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It's Time for Hardball, Says Progressive Congresswoman Donna Edwards

Those who expect Edwards to play from the margins to which left-wing politicians are frequently relegated will find themselves disappointed. She came to get stuff done.

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"All of the major things that we were able to achieve out of two very productive sessions of Congress in the 110th and 111th Congress," Edwards continued, "happened because we had a lot of progressives who were chairing those committees."

At the Media Reform conference in April, she told the audience that she received a call from a woman in Ames, Iowa, asking Edwards to "fight for me" -- even though Ames is thousands of miles from Edwards' Maryland district -- because the Iowan said her interests weren't represented by her congressman (Republican Tom Lantham). "If you're from Ames," Edwards told the audience, "I want you to bring me a colleague who will fight with me."

Expanding the Table

A fighter for racial justice, Edwards is also conscious of the need for strong coalitions that include not just preternaturally progressive elements, but economically disenfranchised voters, as well.

So, you see her at the Media Reform Conference admonishing her audience to "make this room a little more brown" ("That's your fight," she told the largely white crowd), and several months later at Netroots Nation sounding a cautious note about the kind of language around race that she sees as less than helpful. When, during the question-and-answer session at her panel, an audience member used the term "white privilege," Edwards said that when people of color use that term, it can drive away white voters. "I want to make sure we're using language to draw people in who share the same concerns about declining jobs and opportunity," she added.

Back in her congressional office, she put it this way, "I feel that, having worked with progressive organizations and institutions for years, we have to expand the table of people we are speaking with, who are listening to us, and who we’re listening to."

*CORRECTION:The original version of this story misstated the subcommittee on which Rep. Edwards is ranking member.

Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief. Follow her on Twitter:

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