A Conversation With Deb Haaland

Us Rep Visits Weekly Alibi For A Chat

August March
11 min read
Deb Haaland
(Eric Williams Photography)
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A year and a couple months from now, the United States of America will hold—by many citizens’ anxious accounting—the most important election ever to be held in the 244 year history of our republic.

The 2020 general election features an all-important presidential race, but will also include elections for a replacement for US Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) as well as for positions in the US House of Representatives—which all come up for election every two years, unlike the Senate, whose victors serve staggered 6-year terms.

Up north, in District 3, the race is wide-open, and though we are veering toward endorsing Santa Fe District Attorney Marco Serna as the best fit for this decisive district, we’re still in the investigative state, and frankly, with such a deep and wide field, anything is possible here before Labor Day.

In the south, District 2—a region complicated by competing rural and urban voices stretched over a thinly populated and quickly aging psychogeography, there’s still the chance that Rep. Xochitl Torres Small may be primaried. Her proposed countermove: getting close to the rural base in her district by moving to the center, and maybe even ever so slightly into right field—especially with regard to her positions on guns, renewable energy and the primacy of oil and gas companies in places of influence like Clovis and Hobbs.

District 1 is a different story. After running a successful campaign in 2018 and rightfully participating in the blue wave that brought a new breath—and a Democratic majority—to the US House of Representatives, Deb Haaland has continued to move forward, delivering on a progressive agenda while also embracing a legislative and a cultural inclusivity that continues to win over fans, voters and other members of the leadership class in Washington, D.C.

Haaland’s breathtakingly brave stances on issues like the climate emergency, Indigenous rights and sovereignty, renewable energy and an overarching platform called the Green New Deal have led to her take an active and visible role as an advocate for progressive American governance.

A political opponent of the current Republican Presidential administration, Haaland has been equally fierce in her criticism of President Donald J. Trump while working for positive and substantive change. She supported oversight efforts when the Democratic majority returned to Congress in Jan. 2019, and she recently told the press that she supported an impeachment investigation, as well.

Haaland has also recently endorsed in a couple of important yet seemingly different upcoming elections. It’s been widely reported that Haaland supports Elizabeth Warren’s campaign for president and yesterday the Congresswoman showed her far-reaching, well rounded influence by endorsing Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis for re-election in District 6.

With her local and national influence on the ascent, and in the midst of a very busy schedule during an August recess, Haaland took the time to come by and chat with
Weekly Alibi. We talked about all sorts of political stuff and our staff photographer took pictures, too.

Weekly Alibi: What are you working on, Rep. Haaland; what are your priorities now as you move into the second year of your first term?

Representative Deb Haaland: As I campaigned on last year, the environment is really my biggest priority. On climate change, there’s an urgency there that we’ve never experienced before. So I’ll continue to care deeply and work hard with respect to that. We’ve gotten a few related bills passed out of committee. One of those will protect the area around Chaco Canyon from oil and gas development. Of course, you take two steps forward and one step back. They [the federal government] did open up some areas for drilling.

And the Bureau of Land Management keeps issuing drilling permits for use on public land adjacent to Chaco.

Right. Now our public lands emit 25 percent of the carbon that is emitted by our country.

So ultimately we’ll need to make public lands carbon-neutral, right?

That would be amazing. Yes. That would be one of my goals. So we’re working on that and also on the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women too.

Right. That’s an issue that’s been talked about for a couple days now in the news. I know this has been a problem across the Americas, in New Mexico and throughout Central America. As one progresses South, the tragedy grows.

Absolutely. So in that regard, we’ve introduced a number of bills, including the Not Invisible Act of 2019, which will create a committee that will, essentially, investigate the problem and tell Congress what to do. That committee will include law enforcement, victims or their family members, victims’ advocates and non-profits that stand against violence towards women.

I would consider these to be progressive measures—that is legislative matters that are designed to move our culture forward in a positive, inclusive way.


But do you think there’s support from the Congress, from people in Washington, to move in that direction?

We’ll definitely get those sorts of bills passed in the House. There’re enough caring, informed Congress people on board to say, “Yes, we need to pass these sorts of bills.” If Mitch McConnell would put the bills we passed [up for a vote] on the Senate floor, my guess is that a lot of Senators—not just Democrats, but Republicans, too—would care enough about this issue to pass and move it forward.

That sounds like an ongoing problem in the Senate.

It is an ongoing problem. Hopefully, we can defeat Mitch McConnell. Aside from having a new president, we really need to do something about him. He’s just terrible.

Our strategy is to keep voters engaged and interested in upcoming elections by interfacing directly with political leaders. But the main thing we want to encourage is voting. We want people to get out and vote.

