August 2020: Where do progressives stand now?

Tompkins County Progressives formed in 2015 during the Presidential primary. Its founders were all enthusiastic supporters of the Independent Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders. We taught ourselves how to run his local campaign effort and helped him gather 42% of the vote in New York State. No one expected him to do so well, including Bernie himself. He did not win, but he changed the entire political conversation. Ideas that were considered crazy up until very recently, became normal.

Why shouldn’t everyone have healthcare? Why should we pay more for our inadequate system than every other nation pays for their systems, almost all of which product better outcomes than ours? Why isn’t public college free, like public high school? Why do CEOs earn so much more money that the rest of us? Why hasn’t the minimum wage gone up at all in decades? Why weren’t we paying attention to climate change?

Fast forward to 2019. Bernie decided to run again, and we were all seasoned campaigners and social media warriors. Bernie had so many small donors, across the whole country, that the New York times had to create two graphs to show national support: one with Bernie included (blue everywhere) and one without Bernie (so you could see where Pete and Amy and Liz and Joe had pockets of support). He raised more money than anyone, without taking any money from corporations or millionaires or super PACS. He won (in popular vote) the first three contests, and dominated the field by far among young people and Latinx voters. Progressives were ecstatic. A better world was possible!

And then, he lost one primary that everyone knew he would lose. Biden won it, even though he had come in 4th or 5th in the first 3 contests. It should not have ended Bernie’s campaign, but it did, because one loss in a southern red state was enough for the DNC and the media to run with their preferred narrative: Bernie’s toast! He’s not *really* that popular. No one *really* wants Medicare for All or a Green New Deal. They just want to go back to the good old days, like 2008, when everyone was happy. Or at least, all the people who mattered were happy.

So Bernie lost again, and he will never be our President, but the story doesn’t end there. Because even though Bernie did not win, progressives still dominated all across the country. AOC and Ilhan Omar and Rashida Talib won big wins over moderate primary challengers, and new progressives like Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush knocked off additional entrenched Democrats. Charles Booker almost beat an establishment pick who spent roughly 50X as much money as he did. BLM took to the streets to demand justice and respect. COVID struck and proved to anyone with any sense that our healthcare system is a disaster, and that tweaks like “Medicare for All who want it” are ridiculous so long as healthcare is tied to employment.

Locally, the members of Tompkins County Progressives have (more or less) processed their disappointment and grief. They have joined marches in support of BLM. They have worked for other local progressive candidates. TCP’s umbrella organization, the New York Progressive Action Network, sued the state of New York to preserve our primary, so that Bernie delegates could still be elected and attend the convention. Joe Biden is now the official Democratic Party nominee for President, and we have no choice but to follow Bernie in his vital mission of holding Biden’s feet to the fire.

We must organize like we’ve never organized before. We must march, we must call our representatives, we must strike, we must elect progressives all over the country, we must flip the Senate. With the Senate in Democratic control, Bernie would become chair of the Appropriations Committee, allowing him to, for example, refuse to bring a defense bill to the floor for a vote if he didn’t like what was in it. We can still achieve Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, although it won’t be easy. We can not rest and we can not despair.

Giving up is not an option. That is one of the most important lessons we have learned from Bernie. We are fighting the righteous fight for the 99% and for the planet, it is an honor to fight within that movement. This fight gives strength and power and energy. We stand in solidarity, and hope you will join us.

— Emily Adams, TCP chair

Onward, into 2019

Many of us at Tompkins County Progressives have been resting and recovering after long, hard-fought campaigns in 2018, which produced a number of important wins for our team. It was exciting to see so many new progressives elected to the New York State Senate, where the Democrats now have the majority. They are busy living up to campaign promises, passing GENDA and the Reproductive Health Act and election reform. It is wonderful to see.

TCP’s parent organization, NYPAN, was instrumental in not only removing almost all of the IDC Democrats from office, but also in supporting and passing the Child Victims Act. Now NYPAN is focused on electing Jumaane Williams (our previously endorsed candidate for Lt. Governor) to the position of Public Advocate in New York City. The work we did for him in the Lt. Gov’s race is paying dividends and he has a real chance of winning on February 26th.

NYPAN held its fall conference in Ithaca, by the way, with directors traveling here from around the state. We rode Limebikes to the Ithaca Falls, met at the Beverly J. Martin gym, and hung out in the evening at the Argos Warehouse. Ithaca made a very good impression!

There is work ahead for 2019, even for those of us not directly impacted by the Public Advocate’s race. At the state level, progressives are still fighting for the New York Health Act, which will not be as easy to get through the legislature as the other bills mentioned above. TCP and NYPAN members will need to show up in Albany, make phone calls to their representatives, talk with businesses and union members, etc., if we want the NYHA to pass this year. Additional election reforms are needed, beyond early voting and pre-registration for young people. Other top issues for progressives at the state level include criminal justice, the environment, immigration, and education. If these issues are important to you, please bring your knowledge and enthusiasm to TCP and consider joining our statewide NYPAN committees, to plan and exchange ideas.

