Deb Haaland made history last week when she was confirmed as the first Native American U.S. Secretary of the Interior. Although Haaland’s appointment is confirmed, the fight is far from over. Right-wing media and a number of Republican senators and members of the House will not let up on their attacks of Haaland, and so we cannot ease up on our defense of her. Her fight is truly our fight.
Haaland’s confirmation came after ongoing attacks on her record, ranging from her involvement in the 2016 protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline to her support for the Green New Deal’s progressive vision for addressing climate change. During Haaland’s confirmation hearings, senators who have received strong support from the oil and gas industry were on the attack. For example, Steve Daines, of Montana, called Haaland a “radical” for her views on tackling the climate crisis and expanding conservation. Senator John Kennedy, R-La., referred to Haaland as a “neo-socialist, left-of-Lenin whack job”, and Senator Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said that Haaland’s past statements prove her to be “more radical than President Biden.” Right-wing media outlets also spewed forth venom.
The fact is that Haaland was chosen because of her commitment to advance a smart, strategic vision for tackling the immense challenges of climate change and the inequities that crisis has imposed on communities of color. And she was chosen because of her ability to work across ideological lines to get things done. In 2019, for example, then-Representative Haaland received more bipartisan support for her bills than any other first-year Congress member.
The Biden administration’s Department of the Interior will be center stage in advancing a forward-looking agenda of protecting public lands, shifting America away from reliance on fossil fuels and towards clean energy solutions, and promoting equity for communities of color. And that agenda, with Secretary Haaland at the forefront, will be met with fierce resistance from the powerful oil and gas lobby and the members of Congress indebted to those industries. We know the challenges she will face as a woman of color and as the historic first Native American ever to serve in a presidential cabinet. Going forward we must ensure that she has the support she needs to deliver on the bold agenda she was chosen to advance. Her fight will be our fight.