Our election panel, hosted by Paul Jay, responds to NY Daily News report that Bernie Sanders was not endorsing progressive challenger Cynthia Nixon in her run to unseat Gov. Cuomo of New York; with Justice Democrats’ Alexandra Rojas, Moumita Ahmed of Millennials for Revolution and Eugene Puryear of Stop Police Terror Project-DC
PAUL JAY: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. On Monday a thing broke out between Bernie Sanders’ camp and Governor Cuomo and such. Cynthia Nixon, who’s running in a primary against the Democratic Governor Cuomo in New York. It came out, according to The New York Daily News that Bernie Sanders was not going to endorse Cynthia Nixon. Well, Cuomo then came out with a statement, said, well, why would Sanders endorse Cynthia Nixon, because we’re in lockstep with Senator Sanders on all issues. Well, then a senior adviser to Bernie Sanders came out with this tweet. Ari Rabin-Havt, I hope I’m pronouncing it right, writes: The idea that Andrew Cuomo and Bernie Sanders are lockstep on policy is 100 % Grade A American bullshit.
Well, so just what is Bernie Sanders’ attitude toward Cynthia Nixon, and why is Cynthia Nixon running against Cuomo, when apparently, according to another senior adviser in the Sanders office, Cuomo actually has passed and supports some progressive legislation, like a $15 minimum wage, and easier access to college, and so on.
So now joining us to talk about this is, first of all, from Wallingford Connecticut, Alexandra Rojas. She’s the Campaigns Director for Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee founded in January of 2017. Moumita Ahmed is a grassroots organizer with People for Bernie Sanders and co-founder of the group Millennials Revolution, previously known as Millennials for Bernie Sanders. And Moumita is actually doing some digital campaign work for the Nixon, Cynthia Nixon campaign, but I should stress is not here speaking for the campaign. And Eugene Puryear. Hes a journalist, author, and activist. He’s co-founder of Stop Police Terror Project D.C., and a member of DC’s Movement for Black Lives steering committee.
So first of all, let me go to Moumita. So you’re kind of closest to all of this thing. What do you make of this, first of all, what went on with is Sanders endorsing, not endorsing, and such.
MOUMITA AHMED: I think Bernie Sanders is busy campaigning around the country for Medicare for All and college for all, and other progressive issues. So to drag him into a very local race, and asking him for an endorsement so early on, it puts everybody in a very difficult position, including Bernie Sanders. But I will say this. Andrew Cuomo is not aligned with Bernie Sanders in any way. And he is, in fact, quite the opposite. 99 percent of his campaign donations come from super PACs, and the majority of his donors have given him over $200 worth of campaign donations. Maybe like 1 percent of that out of all of that, in the entirety of the donations that he receives. Which is quite, which is opposite of Bernie Sanders, whose average donation was $27.
PAUL JAY: Alexandra, Bernie Sanders has to walk a fairly fine line in these kinds of races. He’s encouraging, and the organization Our Revolution, which he helped give birth to, although he’s not involved in the day to day, as far as we know, is really promoting primary-ing conservative and corporate Democrats, as they’re called. On the other hand, Sanders really can’t afford to alienate the whole Democratic Party establishment. He needs some of them to win if he’s going to run the primary in 2020. How do you think this Cynthia Nixon-Cuomo thing fits into this, and Sanders’ problem in this?
ALEXANDRA ROJAS: I think, I think Bernie can play a big role here. I know that he has to be careful, but him challenging the establishment last time showed that he’s willing to go up against the machine. And I think that’s why people like him, right. He was able to get as far as he did even without establishment support, and I totally agree that he’s going to need some just to push things forward, but he’s the most popular politician in the country. People know, he went from being virtually unknown last year to being a household name.
And he should leverage a lot of that power, I think, to get even more involved in some of these primaries. He’s been doing it with candidates like Marie Newman, who ran against Dan Lipinski, and I think he really should, you know, consider endorsing again another Democrat. You know, fighting another corporate Democrat, especially when they’re so in contradiction to his principles on not taking big corporate money, and having that fund your race. You should be beholden to your voters instead of your donors. And as a progressive movement we should lean into, I think, the biggest asset that we have, which is our integrity, is running on our values. And I think that’s the way that we win moving forward.
PAUL JAY: Eugene, Chuck Schumer, about a year ago, he was on a, being interviewed. And he said that he’s fully, he didn’t use the word lockstep, but more or less, fully on board, fully in agreement with both Warren and Sanders. Given Sanders and Warren’s critique of Wall Street and Schumer’s role as the Wall Street Democrat that’s a little rich. Here’s Cuomo saying he’s in lockstep with Sanders. How do you, let’s go to two issues. One, them wanting to cozy up to Sanders says something about moving the Democratic Party, at least in rhetoric, closer, closer to Sanders. On the other hand, if Sanders is really going to deliver a message he has to not just critique the oligarch in the generality or abstract, he has to really take on some of these individual politicians that clearly are allied with finance.
