Democracy in Peril with Existential Deadlines in Play: How Do We Accelerate Change? A Look at Races in NM CD1 & Nina Turner in Ohio CD 11. Also, Trump May be Going Down

After a very brief reflection on the potential impact of the Trump organization’s finally facing criminal charges, we turn to two Congressional races and the efforts of Democratic centrists to influence those races. What is undemocratic? And with the existential threat from climate change, how do we advance change at a pace that can make a difference. And while at it, how do we address century long injustices that linger, largely due to centrist Democrat inaction. Read on.

Trump Going Down. There is a God

According to multiple reports, Donald Trump’s company and Former President Trump’s long-serving chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg were indicted late Wednesday and the CFO surrendered to authorities this morning. The NY Times described the scope of the charges as being focused on failure to pay taxes on massive fringe benefits awarded to execs. But that was speculation, as the exact charges have not been disclosed yet. To my mind, the Times assertions seem like rather modest charges given years of investigation and ongoing reports of business fraud. As the video below describes, NY media experts covering the case feel something else is in play and it could be the beginning of the unravelling of Trump, his empire, and his ability to sustain another run for the President. Check it out.

Vanity Fair offered a report on how this prosecution might expose Trump himself to criminal prosecution. Click here to check out, “Donald’s Trump’s Chances of Prison Just Escalated. Stay tuned.

First Redistricting Committee Hearing,
Friday, July 3 from 3pm-5pm: Details

Since today’s focus is on the democratic process, I thought you might want to watch the first public hearing of New Mexico’s Citizen Redistricting Committee (CRC). The process to unfold will either result in the gerrymandering of CD 2 to foster the Democrats retaking the CD-2 House seat, or it could in a different direction and create state House and Senate districts that do not span five or six counties, creating torturous boundaries that certainly do not reflect a cohesive constituency or any sense of community. If you’ve seen Rep. Matthew McQueen’s district or Sen. Liz Stefanics, you will see what I mean. Below you will find a link to the CRC Meeting Materials, including the:  agenda, oath for CRC members, proposed dates & venues for meetings, rules of procedure, budget, etc.

Here is the link to this Friday’s CRC meeting, where there will be two opportunities for public comment, one specifically for rules, and one general public comment for the overall process where you can express concerns related to geographic, racial and gender diversity.

  • Meeting ID: 859 3072 6465
  • Dial-in Number: (669) 900-9128
  • Passcode: 430850

It Isn’t Just the GOP Tipping Election Scales: Look to Ohio & NM for Centrist Dems at Work

Antoinette Sedillo Lopez announced that if elected, she would join “the squad” adding to the number of strongly progressive Democrats in the House. Nina Turner, who is from Ohio and is running for a vacant House seat, is also an avowed “Squad” supporter and as fiery and articulate as they get (see tremendous 2-minute video from her at the end of the post). What’s more, she has proven a strong stump speaker, being the co-chair of Bernie Sanders 2019-20 campaign, often appearing with him to warm up the crowd, other times off on her own, assigned wherever the campaign felt she could contribute most.

In an unfettered democracy both progressives would win seats to the House, with Turner doing so in a landslide and Sedillo Lopez holding a comfortable lead over her 8 other House candidates. But Sedillo Lopez’s runoff with Melanie Stansbury was unsuccessful, at least in part due to DPNM centrist leadership stepping in with strong endorsements for Stansbury. In Ohio, we see the same thing unfolding, as just Tuesday, Sen Clyburn, D-SD announced his support for moderate Shontel Brown who is challenging Nina Turner in their 11th District special election primary slated for Aug. 3. A strongly Democratic district, the winner is virtually assured of election.

Today, we report on HD 1 in NM and HD 11 in Ohio to illustrate how much work we still have to do to advance the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage, significant tax reform to force the 1% and the mega corporations to pay their share. As has been made abundantly clear, we simply don’t have time to “work with” corporate powers who want to moderate or bury anything that will prioritize planet and people over profit. And while I suppose you could say people can be patient and secure justice over time, the planet operates on its own schedule and that really isn’t working for us just now (see yesterday’s post).

