Though New York is considered a blue state lock in federal elections, it is far from a model of good progressive governance. Right now, there’s a pitched battle for control of the Democratic Party in the state, and two important headlines from this week indicate both how far we’ve come and how hard corrupt corporate are pushing back.
The good news? Thanks to laws pushed by progressive activists and passed by new lawmakers, rent is no longer ballooning and evictions are way down. The bad news? The governor is trying to squash those activists (namely the Working Families Party) to make sure they don’t do anything else that might help people.
So, a little context. In 2011, a group of crappy conservative Democrats in the State Senate broke away from the party and caucused with the Republicans, throwing control of the chamber to the GOP. Instead of being pissed at the new Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), Gov. Andrew Cuomo was perfectly happy to let it continue. The IDC gave him cover for not passing popular progressive reforms like rent protection, voting rights expansion, and crucially, closing a gaping loophole in campaign finance laws that let corporations feed candidates with nearly unlimited donations.
By last year, things were starting to get really crappy, with skyrocketing rents and shady politicians constantly getting indicted.
Fed up with the status quo and no doubt energized by the national resistance to Donald Trump, progressive activists decided to fight back. With the help of organizations, especially the Working Families Party, a new generation of candidates took on the entrenched and out-of-touch IDC members. The Working Families Party also endorsed Cynthia Nixon in her high-profile primary challenge to Cuomo and Tiffany Cabán in her whisker defeat for Queens DA.
Activists busted their assses knocking on doors and organizing voters (we here at Progressives Everywhere raised nearly $17k for them) and while Cuomo bested Nixon, progressive legislature candidates beat most of the IDC members in the Democratic primary. It was truly a monumental win that changed the state’s politics in a major way.
Once sworn in this January, the newly Democratic legislature got to work, passing a huge host of reforms that expanded rent stabilization and limited landlords from jacking up prices, further expanded gun bans, protected abortion rights, introduced early voting, and much more.
And here’s the thing: their reforms are working. This week, the Wall Street Journal crunched the numbers and revealed that evictions in the state are down a whopping 46% since the tenant protection law — which limits rent increases and requires landlords to produce more proof before kicking someone out — passed in June.
One lawyer for landlords told the WSJ that “it’s like an earthquake in housing court,” because already, tens of thousands of people have been able to stay in their homes.
Great news, right?! Right! Unless you’re a real estate developer, building owner… or governor who takes millions of dollars from real estate developers and building owners!
I’m talking, of course, about Andrew Cuomo, who had a $30 million war chest last year built primarily from millionaires and business organizations who used the (now plugged!) loophole to feed seven-figure checks to his campaign.
Now Cuomo, who is nothing if not bitterly vindictive, is out for revenge.
While the legislature was able to pass some big election reforms, it failed in its effort to get a larger public election financing bill to Cuomo’s desk. That was, admittedly, a major failure, but they couldn’t have known what would come next. They (stupidly) empowered Cuomo and legislative leaders to pick members of a reform commission, which would then recommend a public financing system; the whole process was flawed and opaque from the start, and the group, led by a Cuomo loyalist indeed recommended some devastating new policies.
Instead of focusing on the public financing, their real goal is to destroy third parties. In New York, candidates can run on multiple party lines in a process known as “fusion voting,” which helps parties like the Working Families Party stay on the ballot and press change. Right now, they only need to receive 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election to get on the ballot for another four years, but the new commission proposal would more than triple that to up to 160,000.
Not only that, but according to experts, it would create a built-in advantage for Republicans and their big “third party,” the Conservative Party.
Now, this recommendation has been roundly condemned by just about every major New York Democratic politician, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is no bleeding edge liberal.
The Public Financing Commission should focus on the worthy goal of reducing BIG money in politics, not ending fusion voting and the @NYWFP.
— Chuck Schumer (@chuckschumer) November 22, 2019
But so far, Cuomo doesn’t really seem to care — earlier this week, he gloated and tsk-tsked the party, which would fall about 18,000 votes short of ballot placement based on last year’s election.
“The Working Families Party I think would meet that threshold,” Cuomo lied. “You [may] have to work to meet that threshold, but if you’re not working to meet a threshold, then you shouldn’t be qualifying for public money anyway.”
The WFP and other parties are suing, but it’s unclear what will wind up happening — we know that relying on the courts these days is a very bad idea. So the WFP needs to go harder than ever, and to do that, it needs our help.
I’ve worked with the WFP before and have seen them do amazing things on a shoestring budget. If you can spare a donation for them this shopping weekend, I know it would go a very long way and send a message to bold progressives that we have their back!
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