Alaska Brief Newsletter — February 2017
Maybe you heard the story of the senator who persisted when told she couldn’t speak.Senate Republicans invoked a little known rule to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s opposition to Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Their tactic backfired.
Instead of keeping quiet, Sen. Warren read the 1986 letter by Coretta Scott King outside the Senate chambers via social media. Quickly, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave his justification for silencing her–“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” It became the rallying cry for all those who have been told to sit down and shut up.
#ShePersisted went a-Twitter
Soon, the “She Persisted” hashtag went a-Twitter, and showed up on t-shirts, memes, and social media posts with images of Rosa Parks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harriet Tubman, and many other iconic Americans who fought for civil and equal rights.
Senator McConnell’s words should concern us not only for how they represent the harm and hardship so many Americans face when fighting for a seat at the table, but also for whether and how we can restore civil debate and the free exchange of ideas in this hostile environment.
Senator McConnell used a Senate rule prohibiting a Senator in debate from “directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator” to silence Warren. Does this mean it is okay to silence a woman while allowing two of her male colleagues to read the same letter aloud without interruption?
Who is silenced will plague politics
Just who is silenced, and how that silencing is justified, will continue to plague our public discourse in the months and years to come.
We are witnessing a power grab in the White House and Congress that silences opposition through obscure rules and power plays that go against the values inherent in “We the people.”
Trustees defends the right of Alaskans and Americans to have a say about what happens in and near their communities. We fight to ensure that citizens have a voice in decisions affecting public lands and resources.
Trustees opposes order forcing agencies to get rid of two rules for every new one
This month, Trustees joined many groups across the nation in signing a letter opposing the President’s executive order forcing federal agencies to get rid of at least two existing regulations for every new one. The letter explains that the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s guidance for the order is unlawful and unconstitutional.
The “1-in-2-out” executive order would remove rules that protect Americans and the environment. It puts industry profits ahead of public health and safety, and places the cost of preventing harm caused by those industries on the public. It also functionally silences Americans by preventing public input when regulations are jettisoned or delayed.
The power struggle happening in D.C. will continue to put environmental protections in the line of fire while removing “We the people” from the processes designed to protect us.
We have learned over the decades the value of grit when fighting for our rights. We have also learned from Trustees’ founders, staff, donors, supporters, partners, and friends the essential value of persistence. For where would we be without it? Thank you for leading the way.
For Alaska, #WePersist!
PS: Your support of Trustees for Alaska is critical now more than ever.
Fighting for the wild is the Alaska way of life. The central idea behind the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was “that in Alaska, we still have a chance to avoid the mistakes made with public lands in the Lower 48,” said Fran Mauer, a retired wildlife biologist. Today we’re still fighting to protect wolves and bears from aggressive predator control.
An independent New York investment firm described the Pebble project as fundamentally flawed and not commercially viable. The firm’s report comes as vindication to Pebble Mine opponents, who have fought for years to protect Bristol Bay’s watershed, salmon and communities.
Tracy Lohman returned to Trustees this month as its development director. Third time’s a charm, she says, as she talks about her first journey to Alaska via Japan after one of Alaska’s greatest environmental disasters.