Before we begin, I want to acknowledge that this is complicated. Virtually every newspaper in the nation endorses candidates and produces “voters guides,” as does Retake Our Democracy. Furthermore, conservative, moderate and progressive “influencers” have always had a say in election campaigns and likely always will. Is this undemocratic? Or is something else in play?

Today, we begin with HD 1 in Albuquerque and then turn our attention to Ohio HD 11 after which we will offer commentary on how the two districts differ in terms of “influencer” impact on races, how appropriate or inappropriate that influence may be, and whether either rise to the level of being undemocratic.

Fair disclosure, when now Senator Lujan was the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee we frequently criticized him for the kind of manipulation of Congressional races outlined by ABQ critics of the CD1 race. Like I said, just like the redistricting process in NM, politics is complicated and seldom is there black and white, just lighter shades of gray (Moody Blues).

New Mexico

I received the piece below yesterday. It has been signed by well over a dozen solid Democratic Party activists, almost all of whom I know well. They have been working inside and outside the Democratic Party for years and their views have great merit,

Progressive Bill of Rights in the Democratic Party   June, 2021
Today, more than 100 scholars who study democracy issued a letter warning that “our entire democracy is now at risk.” The letter explains that the new election laws in Republican-led states . . . are turning “several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections.”            –Heather Cox Richardson, 6/2/21

President Biden has sounded the alarm about the threat to our democracy posed by the voter-suppression bills being passed by Republican state legislatures all over the country, calling them “attacks on the sacred right to vote.”   As progressives, we have worked for many years to protect and expand that right to all Americans, regardless of ethnicity, class, gender, party affiliation, or any other marker of citizen identity.  We applaud the president for naming the threat to our democracy posed by a Republican party now operating under the spell of far right authoritarian extremists who stop at nothing.  We will work with him in the cause of democracy on every front.  

At the same time we regretfully find ourselves in the position of having to fight for our own rights within the party we loyally serve.  Even though progressive policies like Medicare for All enjoy the support of the vast majority of Americans and even though progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders have brought a much needed infusion of new blood into the Democratic Party, the neoliberal power brokers who run the party have done everything in their power to prevent progressives from claiming our fair share of Congressional seats and from occupying other influential party positions as well.   

This can clearly be seen in the make-up of the Democratic National Committee.  The misuse of neoliberal power is also on full view in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s denial of funding to candidates and political consultants involved in campaigns that challenge centrist incumbents, regardless of how out of step these incumbents are with what the people of this country need and want in a time of multiple national crises.  

Unfortunately, in New Mexico progressives recently got a taste of such neoliberal maneuvering for covert control during the race to fill the Congressional District I seat that Deb Haaland vacated when she became Secretary of the Interior.   

CD1 is a minority majority district that is so markedly progressive, all eight candidates for the Democratic nomination presented themselves as supportive of a progressive agenda.  The clear frontrunner was a highly qualified Latina with a long public record of working for social justice who planned to join ranks with The Squad in the U.S. House of Representatives if elected.  With eight candidates running, it was no surprise when she fell short of the required 50% + one vote on the first round of State Central Committee voting.   

What happened next tells the story.  NM Senator Martin Heinrich and several prominent state party leaders stepped in from on high to lobby on behalf of the runoff opponent of the widely known and trusted progressive candidate.  Even though he hadn’t voted in the first round, Senator Heinrich also made sure to vote in the runoff.  Together, he and his influential centrist allies succeeded in changing enough SCC votes to ensure that the challenger won the nomination, by a mere six votes (five of which had originally gone to the progressive frontrunner). 

We in the New Mexico progressive community were dismayed at this intervention to prevent a tried and true New Mexico progressive of color from replacing Deb Haaland as our US House Representative.  Nonetheless, we pulled out the stops to get the Democratic nominee elected and she was, by a landslide. 

With that behind us, we New Mexico progressives now step forward to let it be known that we are resolved never to stand by and allow our internal party political process be pre-empted in such a way again.  We hereby commit to call out any neoliberal moves of this sort at the time they occur, to do so publicly, and to do so in no uncertain terms.
When it comes to saving our democracy, progressives are on the front lines.  Whether it be inside the Democratic Party of which we are an ever more vital part or outside it in the heightening battle for the soul of America, we intend to show up and do what it takes to ensure that a government of, by, and for the people will in the end prevail.  

