Saturday, June 30, 2018

Baltimore Activist Alert July 1 to 2, 2018

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours." -Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center.  Go to  If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.  Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-323-1607 or mobuszewski2001 [at]

1] Books, buttons and stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists  
4] Write Reality Winner
5] Pat Elder for Congress
6] Seeds for the Future: Environmental Justice and Ethical Culture – July 1
7] Sand Mandala Closing Ceremony -- July 1
8] Baltimore City Green Party meeting July 1
9] Adopt a cat – through July 31
10] Protest at the Pentagon – July 2
1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available.  “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Call Max at 410-323-1607.

2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to  Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at

3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR].  It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed.  It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq.

To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email 6address to mobuszewski at  Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.  

THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe.  It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing.  To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to You will get a confirmation message once subscribed.  If you have problems, please write to the list manager at

4] –  On June 3, 2017 Reality Leigh Winner was arrested and jailed and later charged under the Espionage Act for allegedly releasing a top-secret document to a media outlet, The Intercept.  The document analyzed information about Russian online intrusions prior to the 2016 presidential election. Reality had been employed by a contract agency and worked at the NSA in Augusta, Georgia following her honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force in December of 2016.  Reality has pleaded not guilty to this one charge, and her defense team is working furiously to defend against the Espionage charge, but the Court in Georgia continues to rule against Reality at every turn.  Reality has been denied pretrial bail and awaits trial in a small county jail in Lincolnton, Georgia.

The impact this has had on Reality and our entire family is devastating.  Because of the undue pressure, Reality decided to cop a [lea, and now faces five years of imprisonment. Please write to Reality at Reality L. Winner, Inmate # 3342, Lincoln County Jail, PO Box 970, Lincolnton, GA 30817.

5] – Green Candidate Pat Elder is Running against Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer -- Elder is a life-long peace and justice activist, who will be on the ballot in November. He is a great progressive.  Elder calls for shutting down the Chalk Point and Morgantown coal-fired stations in the 5th district. Pat is opposed to Dominion Energy’s terminal at Cove Point and other projects in the 5th. He also demands a cessation of weapons testing in the Potomac and an immediate cleanup of Superfund sites at the Indian Head Naval Warfare Center and Patuxent River Naval Air Station. He calls for subjecting the military’s ongoing environmental degradation to state oversight. 

Pat supports Medicare for all, public financing of elections, free community college. Elder supports a living wage; strong measures to correct racial injustice; eliminating the Social Security taxable maximum of $128,400; He advocates for meaningful cuts in military spending and increasing the top tax for folks making more than $2 million to 50%. That’ll pay for everything. Pat supports non-violent, multilateral solutions to the problems facing our country.

Pat plans to capture 5% of the vote and expects to open the political debate. Pat expects to run the most successful Green Party congressional campaign ever. It shouldn’t be too tough. Hoyer is awful. Spread the message on social media. Send in a dollar or two if you can.

6] – Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 2521 St. Paul St., Baltimore 21218, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion at 10:30 AM.  On Sun., July 1, the topic is “AEU 103rd Assembly Report.” BES members will report on this year’s AEU Assembly in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The theme this year was Seeds for the Future: Environmental Justice and Ethical Culture.

Ethical Culture holds sacred, and strives to protect and nurture, the web of interrelations between each other and our environment. Climate change adversely affects everyone, but especially marginalized populations in this country and around the world who bear the brunt of polluted air, water, and soil. We must help stop the environmental degradation of inner cities, poor rural areas, and places where many indigenous people live. Visit the Assembly website at Call 410-581-2322 or email
7] – On Sun., July 1 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, come to the Sand Mandala Closing Ceremony with Tibetan Monks, hosted by Baltimore Yoga Village, 6080 Falls Rd., Baltimore 21209.  Tickets are at Share beautiful, sacred Tibetan traditions as demonstrated through art, living ritual, and prayer. With horns, chanting, and a short talk, the monks will complete the sand mandala and destroy it as a symbol of the impermanence of all things. They will take the sand and deposit it in the Jones Falls with prayers for peace.

