Brooklyn -- Medgar Evers College hosted an event on March 3 to unveil the Working Families Party ticket that will be going up against IDC Democrats in the 2018 primary.
The energy was palpable, even before entering the auditorium. Outside the building, activists were handing out fliers. One addressed S.J.Res.54, which would invoke the War Powers Resolution to end unauthorized American participation in the Saudi War in Yemen. Another handed out a 4-page pamphlet outlining how the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) was composed of "bullies" who were "buying politicians and running roughshod over New Yorkers."
I arrived early, with the hopes of interviewing people before the action began. Thirty minutes in advance of start time, the room was already rapidly filling up. (Full disclosure: I am a member of a NY Indivisible group.)
There was palpable electricity in the air. Yes, the headliner was Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand -- who was on hand to accept the WFP endorsement. However, the excitement was emanating from a cross-section of folks who believe there is a real chance of turning the tide and getting a handle on the dysfunctionality in Albany. Top concerns I heard people talking about were immigration rights, health care, education, and affordable housing. These were issues that got traction in the State Assembly but were stymied in the State Senate, where breakaway Democrats of the IDC caucus were voting with the Republicans.
I noticed Rachel May, who is going up against incumbent David Valesky (one of the original members of the IDC) in the 53rd Senate District. I had read about her background as an educator at Syracuse University. We spoke briefly. She came across as low-key but resolute.
"It's exciting to be part of a statewide grassroots effort," May told me. "I'm grateful to these groups for raising awareness of the IDC. People expect Democrats to be Democrats," she said. "Phone banking has identified that a lot of people didn't even know about the IDC. They have tried to fly under the radar."
I took a seat up front next to a woman who self-identified as a member of Rise and Resist. "I was only tangentially political before Trump," she admitted. "Trump was a trigger for me. Twelve months ago, most people didn't know what was going on with the IDC. These guys are really doing damage up there." Then she added, "It's betrayal and hypocrisy."
The program started with shout-outs to various supporters before digging into the problems at hand. The top takeaway was that our nation and state are in a crisis and that American democracy has been hijacked.
Two young Dreamers addressed the crowd. They told their personal stories and the fears they live with daily. "We need elected officials to fight with us. Progressives must lead the way," they pressed. This led to a group chant of "Dream Act Now."
Next up was Gillibrand. The senator recently made headlines with her statement that she would refuse all donations from corporate PACS.
In accepting her
endorsement Gillibrand declared:
"I believe there is a right versus wrong, and wrong is winning. Now is not the time to remain silent. We must vote our children's future. Democracy only works if people get involved. The grassroots will win these elections."
Gillibrand spoke about the need for campaign reform, single-payer health care, the racism of unfair drug laws, and the fight for unions and workers. A woman in the first row said loudly, "That's right!"
"I'm running for re-election because we have a lot to do," Gillibrand continued. "Nothing is going to change unless we fight for it. Together we will take back our future."
The real red meat came when Jonathan Westin, co-chairman of the WFP, got on stage to discuss fighting Trump "on a local level." After invoking the mantra, "No Trump Democrats," he told the audience, "Text NO IDC to 797979 for updates!"