That’s very important to this process.

You’ve also worked a lot on the Green New Deal. But I still run into readers who don’t quite understand what that means. Could you please explain the Green New Deal?

It’s not a hard legislative piece at the moment. We’re still talking about it; we’re still putting in our ideas of what it will comprise. We’re still deciding what should be included in any legislative package we create toward its implementation. You know, when we passed HR 1, it was a series of bills that included voting protections, campaign finance reforms … My contribution was same-day voter registration. I’m feeling like that’s how we’ll end up doing the Green New Deal.

So, it will be presented as an omnibus bill to the entire house?

Exactly. So there’s a select committee on climate change or something like that, in the House. They are still convening. My guess is that some time soon, we’ll all get together and talk about what it is we need to do and how we can get it done. In the meantime, everyday I wake up worried about …

The climate change issue.

Yes! And the rainforest is on fire now!

So a whole bunch of world-changing issues are coming to a head this summer. Do these extreme environmental events resonate or even register with voters?

If people don’t realize how urgent a problem this is, they need to get on board as soon as possible. This is an issue that is not going away. If we stopped pouring carbon into the atmosphere today—we still wouldn’t be able to correct the damage we’ve already done to this planet. All we can hope for is that we slow it down and that we essentially adapt to what the changing climate will mean for all of us. Here in the high desert, we’ve experienced some of that already: higher temperatures, sustained drought.

How can we lessen the impact that we have upon the Earth? How can we diminish New Mexico’s carbon footprint?

We should all feel personally obligated to a change our habits.

Well, I’ve been carrying around this plastic McDonald’s coffee cup for a couple weeks now.

It will never go away. It will last for 3 million years!

Right but I’m going to keep it and use it till I go away, which is only about 30 years. But I hope that helps out a bit. The fact is that we’re overwhelmed by plastic!

Not only that, but plastics are made from fossil fuels.

So do we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels, too?

That would be really nice, wouldn’t it?

But it’s difficult to change ingrained habits.

We need to recycle, we need to be cognizant of the trash that we are each generating. I’ve signed on to the Zero Waste Act, as well, in line with that belief, that’s Rep. [Ilhan] Omar’s bill. We need recycling.

That’s another thing I wanted to ask you about. Recycling. The recycling program in Burque—and in many other western cities I’m told—is stuck because the companies overseas, especially China, that were buying US recyclables have stopped buying plastic and paper. How can we get back on track with regard to recycling in the US and in Burque?

We need to build our own recycling facilities here in this country. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever have zero waste, but that’s something we can still strive for. We need to have our own recycling facilities and we need to give incentives to companies that use recycled products and materials.

So ultimately, to get this Green New Deal going, we’re talking about a huge shift in the way Americans, live, think, do business and interact with each other and the environment. How will that happen? It seems like a very long-term project, given its scope.

I think it’s going to be ongoing. You know, when the Europeans first came to this continent, in the late 1400s, the resources were vast. Water, animals, labor, all of those things. The Native Americans had a handle on how to make the most out of the resources they had. They were accomplished agriculturalists; they new how to build in the desert.

They had a different model for their civilization.

That’s true. But that situation gave the Europeans license to use what they wanted. There was no thought about conserving anything. Animals went extinct. They were slaughtering 1000 buffalo per day. It was really bad.

Have we gotten better than that?

We’ve gotten better but that mindset of entitled use with no conservation was how this country was started. We need to—when I think about the Amazon rainforest and the Indigenous people who have lived there for thousands of years and know how to care for the land—listen to Indigenous people about how to care for the land, for the Earth. We need to go back there and realize that things are finite.

The media and some Republicans are talking about a division in the Democratic party between centrists and progressives. Is that a real beef?

We say progressive. In the case of Elizabeth Warren, her plans will benefit every single American. When I ran my campaign, I ran on a progressive agenda, too. I won by 23 percent in the general election. That tells me that a progressive agenda that is inclusive of various points of view is attractive to voters; you don’t have to be a progressive to vote for something that will benefit you and your family. I don’t buy the big divisions that some people are talking about. We’ll come together. There’s an “indivisible” pledge out there that says “I will support whomever wins the primary election.” I signed on to that. I feel like the turnout will be higher than usual in 2020. There’s already a lot of excitement and energy. People don’t want another Republican term.

Like the blue wave in 2018?

Yes, but bigger, stronger.

Anything else you want to tell our readers?

The 2020 Census is coming up. Please answer you door and be counted, New Mexicans! This is a hard-to-count state.

You heard her, citizens!

Deb Haaland

Representative Deb Haaland

Eric Williams Photography

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