Karen Bass loves the diversity in her district and the nation

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What would you like to know about Congress Member Karen Bass? She started her career as a physician assistant at Los Angeles County and USC Medical Center and then in 1990 she founded the Community Coalition to change the social and economic conditions is South Los Angeles. The organization continues today with that mission.

In 2005 she was elected to the state assembly and her negotiation efforts during the 2008 recession earned Bass a John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. Not bad for the daughter of a postal worker.

In 2011 she was sworn in as the representative and now works for the 37th District of California. Her constituency is broad, from Los Angeles in the east, to Marina del Ray in the west. from Manchester on the south side of the district to Wilshire on the north, just south of Beverly Hills. It has a lot of diversity; ethnic, religious and economic. One could even guess Bass represents more than a few surfers. She loves that diversity. Los Angeles is a city where we can find food of every ethnic variety within every community of the city and the Rep is excited about that. But having such a broad district could present challenges too.

Rep. Karen Bass meeting with some of her constituents
(Shiny Films/ Greg Bartlett)

Tip O’Neill once said, “all politics is local” so it’s no surprise legislators at home, be it in local or state government — or as a community activist — will have greater impacts on their communities.

In Washington, these same legislators deal with related issues, but it’s on a much bigger scale that effects not only their districts, but the entire country and even the world.

Rep. Karen Bass is in a unique position to experience all of that and to help effect positive change on issues that not only benefit her constituents but the nation and the world. How does she stay connected to the folks back home?

People living in the California 37th receive mailers, addressed specifically to one zip code at a time and then Rep. Bass invites the constituents in that zip codes to a Congressional Conversation. They talk about the issues that have an impact on that zip code. In the process Bass will find the issues that bind the district and specific issues to each area. Or, how each area views the issues that are common among them all. One of those issues is global warming.

Bass’s colleague from New York, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Ed Markey of Massachusetts (both Democrats) introduced the Green New Deal. As Merkley put it in his press release, the Green New Deal is, “…a resolution outlining the principles of an economic mobilization to address climate chaos. This resolution highlights that we must eliminate carbon pollution, the damage of which we see around the globe and in each of our communities. But it goes much further, seizing the opportunity to transform our economy to generate millions of good-paying jobs, more opportunities for communities, and a more just and more prosperous nation that gives everyone a chance to thrive.”

You can read the entire resolution here.

Immediately there was push-back, not only from Republicans who made ridiculous claims that it would eliminate a host of things, including cows — seriously, cows — and send America into economic chaos, as if the Trump tax cuts didn’t do that already.

The plan also met resistance from within the Democratic Party. It got a lukewarm welcome from some party leaders and pundits were warning the current field of Democratic candidates for president that the New Green Deal, and climate change in general, was a losing issue.

  • Just out of curiosity: How do we go about eliminating cows? There’s literally hundreds of millions of domesticated Bos Taurus in the United States.

Global warming is the most pressing issue facing the world. How could it be a losing issue? Rep Bass says it isn’t. She said Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution is “aspirational” and “sparks debate.” Bass added, it is “… urgent around the world.” What’s more, members of Congress have been working on some of the very same ideas proposed in the resolution for years. So Rep. Bass is happy to see AOC and the new representatives push the issue. She added, “The party has always had a diversity of opinion.” And of course Rep. Bass loves that diversity.

Off the Coast of McMurdo Station in Antarctica (Jeff Worman)

Scientists have been studying climate change for at least 60 years. Back in 1982 when the Crazy Shepherd (now the Shepherd Express) was launched in the publisher’s living room, some of the earliest articles were about issues related to climate change, like the destruction of the Amazon rain forest, which is still taking place today.

Bass is glad Ocasio-Cortez is shining a light on these issues, because the longer they go without being addressed in a serious way here, the closer we get to that tipping point when we can no longer have a positive effect on the change. The representative sees it first hand; the effects of global warming not just in California and the U.S., but also in Africa. Bass is the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. She sees how global warming is changing Africa. Studies show global warming is diminishing crops in South Africa and Western Africa which in turn can cause an enhanced speed of infectious diseases.