This work is offered by donation and 100% of the donations will go toward healthcare and food for the 2,300 monks now living in the monastery in India. Handicrafts from the area will also be sold and proceeds will benefit the cause.  Walk from the yoga studio to Lake Roland Park for the final part of the closing ceremony. This involves 15 to 20 minutes of walking round trip on a paved road. If you prefer to drive from the yoga studio to Lake Roland Park, you must park in the Falls Rd Light Rail parking lot. Do not park at the lot near the dam on Lakeside Drive. Please be aware that Lake Roland Park closes promptly at 8 PM and all visitors must exit before the gate closes. All events with the monks are open to the public, donation only. No preregistration is required for these events.  Go to

8] – On Sun., July 1 from 4 to 6 PM, the Baltimore City Green Party will meet at 1401 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21201-5749.  Go to

9] – Now is the purr-fect time to adopt and give an unwanted cat or kitten a loving, new family! During the entire month of July, the Maryland SPCA, along with 19 other shelters across Maryland, are waiving adoption fees for felines with the collective goal of finding homes for at least 2,000 unwanted cats and kittens across the state. Regular adoption procedures still apply. The Maryland 2,000 sponsor Cat Hospital At Towson (CHAT) will be offering free wellness exams for all cats adopted during the month of July from the Maryland SPCA and our BAWA Partners (BARCS, Baltimore Humane Society and Baltimore County Animal Services). Click here

Help kick off the Maryland 2,000 with a special adoption event on Sun., July 1 @ CHAT, 6701 York Rd., Baltimore 21212, from 11 AM to 1 PM.  Help save more lives with Baltimore Animal Welfare Alliance partners–BARCS, Baltimore Humane Society, Baltimore County Animal Services and special guest Humane Society of Harford County. The standard adoption fee for cats and kittens will be waived as part of our Maryland 2,000 adoption promotion. To help you and your new feline get off on the right paw, adopters will receive a free certificate for a cat wellness exam at CHAT. Standard adoption procedures will apply for each participating shelter.

10] – There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop.  The next vigil is July 2, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker.  Email or call 202-882-9649.  The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro.  By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr.,  and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM.  No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Nicaragua at the Barricades — and a Crossroads

Nicaragua at the Barricades — and a Crossroads
Nicaraguan immigrants living in Costa Rica demonstrate in support of Nicaraguans protesting against government's pension reforms during a vigil at Democracy square in San Jose, on April 21, 2018.EZEQUIEL BECERRA / AFP / GETTY IMAGES

