is something everyone here should read and ponder.
The Progressive Honor Roll of 2013 is authored by John Nichols, and is subtitled We celebrate these heroes both for their accomplishments of the past year and their determination to do even more in 2014.
There are those whom we would expect to appear on such a list: Elizabeth Warren as Most Valuable Senator and Bernie Sanders for his budget proposal.
As a person who posted an early review, I personally appreciate the selection of Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error as the most valuable book.
We encounter Wendy Davis, the Seattle Education Association (for the pushback on standardized testing at Garfield High School, led by teacher Jesse Hagopian), and even the musical collaboration between Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello.
There are two selectees that particularly drew my attention. For each, Tish James and The Stranger, I want to offer Nichols' commentary and some observations of my own. And I want to mention two groups I think should have been included on the list, Working Families Party, and New York Communities for Change.
Let's start with Leticia "Tish" James, who will be Bill de Blasio's successor as New York City Public Advocate, effectively the city's ombudsman. Her category is MOST VALUABLE MUNICIPAL RISING STAR, and Nichols writes
Amid the excitement over Bill de Blasio’s landslide win as mayor of New York, little attention was paid to the fact that the citywide office of public advocate went to a woman who is at least as progressive as de Blasio. Newly elected Tish James is a former Legal Aid Society public defender who, as an assistant state attorney general, took on predatory lenders and assisted an investigation of the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy. Elected to the City Council in 2003, James has battled developers and outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg on behalf of affordable housing and responsible policing. In 2011, she called on Bloomberg to investigate systemic corruption in the NYPD, and in her campaign for public advocate, James highlighted her role as one of four council members to sue the NYPD over its mistreatment of Occupy Wall Street activists. Taking Occupy themes to the campaign trail, James said New Yorkers “don’t need more billionaires…. What we need is to boost working families and create a middle class that’s built to last.” She won 84 percent of the vote, becoming the first woman of color to hold citywide office in the nation’s largest city.There is so much one can say about Tish James, but what should be noted is that when she was first elected to the City Council it was not as a Democrat, but as the candidate of the Working Families Party, whichj also strongly supported her run to be the Democratic nominee for Public Advocate (as well as de Blasio's candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Mayor).
We need to remember that for the past 20 years New York City has been led by Republican mayors, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg (who granted on social issues like gay rights and gun control would qualify as a main stream Democrat).
The elections in the city last month, including the likely selection of Melissa Mark-Viverito as Speaker of the New York City Council, is moving the nation's largest municipality in a strongly progressive direction.
What the elections show is that when a strongly progressive message is advocated, people will respond, as they did in New York.
Working Families Party was successful not only in elections in New York City, in a state with fusion voting where their endorsement on a separate line can make the difference of whether or not a candidate wins a general election with the assistance of the additional votes they bring, but also in Connecticut, specifically, in the recent elections which took control of the Bridgeport School Board away from what was basically a corrupt party machine, thereby probably ending the long and downward (from Chicago to Philadelphia to New Orleans to Bridgeport) trend of the career of Paul Vallas (not an educator) as a "reform" school superintendent.
As WFP says on its website
One where the economy works for everyone. One where politicians are held accountable to working people, instead of big-money backers. One where all of us, no matter where we come from, can find a good job, get healthcare when we need it, afford a home, send our kids to good schools, and have a secure retirement.
We’re fighting to bring back the American Dream, and we want you to join us.
There is no doubt that James is well-qualified for her leadership positions, as you can see by reading her Wikipedia entry.
de Blasio had already demonstrated the the office of Public Advocate could serve to advance a progressive agenda. With him now in the Mayor's office and with allies on progressive issues at both City Council and in his old office, we might be able to hope for great things from NYC, even given the possible obstructionism of the New York State Legislature and the not so progressive Governor Andrew Cuomo (who is very far from being a chip off the progressive block his father was in that role).
While I am still focusing on New York, let me also mention New York Communities for Change (NYCC). The successes we saw in the Democratic primary, which was where the real battles were fought, were something to which NYCC greatly contributed. Like WFP, they work outside the traditional structure of politics, perhaps in this case because much of their leadership came from the now defunct ACORN. They were community based, and had a focus that very much overlaps that of WFP. As they write on their website,
New York Communities for Change is a coalition of working families in low and moderate income communities fighting for social and economic justice throughout New York State. By using direct action, legislative advocacy, and community organizing, NY Communities' members work to impact the political and economic policies that directly affect us. Through neighborhood chapters and issue-based committees, we are working to ensure that every family throughout New York has access to quality schools, affordable housing, and good jobs. It is through the power-in-numbers approach that NY Communities is able to win REAL change for our towns and neighborhoods.If a progressive movement is going to stop the corporatization of America, we will need to elect leaders like de Blasio and James to be sure, but that will only happen when we mobilize more effectively, and that will only occur when we create the means of ordinary people to take control of their political destiny. Both WFP and NYCC have demonstrated how that is possible.
It is also worth noting the NYCC was the first important organization to endorse de Blasio's candidacy, well before the primary, at a time when few pundits and analysts thought he had any chance for the nomination. de Blasio knows the importance of the support NYCC gave to him, which is why he was a speaker at the major fundraiser for NYCC in the post-election period.
But we will also need to be able to communicate, to reach out to people. And we do not necessarily have to depend on the traditional media for that to happen, at least not at a local level, as we saw in Seattle, where the mainstream news organizations tilt almost totally corporatist in their outlook, and yet an outright socialist was just elected to city council. The Nation offer us MOST VALUABLE NEWSPAPER: The Stranger . As Nichols writes:
Newspaper endorsements aren’t supposed to matter much in our digital age. But papers that take bold stands and back them up with all they’ve got can still have a dramatic impact. When The Stranger, a news and culture weekly that bills itself as “Seattle’s Only Newspaper,” backed socialist Kshama Sawant’s successful campaign for a citywide Council seat, it went all in, featuring the community college professor and Occupy Seattle activist on the cover and challenging the assumption that radicals can’t win. “If you are still laughing at the electoral prospects of Socialist Alternative Party city council candidate Kshama Sawant, the joke is on you. Sawant is the real deal. She kicks ass. And she could actually win in November,” read one piece, while another was subtitled “Why You Must Vote for a Real, Genuine Socialist.” Sawant ran a smart campaign that focused on her call for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, but The Stranger’s full-frontal assault on politics as usual was a reminder that there are still newspapers—The San Francisco Bay Guardian is another—that can shake up the status quo.As a note, Sawant did win in November, and is now a council member-elect.
There are many things that are distressing about the state of politics and policy in the US. Certainly while there are things the Obama administration has done that have moved part of the agenda in a more progressive direction, overall many remain distressed as what they have seen from Democrats in Washington.
Nichols points out some people and organizations that should give us hope.
I have added two organizations I also think worthy of mention, given the role they played in the electoral successes in NYC and in Bridgeport.
We should learn from our successes as well as our failures.
What is interesting is to see that advocates of Occupy now hold important roles in major cities on the East Coast and the West Coast.
I thought this was worthy of a diary.
What do you think?