Texas is a mess right now. Joanna Cattanach’s House campaign is a must-win if we want to help fix it.

Texas has become the US’s new coronavirus hot spot, with skyrocketing cases setting records nearly every day, hospitalizations rising, and deaths beginning to pile up. It’s both tragic and infuriating, because the situation was entirely avoidable. Instead of practicing smart public health policy, the Republicans caved to the far-right MAGA brigade, taking precious few precautions and lifting even those absurdly early. Now, it’s a runaway train, and the state’s GOP leadership might as well have tied Texans to the rails.

The silver lining is that Texans are increasingly outraged at their state government and ready to make a change. Cities are beginning to require masks, police reforms are being approved by city councils, Confederate monuments are being torn down, and Democrats are making gains. In fact, Dems need just nine seats to take back the State House, and a few of them are big, juicy, flippable targets. That includes the 108th House District, which Democrats lost by a mere 220 votes in 2018.

That’s the race we’re focusing on today — not only will it be super-close, but a win will also represent a further transformation of Texas’s big cities and proof that running everywhere is key to Democratic success.

Joanna Cattanach spent nearly 15 years as a respected journalist in Texas, covering local news and politics as objectively as possible. But after the 2016 election and the 2017 legislative session, which was bigoted and damaging even by Texas Republican standards, she’d seen enough. Instead of covering elections, she was going to run for office herself.

There were two pieces of legislation in particular that convinced Cattanach that dire action was required. As a Latina (and human), the passage of SB 4, the state’s infamous “Show Me Your Papers” Law, absolutely enraged her, while the signing of HB 3859, a “religious liberty” law that allowed adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective parents for just about anything — sexuality, religion, insufficient church attendance numbers, you name it — proved to be the last straw.

“I am a former foster care child and I thought that was unbelievably appalling,”  Cattanach tells Progressives Everywhere. “It was a breaking point for me. I reached out to some of our local media and said, ‘would you like to talk to a former foster care child?’ And that was it.”

Continue reading “Texas is a mess right now. Joanna Cattanach’s House campaign is a must-win if we want to help fix it.”

Mondaire Jones Knows How to Fight for Progress

We’ve learned a lot these past two weeks about Americans, their elected leaders, and the massive gulf in courage between the two. Yes, Republican leaders have acted as cruelly as expected, from Donald Trump’s disturbing, televised threats to send in the military on peaceful protestors to Tom Cotton’s outrageous NY Times op-ed. But we’ve also seen so many elected Democrats utterly fail this test, over and over again, indicative of problems deeper than just pure partisanship.

Congressional leadership has been just about silent, too busy on vacation to take a real stand. Worse, Democrats that run the states and cities where many of these protests and police beatings are happening have encouraged and privileged the carnage. Here in NYC, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo spent the week deploying vicious cops to clobber innocent people who dare violate a draconian 8 pm curfew, then applauded those officers’ “restraint.” 

We are in desperate need of change, and it’s now clear that to make it happen, we need a new generation of leaders who actually experience the stakes in their own lives. And like Alex Morse a few weeks ago, New York congressional candidate Mondaire Jones certainly fits the bill.

Jones is running in the Democratic Primary for Congress in New York’s 17th district, just north of NYC, and has been endorsed by Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among othersHe’s one of five Democrats seeking the seat that the retiring Nita Lowey has held since 1989, when Jones was just two years old, underscoring the need for change. The welfare of the 17th district is personal to him, as Jones grew up in Lowey’s district, and understands what it’s like to have the odds stacked up against you — he is an openly gay black man who grew up poor in a starkly divided community he likens to a Tale of Two Cities. 

His resume at 32 years old is impeccable: Jones attended Harvard Law and worked in Barack Obama’s Department of Justice. He’s also long been an activist; Jones became a national NAACP leader in high school and organized against racist police while an undergrad at Stanford. After a short stint in corporate law, he returned home to work for the Westchester County Attorney’s office, where he’s served ever since. 