Yours in dedication to this cause, 
Paul Stokes, New Mexico Co-Coordinator, Progressive Democrats of America 
Laura Stokes, New Mexico Co-Coordinator, Progressive Democrats of America
Lisa Franzen, Leader, Progressive Democrats of America Central New Mexico Chapter 
Cheryl Harris, Chair, Democratic Party Adelante Progressive Caucus
Debbi Brody, Vice Chair, DP Adelante Congressional District 3
Jerilyn Bowen; Scott Lake; Karen Bentrup; Lloyd DeWald; Deborah Marez-Baca; Lora Lucero; Sally-Alice Thompson; Ted Cloak; Francesca Bluher; Kathleen O’Malley; Marcy Matasick, and Charles Powell

The Democrats who have signed the statement above have hit on something of fundamental importance, but the issue may not be how “influencers” operate in primaries and elections, but something even more fundamental. Read on to see how the dynamic is playing out now in Ohio HD 11.

Ohio HD 11: Turner vs. Brown & Johnson

We now turn to Ohio HD 11, where, at first blush, we find a clearer example of centrist influence, as the interlopers seeking to tilt the scales in Ohio are from out of state. But, if anything, this only muddies the issue, as the progressive candidate Nina Turner enjoys a long list of endorsements from out of state Dems, while Shontel Brown is only now beginning to secure comparable out of state centrist endorsements. First, some background.

A special election to fill the seat representing Ohio’s 11th Congressional District in the U.S. House begins with primaries that are scheduled for August 3, 2021. The general election will be held November 2, 2021. The special election was called after Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) was confirmed as secretary of housing and urban development in President Joe Biden’s (D) administration. The race in District 11 offers three candidates, Nina Turner, Shontel Brown, and Bryan Flannery, the only white candidate in a district that has a long history of electing African American candidates.

While Flannery has garnered almost no endorsements, both Turner and Brown have long lists of local endorsements from unions, to county commissioners and city councilors, with Turner capturing local progressive support and Brown more centrist Democrats. Turner also enjoys the support of dozens of high profile progressive politicians like Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Ortez Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and even some well-known personalities like Mark Ruffalo and Susan Sarandon. With recent polling giving Turner a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead over Brown, new endorsements from outside the state may make no difference, but the purpose of this piece is to examine the principle: what kind of campaign support is undemocratic?

Turner’s momentum must have caught the eye of DNC leadership who have now launched efforts to line up their own high profile out of state endorsements with Sen. Clyburn (D-SD) being most prominent. Recall it was Clyburn’s endorsement of Biden that flipped the switch on Biden’s badly flailing campaign after the Iowa primaries and before primaries in the South were held. So in a heavily African American Ohio district, Democratic centrists called upon Clyburn to rescue the failing Brown campaign.

In some ways this effort mirrors Sen. Heinrich’s: two candidates trailing in polls or in NM in the first round of balloting securing support from centrist influencers. And it is here we must pause.

What Is the Real Issue?

I have not heard any complaints from progressives about the daunting list of well-known out of state progressives who have aligned behind Turner, yet progressives in Albuquerque have found Heinrich’s endorsement and that of other NM Democrat centrists as being undemocratic, this, despite Heinrich not only living and voting in that district, but having represented the district in Congress before jumping to the Senate seat. This would seem an obvious contradiction. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

However, the ABQ progressives make a very strong point. They ask: when will Democrats begin to run on platforms that include policies strongly supported by all Democrats: Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, $15 minimum wage, taxing the 1% and corporations, relieving student debt and most importantly taking meaningful action on climate change? Instead, Democrat leadership gravitates toward equivocation like that found coming from Brown in Cleveland. From Common Dreams:

While Brown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer earlier this month that she “certainly would be in favor of Medicare for All” if it reached the House floor for a vote, he Ohio Democrat went on to criticize the proposal in the same interview, characterizing the policy as an attempt to “eliminate employers from providing care for their employees.”