June 25, 2018
On April 19th, university students in Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, exploded onto the streets. Their initial demand? A more effective government response to wildfires burning out of control in the country’s most precious repository of biodiversity.
Soon, a social wildfire took hold in Managua and then spread across the country. Thousands of Nicaraguans added a second demand to the first: for President Daniel Ortega to revoke his recent changes to the country’s social security law, which had simultaneously raised social security taxes (upsetting private enterprise) and cut benefits to seniors (angering many ordinary people). In the ensuing clashes, close to 200 Nicaraguans have died, hundreds have been arrested, and thousands have been injured, almost all at the hands of anti-riot police, unidentified snipers, or gangs of pro-government thugs on motorcycles. Today, this movement of auto-convocados (self-conveners) articulates two key demands: justice and democracy — justice for those who have died at the government’s hand and a return to democratic governance for Nicaragua.
Why should we care? In a world where the US president proclaims his desire to see his people “sit up and pay attention” to him the way North Koreans do for Kim Jung-Un; where his attorney general tore children from their parents’ arms; where the United States plans to initiate the militarization of space (despite our endorsement of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which outlaws exactly that) — in such a world, why should people care what happens in an impoverished Central American nation thousands of miles from the centers of power?
Because there was a time when Nicaragua’s imaginative, idiosyncratic revolution offered the world an example of how a people might shuck off the bonds of US dominance and try to build a democratic country devoted to human well-being. I know, because I saw a little of that example during the six months I spent in Nicaragua’s war zones in 1984, working with an organization called Witness for Peace. My job there was to report on the US-backed counterrevolutionary (Contra) military campaign to overthrow the Sandinista government, which had replaced a vicious dictator in 1984.  The Contras employed an intentional terrorist strategy of torture, kidnapping, and murder, targeting civilians in their homes and fields and workers in rural schools and clinics. 
Some (Abbreviated) History
Nicaragua sits dead center on any map of the Americas and, in the 1980s, small as it was, it also occupied the center of the political imaginations of many people. In that country lay the hopes of millions living beyond its borders, hopes that a people really could become the protagonists of their own nation’s story or, in the words of the Sandinista anthem, “dueño de su historia, arquitecto de su liberación” — directors of their own history, architects of their own liberation.
Before the fall of its Washington-supported dictator, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, in 1979, very few people outside Central America had given a thought to Nicaragua. It was the poorest, most illiterate nation in the region. Indeed, Somoza is reported to have said, “I don’t need educated people. I need oxen!” (Or, as our own president put it during his 2016 campaign, “I love the poorly educated!”) In the years following the dictator’s ouster, Nicaragua became a symbol of hope for people on the left globally.
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Somoza had treated Nicaragua like his own private hacienda, leasing out its hillsides for clear-cutting to US and Canadian lumber companies and, along with an oligarchic class of landowners and businessmen, squeezing every dollar out of the people he ruled. He maintained his power thanks to a regime of intimidation, torture, and assassination. His National Guard functioned like a private army (and would eventually form the nucleus of the Contras after many of its members fled to neighboring Honduras when the Sandinistas came to power).
In 1979, however, after a year-long insurrection fought in the mountainous areas of the country by a guerrilla force armed with AK-47s and in the cities by ordinary citizens wielding homemade bombs thrown from behind barricades, the Somoza regime collapsed. By the time he fled, after a brutal final round of aerial bombardment, no sector of the country backed him. Erstwhile allies like the big landowners, private industry, and the Catholic Church, along with the press of all stripes, had all turned on him. So had the majority of Nicaraguans, the rural campesinos (a word inadequately translated as “peasants”), and the country’s tiny urban working class. In the end, even his patrons in Washington abandoned Somoza as a hopeless cause.
A group called the Frente Sandinista (the Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN) stepped into the vacuum he left. Founded in 1961, it took its name from Augusto César Sandino, a guerrilla leader who had fought against a US occupation of Nicaragua decades earlier. In 1978, despite internal disagreements, the group united around four basic principles of governance: political pluralism; the formation of a mixed economy, including private ownership, state-owned enterprises, and collectives; popular mobilization through a variety of mass organizations; and a foreign policy of nonalignment.
In July 1979, when Somoza resigned and fled the country, the FSLN assumed power with long-established plans to improve the lives of the rural and urban poor. The party established health clinics, promoted free public education, and offered a “canasta básica” (basic food basket) of affordable staple foods, quickly reducing the endemic malnutrition in the country. Through a national vaccination campaign, it eliminated polio in 1981. It also brought in laws that protected poor farmers from losing their land to banks and instituted agrarian reform, transferring land titles to thousands of previously landless campesinos.
In 1980, 90,000 people, two-thirds of them middle-class high school students from the cities, took part in a national literacy campaign. In the process, those young students spent five months living with campesino families, learning about the hardships (and joys) of subsistence farming. In return for such hospitality, those students taught their host families to read. Today, my partner sits on the board of a Nicaraguan development NGO, several of whose organizers began their lives of community engagement as teenage participants in that literacy campaign.