During our conversation last week, he not only expressed support for progressive policies — including Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and a massive investment in public housing — but also displayed the fighting spirit that it’s going to require to actually get any of those things passed. And in a district that is guaranteed to elect a Democrat, having a progressive with a backbone in office is essential. That he’s running against a state senator who was a member of the turncoat IDC, which gave Republicans virtual control of New York for nearly a decade, makes this race even more urgent.

CLICK HERE to donate to Mondaire Jones via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!

“I’m not someone who is still traumatized by Democratic losses in the ‘80s,” Jones said, winning me over in just one sentence. “We need to recognize that public opinion has shifted dramatically. Progressive policies are overwhelmingly supported by the American people. And now we need champions who can message it and who can fight for us without being afraid of their own shadow.”

America Has Always Been At War With Itself. Now, Even the Privileged Are Aware Of It.

It’s hard to believe, but last week began with a major civil rights victory.

Late last Sunday, a judge in Florida ruled again that the Jim Crow poll tax law passed by Republicans in 2019 is largely unconstitutional. Voters in 2018 explicitly and overwhelmingly chose to restore the voting rights of 1.4 million former felons who had served their time, so the GOP’s effort to block them from the ballot with fees that were impossible to deduce, let alone pay, violates the 24th amendment, the judge ruled.

While Gov. Ron DeSantis will appeal the ruling, this made hundreds of thousands of Floridians immediately eligible to vote and gave critical assistance to everyone else impacted. And remember, we’re supporting the Democratic challenger to the author of the Florida Jim Crow law.

Any celebration of that victory was short-lived, however, interrupted by the cruel intruding reality that the battle for racial justice in this country is an ongoing struggle. The most shocking part of the nauseating, cold-blooded murder of George Floyd was that it wasn’t shocking at all.

Police violence against black and brown people is an epidemic across the country, enabled by the protection that cops receive from lawmakers — even Democrats. Protests have broken out in response to incidents for decades and decades, including the recent murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, and Tamir Rice, but something about what’s happening now feels different. The national protests come at a boiling point, a backdrop of Trump’s malignant racism, the backdrop of 100,000+ Americans dead of coronavirus, and more than 40 million unemployed. Something has to change.

Forget the media obsession with some looting — I’m not condoning looters at all, but it’s just a tiny percentage of what’s happening; as a member of the media myself, I can tell you that a TV newsroom is much more interested in going down to Macy’s and playing on the superficial fears of its comfortable white viewership than spending too much time showing the chaos that the viewers really want to avoid. It’s like crime fiction vs. an actual documentary.

The police have been behind much of the pandemonium, and when cops can literally kill you for no reason without consequence — as is the case when there is no video — why bother staying peaceful? I hope the Democrats who run these cities and states and are owned by the police unions (hello Bill de Blasio) are taking notes — they won’t be in office for long if they don’t take action to help their people.

I’m not the person to discuss these things in depth. I’m a white guy who, no matter how politically progressive, cannot possibly understand what people of color are going through at any moment, let alone this one. So today, I’m going to let the real leaders do their work and just do my best to help them. Here are two fundraising links, to a list of organizations working to make change in Minneapolis and nationwide for black Americans and a list of bail funds to help protestors deal with ridiculous cash bail.

CLICK HERE to donate grassroots organizations working for racial justice and justice for George Floyd.

CLICK HERE to donate to bail funds across the country.

Alex Morse is taking on Rep. Richard Neal, Trump’s Favorite Democrat

Most of the time, this newsletter focuses on flipping Republican seats blue and retaking legislatures from the GOP. But if you really want to enact progressive change, it’s not always enough to just have a Democrat in office — in seats that are comfortably blue, we’ve got to have Democrats who actually listen to voters. 

