DEMO­CRATIC RE­SPONSE touts ‘bet­ter deal for all who call this coun­try home.’

Af­ter speech, Kennedy in House calls for re­jec­tion of ‘chaos,’ in­clu­sion of all

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW DALY

WASH­ING­TON — Soar­ing stock prices un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump have boosted in­vestor port­fo­lios and cor­po­rate prof­its but have not eased the eco­nomic anx­i­eties of mid­dle-class fam­i­lies, Mas­sachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III said Tues­day night in the Demo­cratic re­sponse to Trump’s State of the Union address.

In call­ing on Amer­i­cans to re­ject the “chaos” of the Trump era, Kennedy also out­lined a Demo­cratic vi­sion that he said prom­ises a “bet­ter deal for all who call this coun­try home.”

Democrats sup­port a higher min­i­mum wage, paid leave for em­ploy­ees and af­ford­able child care, among other pri­or­i­ties, Kennedy said.

“We choose pen­sions that are sol­vent, trade pacts that are fair, roads and bridges that won’t rust away, and good ed­u­ca­tion you can af­ford,” he said in a speech from a vo­ca­tional high school in Fall River, Mass., a one­time man­u­fac­tur­ing hub now strug­gling with high un­em­ploy­ment and other prob­lems.

Kennedy, 37, a three-term con­gress­man and grand­son of for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral Robert F. Kennedy, has ar­gued that Democrats should fo­cus on the eco­nomic con­cerns of work­ing-class vot­ers who didn’t sup­port the party in the 2016 elec­tions.

Fall River, home to many blue-col­lar work­ers, “has faced its share of storms,” Kennedy said. “But peo­ple here are tough. They fight for each other. They pull for their city.”

In an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Trump, Kennedy said that “bul­lies may land a punch” and leave a mark but that they have “never man­aged to match the strength and spirit of a peo­ple united in de­fense of their fu­ture.”

Kennedy de­cried what he de­scribed as a roll­back of civil-rights pro­tec­tions, cit­ing pro­pos­als that tar­get Mus­lims, trans­gen­der peo­ple and oth­ers. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion “isn’t just tar­get­ing the laws that pro­tect us — they are tar­get­ing the very idea that we are all wor­thy of pro­tec­tion,” Kennedy said.

Trump’s record is “a re­buke of our high­est Amer­i­can ideal: the be­lief that we are all wor­thy, we are all equal and we all count — in the eyes of our law and our lead­ers, our God and our gov­ern­ment,” he said.

Kennedy was elected to the House in 2012, re­turn­ing the fam­ily to Con­gress two years af­ter the re­tire­ment of Rhode Is­land Rep. Pa­trick Kennedy, the son of Joe Kennedy III’s great-un­cle Ted.

In a nod to “Dream­ers,” a term of­ten used for young peo­ple brought to the U.S. il­le­gally as chil­dren, Kennedy spoke in Span­ish as he said they are a part of Amer­ica’s story and promised that Democrats will not walk away from them.

Kennedy said Trump and his ad­min­is­tra­tion were break­ing a core prom­ise of Amer­ica — that ev­ery­one will be treated equally un­der the law. He ac­cused the ad­min­is­tra­tion of “cal­lously” ap­prais­ing Amer­i­cans’ worth and de­cid­ing “who makes the cut and who can be bar­gained away.”

Un­der Trump and con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans, Amer­i­cans are “bom­barded with one false choice af­ter an­other,” Kennedy said. “Coal min­ers or sin­gle moms. Ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties or in­ner cities. The coast or the heart­land.”

Democrats “choose both,” Kennedy said.

A for­mer Peace Corps vol­un­teer, Kennedy was an as­sis­tant district at­tor­ney in two Mas­sachusetts dis­tricts be­fore be­ing elected to Con­gress. In Con­gress, he has fo­cused on eco­nomic and so­cial jus­tice, ad­vo­cated on be­half of vo­ca­tional schools and com­mu­nity col­leges, and cham­pi­oned is­sues such as trans­gen­der rights and mar­riage equal­ity.

To il­lus­trate that mes­sage, he in­vited U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Pa­tri­cia King, a trans­gen­der woman, as his guest to the State of the Union speech even though Kennedy wasn’t in at­ten­dance. King, an in­fantry squad leader at Fort Lewis, Wash., was the first per­son to have sex-change surgery paid for by the mil­i­tary.

Kennedy’s speech was one of sev­eral Demo­cratic re­sponses. El­iz­a­beth Guz­man, one of the first His­pan­ics elected to the Vir­ginia House of Del­e­gates, de­liv­ered a Span­ish-lan­guage re­sponse. For­mer Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Bernie San­ders spoke on Face­book Live, and Rep. Max­ine Wa­ters, D-Calif., spoke on BET.

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