A Quick Note on the Democratic Debates

While I am horrified by the current political situation, I am proud that my participation in Occupy Wall Street, alongside the participation of tens of thousands of other people across the country, has led the emergence of Democratic candidates at all levels of government willing to fight this.
The moments being singled out as highlights of the first two Democratic debates for president were entirely unthinkable less than ten years ago. Supporting abolishing private health insurance entirely was considered a “no-go” during the Obama administration, but in the last two nights has emerged as a basic prerequisite to be considered seriously as a Democratic presidential candidate.
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren deserve all the support we can give them and then some. That said, the groundwork that primed the general public to realize they don’t need to tolerate being treated like shit by the self-appointed masters of the universe happened in Zuccotti and dozens (hundreds?) of other Occupy Wall Street groups who, like myself, sacrificed their time, their sleep, and frequently their future employment prospects to guide the US away from the precipice of oligarchic fascism.
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez would not be the trailblazing progressive celebrity she is now if we all hadn’t spent months living in public/mixed-use parks educating the public that the rich and their sycophants were in the process of eating us all alive. She has used the platform she’s been given to tremendous effect and she refuses to back down when the truth is threatened. The migrant detention facilities ARE concentration camps.
Meanwhile, the old guard of the Democrats are promising a substanceless “return to the past” not that far from what Trump was selling. If we get a Biden presidency where Biden decides to ignore GOP obstruction/fascism tactics to play to optics about us all “getting along”, then Mitch McConnell is still effectively the POTUS.
Obama did this repeatedly, rolling over whenever McConnell whined enough, first on single-payer in the ACA negotiations and then by deciding not to inform the public about Russian election interference until it was too late. Governance by “When they go low, we roll over.”
The result? Obama is now watching his political legacy burn to the ground. The Dem party constituents no longer buy the idea that we need to make constant concessions to the GOP just because they’re there and have the backing of racist rich people and corporations. The ACA will probably get mangled. His protections for National Parks were unilaterally thrown out the window. His buddy buddy, former “Diamond” Joe, is being outed as a racist, sexist, and extremely ineffective legislator by other 2020 candidates.
Unlike “Diamond” Joe, they recognize we’re in a crisis situation that calls for strong and aggressive leadership from the left.

Congressman Thomas Malinowski in Cranford, New Jersey

Click that little icon up on the left hand corner for the entire playlist. I had to break these videos up into five parts to stay under YouTube’s 15 minute limit.

Thomas Malinowski and the Seventh Congressional District of New Jersey represent many of the contradictions of the Democratic Party and American liberalism. The Seventh District of New Jersey is a wealthy, gerrymandered district that stretches from urban Westfield/Cranford (both part of the New York Metropolitan area) all the way out to the Delaware River and Eastern Pennsylvania. It’s always been a competitive district, but until 2018, when Malinowski won a very narrow victory against Republican Leonard Lance, the Democrats had been unable to flip the seat. To the east are Elizabeth and Newark. To the west are the blue collar and traditionally Democratic areas of Eastern Pennsylvania that Hillary couldn’t hold in 2016. Basically, the Seventh District of New Jersey is made up of the rich white people between the “white working class” of Scranton, Easton, and Allentown, and the black and immigrant population of Newark and Elizabeth. It’s “liberal” but only to a point

So what do I mean “liberal but only to a point?” There were no people of color of any kind at the meeting. It was the whitest crowd I’ve ever been a part of. Even though person after person at the meeting talked about defending Central American refugees against Trump, the current hot political topic in Cranford is keeping “high-density housing” (dog whistle for “black people”) from being built in a now vacant office park on the eastern side of town. Everybody gave lip service to supporting single payer, but nobody seemed to be willing to fully commit to fighting for it. As of this point, Thomas Malinowski is the only member of the New Jersey Congressional delegation to come out in favor of impeaching Donald Trump, and yet he’s a Nancy Pelosi loyalist unlikely to challenge the leadership of the Democratic Party that’s blocking the impeachment resolution he claims to support. He states that moving to a single payer system would eliminate most of our deficit. Yet he’s unwilling to come out firmly in support of of “Medicare for all” because a.) he believes the health care system is to entrenched and complex to change and b.) he believes “as Americans we prefer choice.” Therefore, instead of “Medicare for all” he supports “Medicare for all who want it.” And so on.

The overwhelming impression I got of Malinowski, a former Undersecretary of State under Barack Obama, is that he’s basically a clone of his boss. Even though he jumped up on  a table like Beto O’Rourke, everything about his speech and style of delivery reminded me of the 44th President of the United States, and I don’t mean this as a compliment. In another time, in the 1950s, for example, Obama might have been a great President. But in 2008 we really needed a Franklin Roosevelt or dare I say a Bernie Sanders. Now more than ever we need a partisan leftist who will fight not only the Republican right but the entrenched Democratic Party establishment. Malinowski, while articulate and likeable, is not that man. In fact there was a point during his presentation I was so bored I half wanted Joe Biden to jump out from behind a table and sniff my hair.