Chairman Crowley’s Opening Remarks for the 2018 House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference

February 8, 2018

(Washington, D.C.) – House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, (D-NY) addressed Members of Congress and guests during the 2018 Democratic Issues Conference Wednesday evening.

Below are Chairman Crowley’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Thanks for being here, and thanks for your understanding. While I’m disappointed we’re not able to get outside our normal environment, I think it’s still very important we have the conversations we planned on having. Frankly, with each passing day, the stakes are only getting higher.

Since January 20 of last year, this caucus, our nation has been faced with a barrage of negativity. For us here, it can be easy to forget the most basic of truths: Politics is about doing good things. We want to accomplish more than just blocking what’s bad. None of us wants our legacy to be: Things were awful, but at least they weren’t worse.

No. We want our legacy to be: We made things better. So I have a really simple message today: If we stand strong. If we double down on our values. If we take our case to the American people… we will meet at this same time next year and have 40 new colleagues, and a Democratic majority!

If. And only if we do two things. First: We have to stick together. Second: We have to be more than just anti-Trump. We know we have to fight President Trump. We have to fight him hard. But we also need to recognize that it’s not just about President Trump himself – it’s what his presidency shows about the difference between us and them, Republicans and Democrats.

Donald Trump and I both grew up in Queens, New York not too far from each other. He was raised in Jamaica Estates. A neighborhood full of tree-lined streets, and big houses. As the crow flies, it wasn’t far from my home turf. I grew up in Woodside, which the Trumps would have considered the other side of the tracks (my New Yorkers know it was actually just the other side of the LIE).

In Woodside, we got to know our neighbors. We supported each other, checked in on each other. We mostly came from working-class families—but we felt lucky for the richness of our community. See, this is the tale of two people from Queens and the two very different worldviews that have come to define our national parties.

Donald Trump’s Queens was an enclave, closed off from the world. Mine was open to it. In Trump’s Queens, you looked out for yourself. In my Queens, we looked out for each other.

In his Queens, being big and powerful meant you had free license to take what you wanted. In my Queens, it meant you had a responsibility to stand up to bullies. In Trump’s Queens, success could only come at the expense of others. In my Queens, it wasn’t success unless it was shared by others. See, people tend to think of Trump as an aberration. A category of one. But that tale of two people from Queens…  isn’t that really Democrats and Republicans?

Trump’s brand of politics—smallness, meanness, survival of the richest, disdain for diversity—it’s not all that new. It’s been the Republican platform since Nixon.  For many years, it was dog-whistled, or spoken quietly. Trump has merely decided to shout it out. But our beliefs have always been there, too.

Today you saw just some of the richness of diversity that we represent… and that represents us. You met one of the first Sikh American mayors in US history. You met the first Hispanic mayor of Topeka, Kansas.

They’ve inspired so many of us because of who they are: powerful, path-blazing, history-making individuals. But remember, they didn’t win solely because of who they are; they won because of what they are for.

What we are for. Putting people back to work, with good jobs and good benefits. Strong, safe communities. A country that leads the world in innovation. And one that leads the world, period.

That’s what we’re for—all of us. Look, there’s a very simple reason that Republicans haven’t been able to get much done.  They’re fighting with each other, and we’re sticking together. Leader Pelosi deserves a lot of credit for that. And let’s hear it for Steny. Jim. Linda. Ben Ray and our entire leadership team.

Sticking together isn’t always easy.  We’re a big tent. We’ve got some differences. But they’re not as big as you’d think. Look at our economy: Cedric Richmond and the CBC—one of the things you advocate for is expanding access to full and fairly-compensated employment. Jim Himes and the NewDems—you talk about “strengthening our middle class with a new prosperity.” Raul Grijalva, Mark Pocan and the Progressive Caucus, you outline the need for “economic justice and security for all.” Are there policy differences in there? Sure there are. But are they bigger than the ones between us and Paul Ryan? Or, us and Donald Trump?  Absolutely not. I could go issue by issue, or member by member.

Our reality is the same: Our individual goals won’t make much difference if we don’t achieve our shared goal: Winning the majority. So even though we won’t have our issues conference as planned, we’re still going to talk about what’s at stake. We’re still going to talk about how to reach people and communicate our policies. We’re going to get focused. And united.

 

Because there’s another thing that connects us: We see beyond ourselves. We understand beyond our experiences. We recognize there are a lot of things we are not, but that we can still fight for. The guy in the factory town, wondering where all the jobs have gone: We get him. The small business owner, risking everything for an idea: We aspire with her. The LGBTQ kid in high school, bullied by his peers:  We hear him. The Dreamer living in fear of being deported from the only country she’s ever known: We see her. The single mother who takes three buses to two jobs. We know her. The farmer trying to save the family farm… the veteran trying to rebuild his life… the list goes on and on.

None of us is all of these people. But, as Democrats, we see them. We hear them. We know them. We dream with them.  And we champion them. When each of us in this caucus walks into the House chamber, we do so with these people in mind.

We carry their struggles, their hopes for more with us. And, our focus is on making this world a better place for each and every one of them.

And the way we do that?!: We stick together. We fight together. And we win, together. So let’s get these important conversations started.  Let’s make this a year to remember.