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.

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!

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Inching toward universal healthcare: New York City to guarantee healthcare to everyone, Washington State plans a public option

A demented old racist has taken our federal government and TV news bureaus hostage, so it’s easy to overlook the progressive policy announcements made over the last few days. But with new Democratic administrations taking office and others looking to make a splash, it’s been a good few days, especially for healthcare policy.

In New York on Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would be moving toward guaranteed healthcare for undocumented immigrants and low-income residents. It’s not any kind of Medicaid expansion — states run that program — or new health plan, but instead, a guarantee of proactive care that won’t cost patients anything if they can’t afford to pay.

From the NY Times:

The city already has a kind of public option for health insurance for low-income New Yorkers, through an insurance plan run by city hospitals known as MetroPlus.

The new proposal would improve that coverage, which already insures some 516,000 people, and aim to reach more of those who are eligible, such as the young and uninsured, and others who qualify but have not applied.

It would also provide additional direct city spending, at least $100 million per year when fully implemented, officials said, for the city’s hospital system to support care for those without insurance. The city estimates the uninsured population to be about 600,000 people, including as many as 300,000 undocumented residents. A major component of that effort would be improving customer service, including the phone line, to help those with questions about their care.

The program will have a membership card that will allow patients to get care from a wide array of doctors. Right now, over half a million people use the city’s emergency rooms for their medical care, which is a very unhealthy and fiscally disastrous status quo. According to NBC New York, this new program will allow people to seek “primary and specialty care, from pediatrics to OBGYN, geriatric, mental health and other services.”

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Races for progressives to watch on Election Day

Here we are, two days out from the most important election of our lifetimes, which is a statement that is eminently dramatic but somehow undersells the gravity of what we are facing. I truly don’t know what American democracy will look like if Democrats don’t sweep up at the ballot box on Tuesday. And it’s not just because of the threat posed by Trump and his sycophantic posse. All across the country, there are pitched battles being fought over issues that directly touch the lives of tens of millions of people — and will, more broadly, impact us all.

Here is a guide to the biggest issues and races to watch on what will be a very nerve-wracking, exciting Tuesday evening.

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