‘I know when I’m out in the community there are some people who are satisfied with the healthcare they’re being provided,’ said Brown. ‘I certainly don’t want to be the person to end that.’ ”

Common Dreams: “Clyburn Intervention Seen as Latest Salvo in Dem Establishment’s Bid to Stop Nina Turner”

The more I ponder the issue of centrist intervention in election campaigns, the more I see the gray areas and far less the clear right and wrong. I still maintain that the DNC and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee throwing tens of thousands of dollars into moderate Dem campaign chests in primaries is fundamentally “undemocratic.” I’d say the same about the DNC’s refusal to fund campaign managers who have ever managed primary campaigns for progressive challengers of incumbent Dems, no matter how regressive those incumbents might be.

However, where do you draw the line? if Bernie Sanders and AOC can campaign for Nina Turner, is it wrong for Martin Heinrich to do the same for Melanie Stansbury?

I think the core issue is not who endorses who, but who holds power in the Democratic party? And at this point, progressives simply don’t have the leverage to shift the party further to the left, nationally or in NM.

For some time, those who signed the letter descrying Heinrich and other centrists’ endorsements have also been working within the Democratic Party of NM to shift that balance and significant inroads have been made. The DPNM platform is among the most progressive in the nation. Yet, DPNM leadership has historically run from the platform, just as Brown has run from Medicare for All in the quote above. I recall a meeting in Santa Fe when Roxanne asked then DPNM chair Marge Eliston about so many Democratic legislators not supporting policies and legislation found within the DPNM platform. Her reply equivocated just as Brown did above.

Centrist Democratic leadership choose to listen to those unnamed people who keep telling them that they like their current healthcare coverage, despite polling finding great dissatisfaction with that system and strong support for Medicare for All. Ditto centrists Dems listening to those “other people” who feel $15 an hour is not supportable or forgiving student is inflationary or keeping it in the ground is fiscally irresponsible.

The problem with Centrist Democratic leadership is not that it is moderate, but that it chooses to listen to non-existent “other people” rather than polls that reflect the priorities of real voters. The truth is that the “other people” are their corporate and 1% donors and that is the heart of the problem.

The real problem is not whether Mark Ruffalo endorses Nina Turner or Martin Heinrich endorses Melanie Stansbury.

The real problem is that Democratic Party leadership is so fearful of any Democrat who takes bold progressive stands are willing to take those positions to the people. Instead of engaging those progressives in thoughtful debate, centrists marginalize and disparage them. Think about how dismissively NM legislators treat Sen. Sedillo Lopez and her modest legislation seeking to pause fracking leases in NM.

The real problem is that Democratic Party leadership will not challenge the gas and oil industry (see MLG) or challenge the healthcare industry (see Brown above).

The real problem is that in 2021 our threats are not just economic and social but existential.

We can continue to work methodically in the trenches and in 5, 10 or 20 years achieve Medicare for All, raise the minimum wage, make modest reforms in public safety, and void student debt, but climate change isn’t showing much patience (see yesterday’s post). And there is the rub. We simply don’t have 10 or 20 years to begin making almost unfathomable changes in economic and environmental policy.

So, what to do? Certainly eliminating the capacity of PACs to donate huge sums of money to campaigns needs to cease. But even if you wanted to eliminate outside influencers in campaigns, where do you draw the line?

What do you see as the issue in all this?

If we are to address the present climate catastrophe (it is no longer “looming,” it is here), how do we push Democrats to embrace the only policies that have a ghost of a chance to make a difference? And while we are at it, are we past the point of patiently working through twenty NM state legislative sessions to pass the Health Security Act? With many more momentous bills like the HSA needed, how do we ensure that Democrats cease listening to “other people” and begin listening to us?

Your comments welcome. But before you offer comment, take a look at Nina Turner’s two minute speech, as she conveys the urgency of now better than most anyone in the US.

The planet has told us clearly what we must do. When does Democratic leadership begin to listen more to Mother Earth and a whole lot less to “other people.”