EUGENE PURYEAR: Yeah, I think those are important points. And I think you look at these politicians, I would say mostly the Cuomos, the Schumers, I mean, they’re just lying. I mean, just a couple of years ago Andrew Cuomo wrote a book saying that the progressive left was the biggest problem in the Democratic Party. But you see what happened in the primaries, and even if you look at states like Mississippi, and you look at the exit polls where Clinton dominated, you can see the vast majority of people who voted said in the CNN exit poll that they would be fine if Bernie Sanders was the candidate. I’m talking about 75-80 percent of people. So the reality is is I think most rank and file people who consider themselves Democrats, Democratic-leaning progressive people, even if they’re not 100 percent with Sanders aren’t out put out by the things that he’s saying. And so the Cuomo’s of the world, the Schumers of the world, have to do something to tack to the left a little bit here.
I agree with the point you’re making in terms of the need to turn this real. I mean, I think the biggest problem that Cynthia Nixon has, I would say, is Bill de Blasio, who was backed by many of the same people who are backing her, who was supposed to be a progressive, transformative mayor. He ran on the issue of dealing with the police and mass incarceration. He has actually completely failed at that. He has not ended stop and frisk. He’s backed the police officers in a number of extraordinarily criminal shootings of black people in New York. He’s pushed a massive gentrification plan under the guise of rezoning, claiming that it’s producing affordable housing. So no wonder that you have low voter turnout, because I think consistently what you see, and what I think people in New York see, is that even a lot of the so-called progressive organizations aren’t willing to aggressively challenge the status quo once they actually get in office.
And I think that in places like New York, in places like D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, we continually see this, where the Democrats claim to be so progressive, but when they actually get in office they’re essentially, you know, really essentially outsourcing a significant amount of their policy to the corporate status quo, and just doing enough to superficially appear to be better than Republicans in states like Oklahoma.
PAUL JAY: Moumita, unions on the whole are not supporting Cynthia Nixon in this fight against Cuomo. What is going to happen with Our Revolution? Our Revolution is fairly decentralized. I guess there’s one in New York. Is Our Revolution going to support Nixon?
MOUMITA AHMED: Yes, they already have, actually. The Our Revolution group in New York City is called NYPAN, New York Progressive Action Network. And they just endorsed Cynthia Nixon this weekend. And there are grassroots chapters across every borough for NYPAN, and we will be all fighting to help her get elected. So even though Bernie himself has not endorsed, his grassroots community in New York, which made thousands and thousands of phone calls for him during the 2016 primaries, I think it came in second next to California for the number of phone calls made across the country. Well, that well-oiled grassroots machine is backing Cynthia right now. So even if Bernie hasn’t quite made that leap yet, I believe the fact that his grassroots, the entirety of his grassroots from the Working Families Party, to NYPAN and other progressive organizations that also endorsed Bernie during the campaign are behind Cynthia speaks volumes about where the grassroots, where the wind is blowing in terms of-.
PAUL JAY: Why, why do you think the unions aren’t supporting her? Or I should say, at least the majority of the unions.
MOUMITA AHMED: I think the unions, I can’t really speak for the unions, but I believe it is because Cuomo has a very, he’s very vengeful. And we’ve already seen him start threatening these community organizations that are funded by unions, that help provide legal support to people of color. And he has threatened them, threatened to defund them, because they endorse Cynthia Nixon. And that, this is this a behavior of Andrew Cuomo that has existed for years. Like even when we ran Zephyr Teachout against Andrew Cuomo, he created a ballot line called the Women’s Equality Party, led by him, a man. Just to put Working Families Party in its place because they even, you know , fathomed to challenge Governor Cuomo, or just because they, because they suggested to him that we are going to run Zephyr if you don’t, you know, give us A, B, and C.
So you know, this is, this is what I believe. Again, I can’t speak for the unions. But when you have a governor who has publicly said in the past that he is waging a war against the unions, it puts them in a very difficult place, especially when they have to look out for their members and, you know, working class people who are part of their membership, and to stay at the bargaining table. The last thing they would want, I assume, is a governor who is this vengeful with real estate developers, all these powerful people in [inaudible] backing him.
PAUL JAY: All right. Thank you very much, all my guests. And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network. We’ll continue to follow this race in New York, as well as primaries across the country, and then as we head into the elections. Thanks for joining us on the Real News.