Friday, June 26, 2009

Tom Perriello: Profile in Climate Courage

Today the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) passed the House of Representatives on a 219-212 vote. It was not a perfect bill, indeed it has major flaws, but it is the first time a chamber of Congress has ever passed meaningful, comprehensive legislation dealing with climate change. It is a historic vote.

Unfortunately 44 Democratic representatives voted NO on this bill. Only three of them did that beacuse the bill was too weak. The rest wouldn't take the political risk of voting for even a fairly weak climate bill that doesn't even come close to doing what science demands. That's a pretty depressing fact. And it means we've got a lot of work to do as climate activists.

But one representative from a tough district didn't go along. He stood up for what he knew was right and voted for the bill despite a flood of calls to his office driven by hate radio, despite the political pressures of being a freshman Democrat in a district McCain won. That representative is Tom Perriello of Virgina's 5th district.

Although I don't live in his district or even in Virgina I've been a fan of Perriello for a long time. In 2006 Keith Ellison was elected to Congress from the 5th district of Minnesota which is the district next to mine. He happens to be a Muslim and was the first Muslim elected to Congress.

At the time the representative from Virgina's 5th district was Republican Rep. Virgil Goode. Virgil Goode is a bigot. The idea of serving next to a Muslim made him spew out lots of bigotry. That's how I first learned about Virgil Goode. He seemed like a nasty guy. But his district seemed like it was unlikely to elect a Democrat. I forgot about the district.

But I am a reader of Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo, particularly the TPMCafe section. And they allow guest posts from notable people. Well in October, 2007 Tom Perriello was one of the guest posters. And he wrote one of the most important articles I've read by a politician. Entitled "Conviction Politics... in Practice." Read it. It's worth your time.

After that I got very interested in the campaign and did what I could as someone who doesn't live in the district and can't vote. Asked for money online. No one thought he could win. But I believed in him. He ran a great, grassroots campaign and won in one of the biggest upsets of the 2008 election by under 1000 votes.

And today he made any probably meaningless contribution to his campaign that I made worthwhile by putting his conviction politics into practice and voting for ACES. It wasn't a easy vote. McCain won the district. It has been traditionally Republican. But Tom stood up for what he believed in.

As Darcy Burner so eloquently wrote we need to reward people to stand up for what they believe in and display courage and conviction. Of all the representatives who made the right vote today Tom needs the most help. His district will be a top target of Republicans in 2010. He will have a strong opponent. We need to reward conviction politics and thank Tom Perriello by supporting him.

I've set up a ActBlue page where you can donate to his campaign. Tom doesn't going to get a lot of money from special interests and if he ever did he won't after today. He needs our help. He did the right thing. It's time to reward that.

Please donate what you can. Anything helps.

And while your at it. Join 1Sky, a fantastic group working hard for a strong climate bill. They are doing some of the best work in the environmental movement and have lots of ways you can help. Passing a good climate bill in the Senate will be very, very hard. We need to build a strong climate movement to do that and that's exactly what 1Sky is doing. They could also use some money if you've got any. Polluters are outspending us 16-1.

We need to restore the founding American ethic that we are better off when we are in this together. Since the original thirteen colonies joined together as the United States, through Civil War and the Great Depression, we have risen or fallen according to this simple rule: America thrives when we are united in a common purpose for the common good.- Tom Perriello

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