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Democratic Party Reform

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4 replies

  1. The Democratic Party in New Mexico… Our relationship is interesting.

    I have respect because I’m a newcomer and the Democrats who have been here all their lives are in a very real sense my elders. (Respect for elders is a trait our society deeply needs.) It is very colonialist behavior to barge into a place that has long-standing culture and traditions and push for things to be my way. I don’t want to be that person.

    On the other hand – as you point out – there is no time to lose. Climate change is now, and we have to act now to blunt its effects. We can’t sit around while new radioactive waste is generated in a fevered push to “upgrade” or “modernize” the largest nuclear weapons arsenal on Earth; we haven’t even begun to deal with legacy waste.

    Interesting situation to be in.

  2. Trump should go down but he is not an ‘anomaly’ of our present form of capitalism.
    Rather, he is a good example of his ‘minority’ class, or the Ruling Class. A class with good an loyal servants in both parties, like Heinrich.

    The bosses in both parties are not centrist or neoliberal. They are neofacsists. And many of them, at least in the republican party, are well bred, full fledged fascists.

    The right of every citizen in this country to be able to vote with no restrictions has never existed.
    If this open and transparent right to vote was the only condition to have a democratic system of governance then the US has not been a democracy since 1776.

    The majority of the citizens of the US Republic have been trying to have a democratic republic since 1776 but the ruling classes have so far prevented democracy from taking hold here.

    If we were a working democracy, as many well intended knowledgeable and intelligent people have been telling Americans for generations, then this blog would be named something else.

    Maybe the fascists and neofascists in the democratic party need to be outed and named for what they really are. Men, and some women, who are unable to care for others, and for Life in general, because of their narcissism and selfishness. ‘Politicians’ who elected this ‘career’ to advance themselves economically and socially on the backs of poor Americans/Newmexicans.

    These are the men who historically have created and nurtured, to this day, humanity’s some well known Existential Threats: Global Warming, Nuclear War, Poisoning of the planet (and of every human’s body) and a global push to authoritarianism or dictatorial governments everywhere.

    The ruling classes detest democracy as it seeks to empowers the rest of humanity and support and nurture Imperialism across the planet.

    PS. We all know that ‘the center’ in politics has been moving to the right for decades. So, when we call somebody in American politics ‘centrist’ we should qualify the use of the term.

  3. Paul & Roxanne ~ I appreciate your running our Progressive Bill of Rights and all that you have to say about the issues we raise. However, as a signer of that proclamation, I want to clarify that our concern is the same as yours: the DP centrist/neoliberal suppression of policies and programs that are desperately needed in this time of converging crises in our country and our world. Senator Heinrich was just an instrument of that suppression. The point is not that he choose to endorse the opponent of the highly qualified trueblue candidate for the CD1 nomination; the point is that he did so to prevent a staunch and proven progressive from advocating for desperately needed measures in Congress.

    There’s also the fact that CD1 is a progressive minority-majority district. Under a democratic system, it should rightfully be represented by someone who reflects that. Senator’s Heinrich’s actions served to thwart what many of us believe to be the will of the people in our community.

    You put your finger on the underlying problem: at the very time when the survival of our democracy calls for systemic reform on a fast track, Democratic neoliberals consistently opt to keep their corporate donors happy, by whatever means necessary and at whatever cost to their constituents. Their primary objective in playing the corrupt money game appears to be holding onto their positions of power and influence within the party as vs. facing the Big Picture reality, taking on the uber-wealthy who call the shots, and honorably acting in the interests of the common good.

    Until we can get money out of politics, it looks as if only those of genuine conscience and courage will stand up and fight for what is not only just, but at this critical juncture also imperative. We can do our part by supporting the politicians who’re willing to take risks in service to the welfare of the people and calling the others to account for their dereliction of duty as public servants.

    Here’s to democracy,

    Jerilyn Bowen

  4. I thought ASL lost votes to Stansbury because she’s an Israeli apartheid apologist? Representation matters but politics do to. Stansbury was less imperialist than ASL and that moved a couple votes her way. Also, this post and that letter completely erase the candidate that most fit our “progressive” and “minority-majority” district, Selinda Guerrero.

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