Progressive leaders McGovern, Khanna cheer like-minded crowd at town hall

  • Outfitted with Tibetan prayer scarves from the Regional Tibetan Association, Rep. Ro Khanna speaks as Rep. Jim McGovern watches at a town hall Thursday at First Churches. staff photo/Bera Dunau

Staff Writer
Published: 10/25/2019 12:13:53 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Two progressive stalwarts of the U.S. Congress — one local and one from California — treated an audience of more than 100 people in the pews of the warmly lit First Churches to an evening of policy and partisan fellowship Thursday.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Worcester, and Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Fremont, appeared to hold each other in high regard.

When people want to know what the right thing to do is, McGovern said, “Ro is one of the people they turn to.”

“He is a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity,” McGovern said.

Speaking of McGovern, Khanna said that although he is in favor of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi retaining her position as long as she wants, “there is another great candidate afterwards.”

Khanna also called McGovern “the leading voice for human rights in the Congress.”

The congressmen made their remarks at a town hall organized with the Progressive Democrats of America, an organization that has endorsed both men for reelection. And in both their opening remarks and in their answers to questions, progressive policy was the order of the evening.

“Our military budget is so big, Dr. Strangelove is impressed,” McGovern said.

National security should incorporate such things as quality jobs, good schools and roads and bridges that aren’t crumbling, he said.

Khanna said many places in America have been “left out” and that President Donald Trump had sold them a falsity. And he said that this must be fought by convincing people in these communities that things will be better, and by investing in them.

“No person should have to leave their hometown to find a good-paying job,” he said.

McGovern voiced strong criticism of Trump, but said he’s been heartened by the rise in activism he’s seen.

“People power is the strongest power that there is,” he said.

Khanna pointed to Abraham Lincoln’s July 4 speech in 1858, saying Trump “has forgotten what it means to be American.”

Khanna is a prominent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination for president, while McGovern is backing Sen. Elizabeth Warren. However, both men said complimentary things about the two candidates at the event, with McGovern giving “unity” as his second choice.

“Whoever the winner is, you know, we are going to be there,” he said.

One issue where Khanna and McGovern took different stances on was the concept of universal basic income also known as UBI. The topic came up after a question by Silas Anderson of Ashfield.

Khanna said that while he supports increasing Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, he does not back UBI.

“I’m not for a society where we say Mark Zuckerberg makes all the money and sends every American a check. That’s not going to work in this country,” Khanna said.

Instead, he voiced support for job creation policies.

McGovern, by contrast, said “the idea is somewhat attractive to me.”

Both men also talked about the war powers resolution that Khanna sponsored and that McGovern helped shepherd through the House to stop the war in Yemen. Although President Trump ultimately vetoed the resolution, Khanna said the Trump administration subsequently stopped refueling Saudi planes flying in the war.

“It led to the ceasefire in Hodeidah,” Khanna said.

At the event, McGovern was praised for his work on behalf of the Tibetan community by Thondup Tsering, president of the Regional Tibetan Association of Massachusetts. McGovern and Khanna were then presented with Tibetan prayer scarves, which they wore for the rest of the event.

Khanna’s visit is his first to the Pioneer Valley and Northampton.

“I got to see the changing colors,” said Khanna. “It’s been great.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at


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