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.”

There’s a war brewing in New York as Cuomo targets progressives, WFP

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!

Continue reading “There’s a war brewing in New York as Cuomo targets progressives, WFP”

Of the 129 Democrats who voted to cage children, 15 ran unopposed in 2018.

As we’ve come to expect this year, House Democratic leadership disappointed us by caving to Republicans yesterday, this time on a border funding bill.

Stories out of DC yesterday said that Speaker Pelosi decided to bring up the Senate GOP’s bill, which would fund ICE with no strings attached, because of the revolt of a dozen or so “moderate” Democrats who desperately needed to help the Trump gestapo’s regime of caging children in concentration camps. That may be the case, but in the end, a whopping 129 Democrats voted for the bill, which is an absolutely disgraceful number.

What’s even more disgraceful is how many of them are in safe blue seats. I’ve put together a full list of the Democrats that voted for the bill yesterday and discovered that nearly 20 of them ran unopposed by any Republicans last year. Over 30 of them won by over 50 points. Nearly 70 of them won their races by over 20 points. We worked our asses off for them last year, and this is what we get?

I firmly believe we should be impeaching Trump, but Democratic leadership sees it differently right now. Frustrating, but something I can handle for the moment. But voting to let ICE jail kids in concentration camps, with no remedies or improvements at all required? Unconscionable.

So many of these bad Democrats voted this way because they’re not afraid of the consequences. They saw AOC and Ayanna Pressley defeat corporate Dems in primaries, saw Tiffany Caban prevail with grassroots help in Queens on Tuesday, but figured it couldn’t happen to them. They need to be proven wrong.

Of course, some voted for it because they were in close races last year and knew the GOP will pummel them if they didn’t vote otherwise. I get it. Not everyone is from a super blue district. I don’t think ICE is particularly popular, but I know some House members have to be more cautious. But if you won by more than 20% last year, you could have likely voted no and not suffered any consequences, especially this far out.

So far, I think only three of these bad Democrats — Steny Hoyer, Henry Cuellar, and Dan Lipinski — have media-covered primary challengers (Cueller and Lipinski’s are especially legit).  We need to support those challengers and encourage more to step forward. I’ve put together an ActBlue page to help all of them; you can donate here. If you hear of more, please let me know: ProgressivesEverywhere@gmail.com.