
Monday, Carl was one of the first Democrats to react to he misguided 5-4 Supreme Court decision against women's health. On the campaign stump for Markey at the time, he told supporters that “I was proud to author and pass the Buffer Zone Bill after witnessing patients and their loved ones force their way through protestors to get to a health clinic. I always respect the right to free speech-- but there is no right to harassment and brutal intimidation, which is exactly what was going on before the bill’s passage. This law is important to ensure women’s access to reproductive health, and this challenge is just another attack from the right in the war on women-- something I will continue to aggressively fight against as a member of Congress.” If that's the kind of congressmember you want to see working in DC, please consider giving him a hand here.