The past 6 months have been a rodeo. Like the contestants of the rodeo, they all start with great promise. We had a lot of newcomers as well as some seasoned ones aspiring to move into a more risk taking adventure. I enjoyed the primary diaries we all participated in.
March 6th saw the first state primary for the general election, and from it, Beto O’Roarke emerged as the Democratic nominee for the US Senate from Texas. Yesterday’s NY-NY primary marked the end of the primary season. While our three preferred candidates didn’t win, we did see the beginning of cracking the IDC wall, whereby if the non-IDC Dems who are running on Nov 6th prevail, it could be that there may be less excuses for Cuomo not to be accountable for what he said he would do for more NYers. James Peck expressed it this way for NBC News:
..Despite the hurdles and the losses on the top of the ticket, many progressive challengers did succeed on Thursday. Of the eight members of the Independent Democratic Caucus — Democrats who caucus with the Republicans and swing the balance of power in the State Senate to the right — six were unseated by progressive challengers. (Cuomo claims that he has no connection to the IDC, but sources tell Politico this is false. The understanding is that, with a presidential run in his sights, he feels that the less progressive legislation that ever makes it to his desk, the less he has to anger liberal voters by vetoing it, or centrist donors by signing it.)
A seventh incumbent, Martin Dilan, who is a machine politician cozy with real estate, was unseated by 27-year-old Julia Salazar, an open socialist and member of the Democratic Socialists of America. (I’m an active member of NYC DSA and volunteered for her campaign.) Salazar did this despite weeks of negative national press coverage unusual for a small state legislative race and personal attacks from Dilan.
The bruising midterm primaries are over. What have we learned about the ‘blue wave’?
Like the Ocasio-Cortez win this summer, these victories were driven by small donors and grassroots operations that marshaled volunteers in numbers large enough to make an impact. Considering where progressives are at nationwide, local races are a crucial first step as we build politicians and institutions capable of taking on the establishment at the state and ultimately national levels. As numerous DSA members noted about Nixon’s race this summer, the number of volunteer shifts required to make an impact on the gubernatorial race were about ten times what we did for Ocasio-Cortez, and we’re just not there yet. But that doesn’t mean we never will be.
The American left needs to think in the long term: It’s only been seven years since Occupy Wall Street brought class politics to the forefront of the conversation and made everyone wonder what the deal is with capitalism. It’s been three years since “democratic socialism” bubbled its way up into the national consciousness with the Bernie Sanders campaign. We’re going to lose most of the time at this point, but that we’ve already won as much as we have should inspire everyone to the left of the Clintons to clear their calendars.
We can debate the finer points of social democracy and democratic socialism once we’ve defeated the reactionary right and neoliberal center.
Of course, it’s going to take more than some good politicians to win the world we deserve: As history has shown, it takes massive direct actions and a large and militant labor movement to create enough pressure for our elected officials to pass even the mildest of social democratic reforms. But it certainly can’t hurt to have people in the halls of power whose message of economic democracy empowers their constituents to ask for more— people who aren’t paid to run for office for by the same power players who profit off keeping us hungry, sick and poor. We inched one step closer to that goal last night. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.
With that in mind, last week I started thinking about how to keep the progressive movement forward in a tactical way that also could be strategic.
The long game is to have more progressives in state houses, locals, Congress. The short game is similar, but we know that overall, more centrists ended up being the nominees.
Despite what I think about JB Pritzker, I will be voting for him for the IL governor’s race, but with great reservations. I also will be voting for Betsy Londrigan for IL-13. Both are centrist. Other than a yard sign for Betsy, I won’t be giving money to the campaign as she has the support of TOP and Emily’s List. But I will write a letter to her to encourage her to support Medicare for All, now that Barack Obama has suggested it is a good idea, and she may be persuaded by him more than the polls that most Americans favor it.
However, I had this idea. Funds and time allowing, what if each one of us picked someone in a red district to flip or a red state to flip that isn’t being supported by big money brokers? So for example, the person I would like to help is James Thompson in KS04. DCCC does not think his seat is winnable. He came within 6 points last year of winning the special election last year, and I think with a little more help, he could win. I sent him a donation recently and have been retweeting or tweeting my support. I was impressed that even with a small donation, I was sent a handwritten post card by one of the volunteers. What else could I do? Maybe send text messages on his behalf? Today, I sent an e-mail to Text Troop at Open Progress although I haven’t officially signed up. I wish I had done it sooner as I could have helped out this afternoon. (I learned about this calendar a bit late, and today it was for James Thompson).
I think the progressive wave is stronger than it was the special elections last year, and if the candidates are successful in both elections as well as making some marks on their records, like Bernie, Pramila, and Jeff Merkeley, we might have a shot of being more of a movement than just anti-Trump.
I’m interested in your thoughts, birdies.