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Congressmen McGovern and Ellison discuss progressive politics under Trump administration on Saturday

Jim McGovern giving a talk about the importance of voting. (Christina Yacono/Daily Collegian)

Congressman Jim McGovern and Deputy Chair of the Democratic National Committee Keith Ellison addressed a packed Bowker Auditorium full of community members and students at the University of Massachusetts on Saturday.

The event titled “Progressive Politics in the Era of Trump: A Dialogue with Congressman Jim McGovern and DNC Deputy Chair Congressman Keith Ellison” featured McGovern, of the second congressional district of MA. and Ellison, of the 5th congressional district of Minn., discussing what can be done to put forth a progressive political agenda during the Trump administration. UMass Progressives, UMass Democrats and Progressive Democrats for America in Massachusetts organized the talk.

McGovern and Ellison discussed what can be done to put forth a progressive political agenda during a time of uncertainty and fear.

Casey Pease, a political science major and member of UMass Progressives, and Julia Pelletier, a sophomore biology major and member of UMass Democrats, co-moderated the event. Pease and Pelletier began by both highlighting the mission and goals of their student organizations.

“We empower students to use their voice through direct action to shape a more equitable society,” Pease said.

Pelletier then introduced Jim McGovern, who began by expressing his concerns about the political agenda of President Donald Trump and the president’s fellow Republicans.

“These are very difficult times,” McGovern said. “And that’s an understatement.”

McGovern said people must resist Trump’s policies and pursue a progressive agenda. McGovern talked about reducing the military budget, modernizing and repairing infrastructure, and ensuring affordable healthcare, food and shelter as rights for all.

McGovern also touched upon immigration, citing President Trump’s executive order banning travelers from six Muslim-majority nations and his initiative to build a wall at the U.S-Mexico border.

“We will not turn our back on the next generation of immigrants,” McGovern said.

McGovern also covered issues of affordable higher education and race in America, emphasizing that systematic racism continues to be a problem in the U.S.

“Black lives matter,” McGovern said.

McGovern ended his speech by talking about Trump’s recent failure to repeal and replace Obamacare after the American Health Care Act was unable to gain enough support among House Republicans. According to McGovern, this recent event provides hope that President Trump’s policies will be defeated.

“We’re going to get through this,” insisted McGovern.

Sam Hockenbury, member of UMass Democrats and a senior political science and economics major, expressed the importance of creating spaces where citizens can get in contact with their legislators and vice versa. Hockenbury said the main goal of the event was not only to encourage direct dialogue between citizens and their representatives, but also motivate people to get involved and informed about how to promote progressive legislation.

“The goal is to inspire hope,” Hockenbury said.

Following McGovern, Pease introduced Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison began by urging the audience to get out on the streets, organize themselves and build a “mighty movement.”

“This is a tough time for America” Ellison said. “But it doesn’t have to stay that way.”

Ellison emphasized that the Democratic Party must prioritize voter turnout, take local elections seriously and empower individual activists. Additionally, he encouraged Democrats to tolerate and respect the different views, opinions and perspectives of the left.

Ellison also touched upon the role technology and social media play in organizing and activism through spreading awareness and generating widespread support for local issues.

“We’ve got to organize right here, right now,” Ellison stressed.

Ellison ended his speech by criticizing President Trump’s agenda, including his immigration policies and stance on women’s issues. He stated that under the Trump Administration, basic human rights are under threat.

“We are facing an existential threat to the Democratic value system,” Ellison said.

After McGovern and Ellison spoke, people in the audience were invited to ask questions. Students and community members expressed their concerns around issues of higher education, student debt and the state of the Democratic Party. Ellison and McGovern both continued to urge them to get involved and be hopeful about the future of the country.

“Be a leader in the Democratic party,” Ellison stated.

Carly Burgess can be reached at cburgess@umass.edu.

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