From the Archives of Medical Research:

“Global warming has serious implications for all aspects of human life, including infectious diseases. The effect of global warming depends on the complex interaction between the human host population and the causative infectious agent. From the human standpoint, changes in the environment may trigger human migration, causing disease patterns to shift. Crop failures and famine may reduce host resistance to infections. Disease transmission may be enhanced through the scarcity and contamination of potable water sources. Importantly, significant economic and political stresses may damage the existing public health infrastructure, leaving mankind poorly prepared for unexpected epidemics. Global warming will certainly affect the abundance and distribution of disease vectors. Altitudes that are currently too cool to sustain vectors will become more conducive to them. Some vector populations may expand into new geographic areas, whereas others may disappear. Malaria, dengue, plague, and viruses causing encephalitic syndromes are among the many vector-borne diseases likely to be affected. Some models suggest that vector-borne diseases will become more common as the earth warms, although caution is needed in interpreting these predictions. Clearly, global warming will cause changes in the epidemiology of infectious diseases. The ability of mankind to react or adapt is dependent upon the magnitude and speed of the change. The outcome will also depend on our ability to recognize epidemics early, to contain them effectively, to provide appropriate treatment, and to commit resources to prevention and research. ”

And that’s just one problem caused by global warming. Icebergs the size of small states are breaking off of Antarctica and the sea ice is melting so quickly and in larger amounts in the Arctic, some fear we have passed the tipping point. That melting ice is adding to sea level rise and the warm water is changing the currents, thereby changing the climate — and the weather — around the world. Bass said Californians know it’s real because we have felt its effects, especially with the ever more frequent and deadly wildfires.

Bass is optimistic though. The new generation of representatives should spark a change, although there are still climate change deniers in the U.S. Senate, which is controlled by the GOP, and most tragically, in the Oval Office.

TheWashington Post reported that the president wants to form a commission to refute the science of global warming. Science his own intelligence and military leaders says shows global warming to be a national security threat.

President Trump meeting with the toughest member of Congress he will ever meet, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi)

President Trump is assembling a panel to refute the findings of his own administration? We just can’t make this stuff up.

This is really about the phone conversation with Rep. Bass, but the issue of climate change has a way of taking up a lot of the air in the room.

Another topic we covered was race. Bass agreed the latest dog whistle is “Identity Politics.” We hear it all the time when the Democratic presidential candidates talk about race, religion or ethnic concerns. We can hear it used on cable news channels when panels of pundits talk about the messages we hear from the candidates. Should [insert candidate’s name] talk about identity politics?

In other words, should we talk about race in America? Well, yeah. For over 400 years the notion of manifest destiny has played a role in U.S. policy; towards the indigenous people who suffered under genocidal policies and then Africans who were kidnapped from their homes and brought here as slaves. It’s embedded in our criminal justice system, which has a disproportionate negative effect on communities of color. It’s why criminal justice reform passed though both houses of Congress with wide bi-partisan support.

The most obvious outlet of racial animus though comes from our own president, who got his political start trying to bring down his predecessor with his birther claims.

Bass said she was sad when we saw the backlash after Barack Obama was elected. Race didn’t stop being an issue in America, having a Black president just emboldened many of the racists. Then Donald Trump announced his candidacy, with his lies about immigrants and people of color and the racists came out publicly to support him.

His campaign to build a wall on our southern border with Mexico is the most blatant example of his racism. Some members of Congress have been emboldened by President Trump to be just as racist, like Steve King of Iowa. He has a long history of racist commentary, but recently his comments in a New York Timesinterview got him removed from his committee assignments. He actually asked, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

We just can’t make this stuff up.

Bass said she no longer has to put up with Rep. King on the Judiciary Committee, since he was removed and with such a large body of people in the House of Representatives (435) she doesn’t have to interact with congressman like Louie Gohmert of Texas.

We have a long road ahead of us when it comes to racial equality in America.

Rep. Karen Bass having a Congressional Conversation with some of her constituents

California has a large Democratic delegation in Washington; our two senators, plus 46 of the 53 members of the House of Representatives. Bass said the one issue that binds this large group of legislators together is immigration. Everyone wants to fix it, the question is what will it look like? We will have to see what the Democrats put together in the People’s Chamber.

Bass said she is glad we have such a diverse and qualified field of presidential candidates and she’s especially proud of California Senator Kamala Harris, who is at this early stage a front runner. We are in agreement about this field of Democrats. I would be proud to vote for any of them in a general election for president.

There are a lot of issues we could have talked about, but time just didn’t permit. Bass is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and what they are doing would be a great topic with many sub topics. Click here and you can see exactly what the CBC is doing — for all of us — in Congress.

The California 37this in good hands. You can find the representative online here. Personally I try to keep up with her Instagram account, which is always informative … which reminds me: we only touched on Trump’s wall and his failure to make good on his campaign promise that Mexico would pay for it. We didn’t even spend much time on the president’s fake national emergency.

Click on her website, or any of her social media accounts, to read more.

Rep. Bass is doing good for all of us, including the surfers who are in her district. Click on all the links to see more of what she is doing for her district, Los Angeles, the nation and the world.

All photos are from the Karen Bass Flickr account.