The dynamic playing out in Massachusetts provides a perfect example: Congressman Richard Neal, who represents the state’s 1st district, has time and time again blocked popular progressive priorities as the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. He’s received more lobbyist money and enjoyed more lavish parties than anyone in Congress and has more than returned the favor, blocking everything from the Paycheck Guarantee Act during this pandemic to Medicare expansion. He also deliberately slow-walked the request for Donald Trump’s tax returns and did not support impeachment until it became an inevitability — all while representing a district that Hillary Clinton won by 20 points and he has “represented” for 30 years.

This year, he finally faces a real primary challenge from a dynamic progressive who could not be any more different than the 70-year-old Congressman, who hasn’t held a town hall in years. And if you’re skeptical, all you have to do is compare their records.

When Alex Morse unseated a long-serving local politician to become mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, he vowed to revive the struggling former mill town where he’d grown up. He faced long odds and internal resistance, but he was determined to restore a community that had spent decades reeling from the same factors that hollowed out small cities across the United States between the 1970s and early 2000s. When he took office at City Hall, he was immediately faced with a decision that would set the tone for how he planned to govern.

Morse’s predecessor as mayor had requested that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development clear the way for the demolition of Lyman Terrace, one of the city’s largest public housing properties. The complex was located right in the center of downtown Holyoke, so the plan was to knock Lyman down and bring in some shiny new apartments, displacing the 167 mostly Latino residents who had no real options for relocation. When Morse took the reins at City Hall, he called HUD and told them to hold off on the required review.

“This was a community of people who lived there for generations, with ties to the local economy, and friends and family,” Morse tells Progressives Everywhere. “We called off that demolition and got a lot of pushback from city councilors from the business community that just wanted to raze the property and give it to the developer with the highest bid.”

Meet Kayser Enneking, the doctor trying to save Florida

Few governors have been as publicly ineffective during the coronavirus crisis than Florida’s Ron Desantis. He’s kept beaches open, continues to hide death numbers, kowtows to the state’s ravenous right-wing, and has opened up businesses even as the tragic numbers there continue to climb. DeSantis has been able to do all this because Republicans own the entire state government in Florida — they’ve dominated the legislature for a full two decades — and he therefore feels zero pressure to actually make an effort to save lives.

We’ve focused a lot of Florida this year because Democrats are in a position to finally flip the legislature there and force DeSantis to at least pretend he cares about anyone who isn’t a rich white donor. This week, I spoke with Kayser Enneking, a candidate for the State House of Representatives in District 21, in Gainesville. She’s a long-time doctor at the University of Florida who ran for State Senate in 2018 — her first political run of any kind — and came within a single point of winning. The 21st House district was decided by fewer than three points last cycle, so it’s a very juicy flip opportunity, especially with such a great candidate.

Coronavirus has hit different parts of Florida very differently. You’re in Northern Florida, in Gainesville. How are things there?

In my hospital we were certainly prepared for the worst. It was just incredibly weird to go to work for a couple of weeks. The panic about it seems to have subsided now that we’ve got more testing, because before we had no clue who had it and who didn’t. But even here in very liberal Alachua County, it is kind unbelievable to me how quickly this has gotten divided along political lines. It’s just a shame that that’s where we are in America today.

As both a doctor and someone now working in public policy, what is your response to what we’re seeing here? 

This is a novel virus. We know a little bit about what the symptoms look like. We know that it is devastating when it occurs and we know that it can overwhelm a healthcare system, as it did in New York, and as it did in other places around the world. And that we all have to be respectful of it. We may not have in many cases over here right now, but that does not mean that we won’t.

I have tried not to scare people. But I’ve tried to give them what I know to be truthful information. We’ve been doing these Facebook and zoom things every Friday, where we’ve talked about exactly what we do know and what we don’t know. And people have been really responsive to it. And so we’ve talked about the effects of this on our health care system. We’ve talked about it in terms of what it means for education. We’ve talked about it in terms of what it means for the agricultural community, why are we having this food imbalance. Now we’re calling for a special session of legislature.

Continue reading “Meet Kayser Enneking, the doctor trying to save Florida”