At the local level, TCP would like to encourage members to get involved in local races (which will include the mayor’s race and many town races). All candidates for all of these positions will need to carry petitions to collection signatures to get on the ballot — in March!  The first date for the petition drive is February 26th. This is much earlier than in the past, because one of the recent election reforms was the consolidation of primaries. All primaries in New York will now take place in June, as opposed to some happening in June and others in September.

Any Democrats in Tompkins County who would like to get on the Tompkins County Democratic Committee (or who would like to retain their seat if they are already on), will *also* need to carry petitions starting February 26th. TCP strongly encourages all willing progressive Democrats to join the county committee, and we can help you with the process. The Democratic Party and the progressive community share so many goals, and we are very complimentary organizations. The Democratic Party has the structure in place and a ballot line, while the progressive “wing” has energy and fresh ideas (or, old ideas that look fresh now, like FDR’s new deal…).  Let’s work together!  We need to register voters, bring independents into the Democratic Party in time for 2020, motivate young people, and recruit a “bench” of candidates for local and state office.

2020: Yes, we are excited. There are dozens of Democrats running for the Presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders will almost certainly be among them. If he is, we can be certain that all the topics that are near and dear to our hearts will be discussed. The media won’t be able to ignore income inequality, the environment, corporate greed, and so forth, like they tried to do in 2016. NYPAN has passed a resolution calling for Bernie to join the race, but NYPAN will not endorse until later, after we have seen all the candidates in action. It won’t be easy to outshine Bernie, and a number of the candidates are clearly quite far to his right, but that is OK. It will be interesting to watch the candidates react when asked, for example, “do you agree with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who suggested that the top marginal tax rate should be raised to 70%?” Who else besides Bernie will say yes?

When the 2020 primaries get to New York, it will be very important for us to have various reforms in place. A number of NYPAN members (including TCP’s co-chair, Emily Adams) have gotten themselves elected to State Democratic Committee positions, where they are working to change the bylaws and the normal procedures to make our state party more fair. The State Committee seems to have become a “wholly owned subsidiary” of the Governor in recent years, but this is likely to change soon. When the Governor used the committee to send out a campaign letter accusing his opponent of being anti-Semitic, it was a step too far, and the reaction even among long-standing members was strong.

In short: TCP and NYPAN are active, they have a role to play, they are gaining recognition in the media and among elected officials — and they are very eager to recruit new members (and new chapters) in 2019!

Won’t you consider joining TCP, if you aren’t a member already? Dues are $27 per year (with waivers available as we do not want finances to be an obstacle for anyone). TCP has a listserv for members to share information and engage in discussion. We can connect members with other NYPAN members around the state to work on shared interests. We meet on the first Thursday of every month, at the Quaker Meeting House, and plan other special events and seminars, which appear on our calendar on this website.

NYPAN and TCP endorse Cynthia, Jumaane and Zephyr!

 

The Democratic Primary is Thursday, September 13th! Please vote!

Cynthia, Jumaane, and Zephyr are three fearless progressives, all challenging Andrew Cuomo’s legacy: Albany corruption, growing income inequality and an unfair tax burden on the 99%, failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, lip service to the environment, women and students, mistreatment of communities of color and immigrants, support for Republicans and the “Independent” Democrats who blocked single payer healthcare in New York, and so much more.

We can do better! We need a New York that works for all of us!

Cynthia, Jumaane, and Zephyr will stand up to business-as-usual. They are not taking any donations from corporations and real estate developers. They believe in Medicare for All, taking real action to address climate change and protect our environment, reforming our criminal justice system, providing free public education from pre-K to college, legalizing marijuana, investing in green technology and jobs, and making corporations and millionaires pay their fair share.

Can you help?! Please contact Emily Adams, TCP’s chair and also local representative for the three campaigns, at emily@nypan.org. She is looking for canvassers, phone bankers, data people, social media volunteers, people to hang posters around town, people to join issue “hubs”, people to use peer-to-peer methods to identify supporters in their own networks…. you name it, she can use it!

Start by clicking right here: tell us that you support one or more of our endorsed candidates, and Emily can put that in the database. Then — in theory — the campaigns won’t need to have a volunteer call you or knock on your door. In practice, of course, it is very very hard to keep everything organized, and the Working Families Party has their own lists of people they are contacting…  Grassroots organizing is messy, but it’s fun and empowering. Please get involved!

Learn more:

Cynthia Nixon

Jumaane Williams

Zephyr Teachout

Additional endorsements for September 13th:

Amanda Kirchgessner for NY State Senate District 58 (currently occupied by Tom O’Mara)
Derek Osborne for Tompkins County Sheriff
Emily Adams for NY State Democratic committee

Thank you!