Of course, the Sandinista government was not perfect. Some of its worst policies reflected the country’s endemic racism against indigenous groups and English-speaking Nicaraguans of African descent. Existing conflict between the Sandinistas and Miskito Indians was further exacerbated by the government’s imposition of a military draft in response to the Contra war. Many Miskitos were members of the pacifist Moravian church, but the Sandinistas interpreted their resistance to the draft as complicity with the enemy, and so opened the way for successful CIA infiltration of the group.
The military draft became deeply unpopular throughout the country and its enforcement was sometimes heavy-handed. More than once, I sat on a bus stopped at a Sandinista roadblock, waiting for soldiers to check the papers of all the young men on board to be sure none of them were draft dodgers.
The Sandinistas also created and consolidated government structures, including a presidency and national assembly. When the party swept the 1984 elections with 67% of the vote, and Daniel Ortega became president, no one doubted that the result represented the will of the overwhelming majority of Nicaraguans.
In 1986, the National Constitutional Assembly approved a new constitution, which granted abundant rights to Nicaraguans, including women and LGBT people. One of its articles even called for absolute equality between men and women and the full sharing of housework and childcare. (Let’s pause here to remember that the US Constitution has yet to include any kind of Equal Rights Amendment, let alone an article requiring men to share equally in domestic labor!)
Among the new constitution’s provisions was a six-year fixed term for the presidency.
However, Nicaraguans were not stupid. They knew that, as long as the Sandinistas ran the government, the US would continue its Contra war. So, in 1990, Nicaraguans replaced the FSLN with the UNO party run by Violeta Chamorro in a result that shocked many people outside Nicaragua, including the Sandistas’ US polling firm. The people had spoken, and the Sandinistas accepted their verdict.
And that was momentous in itself. For the first time in history, a victorious revolutionary party allowed itself to be voted out of office, relinquishing many of its hopes, but preserving the democratic structures so many Nicaraguans had died to create and maintain.
Nicaragua in US Hearts and Minds
While Nicaragua was having its revolution, back in the United States we were enduring our own: the Reagan Revolution. Former California Governor Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential victory marked the beginning of the Republican Party’s successful attack on the New Deal structures still embedded in American life. The Reagan administration undermined unionscut taxes on the wealthy, deregulated vital industries from banking to health care (with disastrous results still felt today), attacked social programs like Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Medicaid, and turned perfectly respectable words like “welfare” and “entitlement” into code for African American moral turpitude. AIDS was ravaging gay communities, but the president refused to even say the word in public until the first year of his second term. Meanwhile, the Reagan administration escalated Richard Nixon’s “war on drugs” into a full-scale assault on poor communities. In 1986, the president signed a drug law requiring guaranteed — and long — prison sentences even for minor, non-violent drug offenses.
In other words, things in the US were pretty grim. That made it tempting indeed to adopt someone else’s ready-made revolution, especially one that had already achieved so much and had such a great soundtrack: the music of the brothers Luis and Carlos Mejía Godoy, including the Sandinista anthem mentioned above and the beloved “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita,” with its final line, “Pero ahora que ya sos libre, Nicaragüita, yo te quiero mucho más.”(“But now that you are free, little Nicaragua, I love you so much more.”)
And Nicaragua was indeed free, although also under attack. The United States had always been its biggest trading partner. In 1985, however, President Reagan embargoed all trade with the country and cut off air and sea transport to and from the US. Other nations, including Soviet bloc countries, Cuba, and the European Union, along with many thousands of American individuals and organizations, stepped in to offer material aid, technical assistance, and in the case of Witness for Peace, accompaniment in the war zones. Such volunteers risked their lives — young engineer Ben Linder actually lost his — for the privilege of being part of this experiment in liberation.
In my six months there, I met Nicaraguans who had never been more than 50 kilometers from the tiny villages in which they were born, but had a vision of change that would spread across Central America, Latin America, and — as in my case — even reach the United States. Over and over, people told me, “Americans can stop Congress from voting for aid to the Contras this year; you can stop it next year, but until you make a revolution in your own country, nothing will really change. We will always be confronted by US power.”
Heady stuff. And it turned a lot of heads, not always in the most helpful ways. Some visiting Americans became ever more convinced that their own left-wing party back home was destined to become the vanguard that would bring revolution to North America. Some became more rojinegro (red and black, the colors of the FSLN’s flag) than the Sandinistas themselves and would hear no criticism of the party or its leaders. Others simply lived for the day when they could abandon the United States, with its hopeless, politically backward population, and make the permanent move to Nicaragua, and its highly conscious (or in today’s language, “woke”) people.
And some of us reluctantly acknowledged that, much as we loved Nicaragua’s brilliant green mountains, our real work lay in our own country. We came home believing that if we could not find a way to love the United States, despite its maddening intransigence, we would never find a way to change it.
Trouble in Paradise
