An Interview with David Cicilline

cicillineUnited States congressman David Cicilline is fresh off of a resounding Democratic primary victory, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, sailing toward another victory this November and another term representing Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District.

I caught up with Congressman Cicilline earlier this month for a wide-ranging conversation on The Bartholomewtown Podcast, in which The Congressman offered his thoughts on topics including the expanding chorus of voices within The Democratic Party:

Bill Bartholomew (Motif): We have this, I don’t want to call it a struggle because in many ways it’s healthy, but within the Democratic Party in Rhode Island, the so-called “progressives” versus the “old-school” established Democratic movement. We’ve (seen) it with candidates in different primary races, yet at the same time it’s tough to draw a circle around everyone and say, “All right, you’re part of the Justice Democrats” or “You’re part of the old-guard Democrats.” Do you feel like this is a healthy vetting process (the Democrats) are going through right now?

David Cicilline: It is healthy and exciting and great for the country and great for our party.  Look, I’ve been traveling around the country campaigning for candidates who are running for Congress, and these are spectacular candidates who were largely motivated after the election of Donald Trump. Many of them never thought about running for office, but just thought, “I’ve got to do something to stand up for my country,” and decided to run for Congress, great veterans and great women and business owners and just people who really fit their districts, who have a real passion about service. And they range from very progressive people to more moderate Democrats, even some conservative Democrats.

And what I think is exciting is that we’re going to have the most diverse caucus in the history of the Congress in the House Democratic Caucus. It’s going to be larger and more diverse in the next Congress. And that’s great for us. It’s great for the country. I think what will happen is that we’ll have a really great exchange of ideas. Look, there’s a real understanding about healthcare. We’ve got to expand access, reduce costs. There are a bunch of different ways to do that and so we’re going to have people who are going to come with their best ideas, their passion, and they’re gonna make their case and out of that process, we’ll develop consensus as House Democrats and will pass legislation. That’s how it should work and that’s great, and I think we ought to be a party that invites everyone to be part of that process and we have to most importantly, be a part of this in the majority so we can actually move forward on that. Whatever the differences are on the edges, on any of these issues among Democrats, there are big differences between all the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress.

BB: As you’ve traveled the country, do you feel that there’s widespread momentum for change? Not just in the sense of, “All right, we’re going to flip to from maybe a Republican to a Democrat in a particular House seat,” but more even existentially than that, that “Hey, we need to evaluate values”?

DC: I think there’s a very strong feeling that people have in every place I’ve visited around the country and in Rhode Island that they just have lost faith in the federal government. They just lost faith that Congress is capable or able to do anything to improve their lives. And in many ways, they’re right. You look at the last eight years under Republican control and you know, they haven’t seen their wages go up. They haven’t seen the cost of college go down. They haven’t seen real advancements on a number of important issues. So I think people’s frustration is real and they’ve mostly seen the pervasive corrupting influence of money in our political system. And so I think it’s very important not only when the Democrats take back the House that we demonstrate a commitment to those issues, but that we also conduct the business of governing differently.

BB: You seem to love your job. You seem to love Rhode Island.  Being such an established figure in Rhode Island, do you feel that that comes with a certain responsibility?

DC: I’ve lived here my whole life. I see all these roles in government that have opportunities to help people. Sometimes it’s very specific problems, like an issue that only relates to them they need to fix, and sometimes fighting to protect government programs that matter to them, or fighting for new laws that I know will benefit people. So I kind of realized as a very young person that politics was the place where I thought I could use my talent to make the world and my country a better place, and I really feel very privileged and very lucky to have been able to do something I love because, you know, there’s lots of people who don’t have the privilege of having a job they love and that’s a real luxury in life.

 I feel really honored and very grateful for that.  I think this, you know, this is a particular moment in our history where I do feel a special responsibility. I had a woman come up to me the other day and she said, “You know, congressman, I just want to tell you something. This is, this period of this Trump presidency has been so upsetting to me. I’m having difficulty at my job. I’m seeing a counselor now.” I mean, really, she’s not the only person that has expressed that. I think there’s a lot of evidence that it’s been a hard time for people in this country And she said to me, “The only reason I can sleep at night as I know that you are there in Washington fighting as hard as you can for us,” and it like made almost kind of tear up a little.

I mean it just this moment of realizing you know, that you have a really important responsibility in this role in moments like this, that people are counting on all of us who serve to stand up and fight for them…

 Stream the entire Bartholomewtown Podcast episode with Congressman Davie Cicilline  on Apple Podcasts, Spotify OR RIPodcast.com

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