Congressional Democrats have made clear their intention to pursue justice for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients with dauntless and relentless intention. Three weeks ago, they refused to buy into a bad bill that would leave DREAMers in limbo, their persistence and collective action going so far as to force the Republican-dominated government into a three-day shutdown. Democratic senators demanded — and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell eventually allowed — open debate on immigration legislation if a deal could not be reached by Thursday. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the 77-year-old minority leader of the House of Representatives, stood in four-inch heels and spoke continuously for eight hours and seven minutes, the longest marathon speech in House history, to force Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to make the same sort of commitment. If Democrats are looking for a cohesive ethos for their platform in 2020, well, here it is. This is the party whose near-octogenarian leader will stand in front of the nation, with the power of her civic conscience and whatever human endurance such convictions conferred, to stand up for DREAMers.
After a shutdown and social media campaigns and an eight-hour historic feat of endurance, how much clearer could it be? When Republicans act on ideology — Texas senator Ted Cruz’s Green Eggs and Ham filibuster to shut the government down over the Affordable Care Act — they take prideful responsibility and their base appreciates it. And across the aisle, Democrats have, through these actions, made their agenda abundantly clear — to Republicans, to Trump, to the people. It’s time to own it. No, we will not compromise on toxic bills, we will not pander to nativism and we are perfectly willing to hold up the House for as many hours as necessary to protect the civil and human rights of our constituents, whether they are DREAMers or anyone else. Young Democrats here at USC and on all college campuses should demand that our Democratic representatives stop equivocating on the nature of the platform. Say it out loud. Nancy Pelosi would not yield — and neither will we.
Moreover, three weeks ago when the last continuing resolution was passed after the three-day shutdown, it came with the added promise from McConnell that he would bring a bill to the floor that addressed the fate of the nearly 700,000 DREAMers still waiting for a clear answer. The American people have shown their desire to see this issue solved — be it through a continuation of the act, comprehensive immigration reform or some conservative alternative — some sort of change. But here we are, three weeks later.
Now, whether or not McConnell will follow through — especially given his track record — will depend on the Democrats’ and centrist Republicans’ willingness to hold him to his commitment. In the House, however, Ryan made no such original commitment, despite being an integral part of the same leadership as McConnell and the president who backed McConnell’s compromise.
According to multiple credible reports, Ryan is also not seeking reelection, though he has not yet announced a decision. So, to recap — a person who is not in line with the rest of his party’s leadership, who is very likely no longer answerable to the people, who commands immense power in the largest governing body in the United States and arguably the one most directly representative of the people’s intention, is directly betraying that intention in order to engage in what could be a final months-long exercise in borderline tyranny. He is furthering his own ideological legacy and pandering to a failing president instead of allowing American representatives to vote on American interests.
Let me make this clear — whether or not you support DACA, whether or not you support DREAMers, whether you want a wall, a ban, a bill or none of those things — our elected representatives, the ones we chose, cannot follow through on those desires unless Ryan lets them. And it looks like unless pressure mounts, he won’t.
That is what Pelosi’s marathon speech was about. Democrats should own it — and if and when they do, we need to reward them for it. This, if anything, should foreshadow what a Democratic platform should look like heading into 2020. This is the party that, on the one hand, no longer feels the need to create for itself a false choice between supporting economic recalibration and ensuring social justice; but on a larger scale, no longer equivocates and compromises on its own platform, no longer skates around the strongest pieces of its message, no longer pretends not to be the party creating a future and opposing those who would push us back. Centrism and compromise are important still — they have their place. But our platform, our vision and our goals cannot be a statement of prevarication. I stand behind the spirit of Nancy Pelosi’s fearless audacity. You should, too.
Lily Vaughan is a junior majoring in history and political science. Her column,“Playing Politics,” runs Fridays.