Like everything in Nicaragua, its post-1990 history has proven complicated indeed. As a start, some of the elements in the FSLN most committed to popular democracy left to form smaller Sandinista-style parties, but without significant success at the ballot box. Meanwhile, in the months between the election and the transfer of power, many Sandinistas took part in the Piñata— a wholesale appropriation of state-owned property, companies, vehicles, and cash. In the process, Daniel Ortega, his wife Rosario Murillo, and other high-ranking party members began amassing personal fortunes and rebuilding their political power. The couple even underwent a well-publicized conversion to a charismatic form of Roman Catholicism (which helps explain why Nicaragua today has one of the world’s harshest anti-abortion laws).
By 1999, Ortega had made a pact with the notorious right-wing politician and then-president, Arnoldo Alemán. He and his PLC party, which drew its support from the oligarchic class that once supported Samoza, had beaten Violeta Chamorro in the 1996 election. Alemán was later convicted of corruption on a grand scale and sentenced to years of house arrest.
In 2006, with his wife Murillo as his running mate, Daniel Ortega was again elected president. Having himself weathered a number of personal scandals, including his stepdaughter Zoilamerica’s credible accusations of years of sexual abuse, he would gradually grant Alemán complete clemency.
In the 12 years since his second election, Ortega has consolidated his own power, placed family members in important (and lucrative) positions, and achieved full control of the FSLN party apparatus. He engineered constitutional changes that now permit him to serve an unlimited number of terms; that is, he granted himself a potential presidency for life.
In spite of the increasingly autocratic nature of his rule, Nicaragua has seen substantial economic development in the last decade, from which many have benefitted. Ortega’s is an authoritarian government that has nonetheless provided real material benefits to Nicaraguans. Furthermore, whether because of a lingering esprit de corps in the police and army or thanks to Ortega’s mano dura (harsh hand), or a combination of the two, the country is not suffering the plague of drugs and government-by-cartel that has terrorized the peoples of much of the rest of Central America and Mexico.
Today, the United States is once again Nicaragua’s largest trading partner and the Ortega government is on good terms with international lending agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
At the Crossroads
In towns and urban neighborhoods across the country, people have once again built barricades, as Sandinista supporters did in the 1979 insurrection against Somoza. Once again, they are pulling up the concrete paving blocks once produced in Somoza’s own factory — this time to prevent the Sandinista police from entering their towns and neighborhoods.
Envío, a digital magazine put out by the University of Central America in Managua, calls this uprising an unarmed revolution. “Unarmed” is a modest exaggeration, since defenders at many of the barricades have used homemade mortars (steel tubes which hold hemp fuses attached to bags of gunpowder), but the demonstrators are massively outgunned by the government’s regular army and the police, as well as the turbas —organized gangs of thugs.
For longtime Nicaragua-watchers, it has been strange to see COSEP, the country’s private industry council and inveterate Sandinista opponent, joining with university students and campesinos to create a Civil Alliance for Justice and Democracy. In late May, leaders of the Alliance agreed to a dialogue with the government, mediated by the country’s council of Catholic bishops. The talks have been on-again, off-again ever since.
Although leftists around the world hailed Ortega’s return to power, his is not the revolutionary government of the 1980s. Perhaps because they wish it were, some Ortega supporters here and elsewhere are treating the present uprisings as if they were a reprise of the Contra war, a right-wing coup attempt orchestrated in Washington. I don’t think that’s true, although I have Nicaraguan friends who disagree with me.
To blame everything that happens in the country on puppet masters in Washington denies Nicaraguans their own agency. As student leader Madelaine Caracas told the German news network Deutsche Welle:
“It’s us Nicaraguans who are in the streets. Not a political party, not liberals, not conservatives, not the CIA. It’s an awakening, an exhaustion with seeing our brothers murdered.”
Y Ahora, Qué? (Now What?)
When Somoza left power, the FSLN was waiting, ready to govern. As far as I can tell, today there is no such organized force on the left that could fill the vacuum left by Ortega, for example, by successfully campaigning in any new elections. If, however, Ortega refuses to leave office, the alternatives are at least as painful to consider: his successful repression of a genuine uprising of popular anger through yet more killings, beatings, and jailings (with the continuation of an autocratic government into the unknown future), or a turn from a largely unarmed and, when armed, defensive, resistance to a full-scale civil war, with all the horrors that entails.
The only thing I am sure of is that Nicaragua always does better when the United States is looking elsewhere. So let’s hope Trump keeps his focus on infuriating his allies and courting his enemies in other parts of the world.
Many years ago, I sat in a hotel room — really more of a cot in a shed — in the tiny town of San Juan de Bocay, talking with my Witness for Peace travelling companion and a young Sandinista soldier. The soldier’s pet chipmunk sat on the windowsill chewing sunflower seeds. We discussed what the revolution meant to him and his country, and his hopes as well as ours that Nicaragua’s seeds of liberation would spread through the Americas. In that warm, dim light, revolution almost seemed possible.
Maybe I should have paid more attention to the chipmunk’s name. It was Napoleon.
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Rebecca Gordon is the author of Mainstreaming Torture, which has been hailed as a "morally challenging" and "courageous work" that reveals how torture has been "sanitized" in the US. She teaches philosophy at the University of San Francisco. Prior to her academic career, Gordon spent decades working as an activist in peace and justice movements in Central America, South Africa and the United States.
Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-323-1607; Email: mobuszewski2001 [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Meet Progressive Champions Ben Jealous and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Published on Portside (

