Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba introduced me-- and DWT readers-- to Jamie McLeod-Skinner, the candidate running for a congressional seat that includes part of the old district reactionary Blue Dog Kurt Schrader represents. Schrader may or may not run. He's not hankering for a fight with Jamie, who is better known than he is in much of the district. And this cycle, Schrader, who bears a significant part of the responsibility for tanking the Biden plans to lower the cost of prescription drugs, will not be able to fly to reelection under the radar. People know, for example, that he's the only putative Democrat still in Congress who voted against raising the minimum wage.
Schrader has earned an "F" from ProgressivePunch and is widely considered one of the dozen worst DINOs in the House. Jamie is an actual problem-solver; it's what her career has always been about. Unlike Schrader, she doesn't make problems or exacerbate ones that exist; she works with people to overcome them. We asked her to identify a couple of problems important to residents of OR-05 that she hopes to tackle in Congress. Please read her guest post below and allow yourself to get to know Jamie. If you like what you read and what you feel, please consider contributing to her campaign here-- or by clicking on the 2022 Blue America congressional thermometer on the left. This is an important race-- a real villain or facing a real heroine.
-by Jamie McLeod-Skinner
We are in a time of crisis-- for our environment, our families, and our democracy.
We are also in a time of opportunity-- the potential for a stronger, more sustainable economy with better community relationships. It is up to us to make it so.
It starts with the decision to act, in service of a vision, and learning to effectively work together. We need to think big. We need to see ourselves as others do not yet see us.
I know this from my own experience, a lesson I learned in pushing myself towards a higher purpose, when taking part in an act of civil disobedience in 1996 at NYC’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
NYC has the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the world (pre-COVID, ~1 mil. participants). It shuts down parts of the city, including 5th Ave, for most of the day. However, until recently, the parade did not allow LGBTQ people-- out LGBTQ people-- to march in it. Back then, I participated in an Irish-Scottish LGBTQ soccer club. We applied to march in the parade. Our application was denied because the parade’s “standards” did not allow for LGBTQ participation in the parade.
We decided to protest.
We gathered in the early morning, hours before the parade was to begin. Fifth Avenue was already closed to vehicles. News of our planned protest had reached the police, and there were more police and paddy wagons than protesters. We were informed that we could only protest on the sidewalk. We began to march up and down the sidewalk with our signs, declaring our right to participate in the parade. Then, some of the marchers broke away from the designated route, marched into the empty street, and sat down. They were overwhelmed by police, setting up barricades and arresting them. When the rest of us reached the police barricades, we yelled to let them march, but were ignored by the officers who dragged them away. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of unfairness. I had been raised with the idea that you should follow the rules, but what if those rules are unjust?
As I watched, I had an epiphany: in my life, I would either be an observer or a participant in the world. And this very moment would chart my course. So, in an act more visceral than cerebral, I climbed over the police barricade, walked into the street, and sat down. As my hands were bound behind my back and I was led to the paddy wagons, I was terrified. It was not the lack of fear that caused me to act. But I was compelled, despite my fear, to stake claim to my rights and to make “good trouble.”
The challenges before us are immediate and fierce. They require us to make “good trouble.” I want to talk about three of them:
The first is our climate crisis. It is destroying our homes, our crops, and the air we breathe. Yet, we remain beholden to broken systems that create these wildfires, droughts, flooding, heat waves and ice storms. We must set policies and create incentives to change the trajectory of our climate, as well as improve our responses to the resulting disasters.
Leading wildfire recovery efforts in southern Oregon earlier this year, I came face-to-face with people whose homes and livelihoods had been destroyed. I provided tangible results for those families, including farmworkers and seniors living on fixed incomes, and successfully pushed federal agencies to do more. We must still do more.
Our second major challenge is our torn social fabric. Our social safety net has been systematically destroyed over the past few decades, making it even more difficult to rebound from the COVID-economy. People are struggling with the health pandemic and an ongoing inequity pandemic. We need to put roofs over our heads and food on our tables, provide access to healthcare when our family needs it and educational opportunities for our kids. We want our government to focus on the basic infrastructure we need to do that-- the physical AND social infrastructure.
That’s why we need to invest in affordable housing, universal healthcare, homecare, childcare, special and early childhood education, debt-free community college and trade programs (so unions aren’t left carrying that load), and a person’s right to choose. As a wealthy nation, our fundamental decency is rightfully questioned when we leave this undone and leave people behind.
I’ve always said that I don’t believe in spending public money, I believe in investing it. This is how we invest in our future.
The third great challenge we face is protecting our democracy. From voting rights to redistricting to taming the beast of campaign finance-- we must tackle these things that undermine public trust and engage across the divides so all voices can be heard and participate. I have a long history of supporting diverse and progressive community leaders, particularly in areas of Oregon, where they are often ignored.
We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. And we learn from the lessons we are taught and the examples we see. When I was 8 years old, my mom told me to always leave a place better than I found it. That became my mantra not just because of what she said, but because of what I saw her do. I respect bus drivers and teachers and farmworkers because I saw my mom get up early to drive a school bus, teach students, bus them home, and pick apples in the summer to put food on our table.
Our work is cut out for us. Addressing our challenges and leaning into the opportunity before us work together to get it done. We need leaders who are compelled to act, and I am one of them.