Monday, September 13, 2010

Why this primary day matters (P.S.: If you live in NYS, be sure to vote for Eric Schneiderman for AG)


Candidates like Eric Schneiderman, who's vying for the Democratic nomination for New York State attorney general, candidates who are emphatically not the proverbial "lesser of two evils," are the reason this election cycle matters.

by Ken

I'm sure regular readers have noticed that I'm happy to leave the candidate vetting to Howie, because this is one of the things he does so indefatigably and well. I just do my best to keep up.

And I hope everyone realizes why it's so important.

We've devoted a frustrating amount of attention to the raging controversy over where we on the Left should be positioning ourselves in the raging war between the Obama administration and its increasingly loony, ignorant enemies on the Far Right. Are the far-right loonies worse than the Obamanauts? Of course. It's hard to think of anything seriously worse than the loonies.

Still, there's a case to be made that the reigning cabal of hopeless, gutless corporate-shill fake-"centrist" right-wing Dems is literally incorrigible, and there's no solution but to let the bums be thrown out of power. I can't say I'm comfortable with the case, but I see the logic. While the "centrist" Dems may offer a less extreme form of right-wing governance, there is no path from its unapologetic embrace of our megacorporate masters to any kind of truly progressive alternative. After all, the New Democrats, of whom the president is the most august exemplar, consider us on the Left almost as much the enemy as the Right. Indeed the president often seems to have warmer feelings for, not to mention a greater willingness to accommodate, the Right. So maybe they need to be purged, with the hope that we can then work like heck to shift the balance of power to something more sane and workable. (Disastrous as our last experience of unabashed right-wing governance was, it was candidate and then President Obama who explicitly rejected the opportunity to use it as a teaching moment for the evils of right-wing governance.)

The objections are obvious: (1) Can we, can the country, survive the punishment to be inflicted by the loony Republicans who may take over one or both houses of Congress this year and the White House in 2012? (2) The record for such ideological rejuvenation after defeat isn't good, and we already know that the lesson that will be drawn from Democratic electoral defeats in November ise the opposite of the reality, that those defeats will be blamed on the nonsensical idea that the party "moved too far left" rather than the reality, that it wallowed too unconcernedly in the mire of quasi-Republicanism.


I think we're all only too familiar with the arguments both ways. It seems pretty futile either way. But one thing we can do is everything possible to elect better people everywhere and at every level where they're running, and trying to make sure that it isn't necessary for a good candidate to be a docile pawn of the retrogressive party machinery.

Of course we can never be sure what we're getting from campaign rhetoric and promises. But Howie and our Blue America colleagues Digby and John Amato have gotten better at each time out is sniffing out mere campaign rhetoric and improving the odds that the people they give the thumbs-up are going to improve our body politic. Hasn't Alan Grayson shown us what a difference one person of real conviction and courage can make in the House of Representatives? Do we really need more Heath Shulers?

(Thhis seems an obvious moment to throw in a link to the Blue America '10 webpage, where you can review the candidates who've already gotten the Blue America thumbs-up, and have an opportunity to help their fights.)


There was some good news in the all-but-certain Democratic gubernatorial candidate and all-but-certain next governor Andrew Cuomo has agreed to accept the endorsement of the Working Families Party, which has played such a valuable role in steering the state Democratic Party in a progressive direction. Unfortunately, the price was the WFP's acceptance of the whole of Cuomo's "New New York Agenda," which includes a fair amount of distinctly unprogressive-sounding "tough guy" talk. But there's no way the WFP could have found a candidate capable of drawing the 50,000 votes statewide needed to keep it on state ballots until the next gubernatorial election.

The race everyone's watching, though, is the crowded Democratic field for the nomination to succeed Cuomo as state attorney general. There are several quite presentable candidates among them, but naturally the best-financed of them is also the least persuasive, Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice (who rather picturesquely couldn't be troubled to vote until she was 37).

For me the choice is simple, though. The name of Eric Schneiderman (who happens to be my state senator) is familiar to DWT readers. His entire career has shown him to be a tireless battler to change our political system from within into something responsive to the needs of the people. He really is that "better candidate" we need to be on the lookout for.

One of my most tireless progressive friends, Elana Levin, makes this case for Schneiderman in an e-mail she's not only allowing but encouraging everyone to circulate:
Vote Eric Schneiderman for NY Attorney General

“You don’t beat a movement through triangulation, you beat a movement with another movement,” said Eric Schneiderman to me in 2004. Eric is probably my favorite elected official at any level. Currently state senator from the Upper West Side and Washington Heights, Eric has been the brains behind almost every piece of progressive legislation that made it through our f-ed up state government.

• Eric’s ended a disgusting health insurance loophole that let insurers drop sick people.

• He took the lead in supporting LGBTQ Marriage in NYC (and has the endorsements to prove it).

• Eric ended prison-based gerrymandering that hurts urban communities (that NYT editorial explains the bill which Eric pushed through for years and won).

• Eric got Hiram Monserrate, the corrupt state senator who slashed his girlfriend’s face and led the destructive Albany coup, kicked out of office.

He has the NYT endorsement, and even more articulate is The Nation’s endorsement. Eric is the most progressive and most reform-minded candidate. He is polling ahead, but by a nose, so we really need your vote.

Eric is supported by the leading anti-political corruption group, Citizens Union. From the moment he took office in the State Senate he pushed so strongly against corruption that BOTH political parties went after him. They actually tried to gerrymander him out of his district by making it majority Latino.

Guess what? Schneiderman learned Spanish, engaged with that community on the issues rather than pandering to identity politics and he won! The political bosses running Albany got so petty they refused to give his staff office supplies in his office at the Capitol.

You KNOW the guy’s a reformer when that happens.

Not only does Eric get important policy passe,d he gets the big picture of how to create progressive change in America. Read the opinion piece he wrote for more on ending “checklst” politics.

Finally, one of the women I respect most in politics and activism is Debra Cooper, on the board of NY NARAL. She wrote a great letter on why women and feminists should support him that I posted to Facebook.

Populist pundit David Sirota’s post "Eric Schneiderman & the Progressive Movement's Carpe Diem Opportunity on September 14th" is here.

Well said, Elana!

In so many contests across the country, both primaries and the November general election, we're going to be put in the position of holding our noses and voting for that proverbial lesser of two evils. In the AG primary we're in the situation of having several candidates a lot of us could vote for in good conscience under other circumstances, but when a candidate like Schneiderman is presented who has established that he's the real deal, someone to vote for with confident enthusiasm, well, we just have to vote for him.

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