This afternoon, newly minted Senator-Elect Energy Smart Jeff Merkley (D-OR) took the time to reach out to the netroots with a blogger conference call. “The Netroots were critical to my election … It is 40 years since an incumbent lost in Oregon and only the second time in 100 years that a Republican incumbent lost … the Netroots put the campaign over the top.” But, more important than any plaudits for bloggers (“Netroots Nation was one of the best things that I did during the campaign.”) and promises to remain engage for the future, was Merkley’s evaluation as to the election’s mandate and visions for moving forward.
We have a very strong mandate for a progressive agenda. We have had two cycles in a row with winning six [at least] seats in the Senate.
Bush claimed a mandate when he didn’t even win the popular vote.
We absolutely have a mandate and we should not be shy in anyway in claiming it.
If not now, when? Our people need us, our planet needs us …
As to that last, energy and global warming issues were sprinkled throughout Senator-Elect Merkley’s comments.
I view energy as perhaps the most critical issue … national security … economic security … Global Warming. We, the United States, must show leadership. … We must turn to rebuilding a new energy economy and save the planet from its mounting fever.
As to that mounting fever, Merkley called out Oregon’s university students.
When I visited universities and colleges, I would have an informal poll about what issues mattered to them. Every single time, Global Warming was the number one issue. They get it. We need to help others get it.
Across the discussion, Senator Merkley laid down a marker for a new and strong progressive voice in the U.S. Senate. As for mandate, he strongly stated his own mandate, highlighting how rare it is for an incumbent to lose in Oregon.
He demurred on stepping on President-Elect Obama’s and Senate leadership toes when asked about appointments and, for example, Senator Lieberman’s status in the Democratic caucus. As for the last, however, he did express strong feelings.
I was in Los Angeles, supporting Joe and Hadassah, when he was announced as the Vice-Presidential candidate in 2000. It was like a knife in my heart to see him standing behind Senator McCain, supporting him against the party’s nominee and the greatest political candidate I have ever seen in my life.
One larger subtext is that he made time to hold a conference call with bloggers just one day after his Republican opponent conceded to him, which shows that he intends to remain a friend to the blogosphere after Senator-elect Merkley is sworn in as Senator Merkley. It’s a great thing when a real progressive replaces a fake moderate in the U.S. Senate.
As a note to emphasize, these are not messages reserved for progressive bloggers. Check out Merkley’s comments to PBS. For example, how is this for a way to discuss and frame energy issues:
We have an energy policy that’s been great if you’re an oil company and terrible if you’re an American citizen. And we have to change that, end our dependence on foreign oil, and stop sending $2 billion a day overseas, and start tackling global warming.