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Did you think that Massachusetts politics were too liberal to put progressive ideals at risk? Dramatic elections do take place in this deep blue state. Students often feel like outsiders during elections but the reality is that all members of the Harvard University community have the right to take part in Massachusetts state and local elections, be it by actually casting a ballot or through political activism. I urge you to pay particular attention to one of the closest-fought Democratic primaries in the nation: the race between incumbent U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.). Kennedy, unsatisfied with his seat in the House, has decided to challenge Markey for a seat in the Senate. Since Markey is best known today as the legislator who introduced the Green New Deal resolution in the Senate, this race is nothing less than a referendum on the Green New Deal itself. It is a race of historic importance. To borrow a quip from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics: “welcome to the most unusual Senate primary in decades.”
Members of the Harvard community — actually, all undergraduate and graduate students at universities in Massachusetts — should defend the sitting climate champion against this strange challenge, and vote for Ed Markey in the Senate primary on September 1.
Much ink has been spilled on the many excellent reasons to send Markey back to the Senate. In their recent endorsement piece, the Boston Globe Editorial Board explained that as a longtime advocate for emissions standards and cap and trade, Markey “is poised — and arguably more prepared than any other politician in the U.S. government — to fill in the conceptual aspirations of the Green New Deal resolution that he cosponsored with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with practical policies and to get them passed in Congress.” His work to stop insider trading, ensure universal broadband access, and end nuclear proliferation is undoubtedly laudable, but what makes him truly irreplaceable is that he is one of Capitol Hill’s foremost advocates for green jobs and a livable future. That is why the Sunrise Movement — a youth-driven advocacy movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process — has supported Markey and why we have made thousands of phone calls to voters on his behalf.
Kennedy, while a cautious supporter of many of the same causes, is not a visionary. My family and I live in a brutalist apartment slab in his House district; fellow constituents and I made calls and some even visited his office urging him, successfully, to actually sign onto the Green New Deal resolution — the one that Markey had the foresight and drive to bring to the table with Ocasio-Cortez. Nevertheless, Kennedy enjoys considerable and sincere support in the state. I keep running into his supporters at busy intersections in the extreme heat — hotter than it was a few years ago, by the way — waving lawn signs on sticks at passing cars. A Kennedy has never lost a race in Massachusetts, and this one has a real chance of taking out one of America’s most famous advocates for sweeping climate change legislation. And for what? Kennedy has struggled to explain what he could possibly offer to residents of Massachusetts — and the rest of this planet — besides ambition.
The Harvard University student body should exercise their collective voice in this race. It will be closely fought and every vote will count; students must cast a ballot to defend the Green New Deal. After all, imagine the gift that Kennedy would give to Mitch McConnell if he won. It would allow McConnell to say that even in Massachusetts, voters think that a green jobs program is an impossible fantasy.
When I contemplate the harmful effects that a Senator Kennedy would have on the bitter fight to pass large-scale climate legislation in 2021, I am forced to conclude that my Kennedy-supporting neighbors are making a mistake. I urge all readers to cast their ballot for a true progressive and keep one of our best hopes for a just climate transition in public office.
If you are registered to vote in Massachusetts and will be voting absentee: To apply for a vote-by-mail ballot, those with a Cambridge address must fill out the 2020 Vote By Mail Application. This application must arrive at the Cambridge election office by mail, email, or fax by August 26. In order for your vote to count, your mail-in ballot must arrive at the Cambridge Election Commission office by Tuesday, September 1st at 8:00 pm.
Julia Yujie Deng is a first-year Harvard Law School student and a volunteer with Sunrise Boston.
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