Meet Progressive Champions Ben Jealous and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Larry Stafford, Nash Jenkins
June 27, 2018, Time magazine
1.   Go Bold, Ben: A Progressive Earthquake Shakes Maryland
2.   Democrats Respond to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Surprise Win

Larry Stafford
June 27, 2018

   Last night, a Progressive earthquake shook Maryland’s establishment politics to their core. Ben Jealous’s primary victory puts Maryland within striking distance of the progressive governor we deserve and need. His victory marks the ascendance of a movement that’s grounded in progressive values, led by women and people of color, to shape a new direction for politics that breathes new life into the electoral system, in our state and beyond.

   At Progressive Maryland, we’ve been on board with Ben from the start – and he with us. Back in December, he let us know where he stands on key issues: the $15 minimum wage, workers’ right to organize, women’s rights and Medicare for All. As with all of our candidates, before we knocked on a single door, we shared his public commitment to us on these issues with you. And as we celebrate his victory, it’s worth remembering what he told us then:

  I’ve been a civil rights leader my whole life and it has been a lifetime of bringing together diverse coalitions across the lines that are supposed to divide us like race, class, religion and so on. Talking to Marylanders from the place that they are coming from, whether they are a white police officer dealing with violent crime in Baltimore City or a black working mother from Montgomery County, you have to first recognize and acknowledge their struggle and it is only from that place that understanding and change can happen.

   This is what sets Ben apart, and makes him a true leader. Like Progressive Maryland, he hears the voices of ordinary Marylanders, the only way you can: by knocking on doors and listening to the struggles, hopes and dreams all across our state. He then puts this experience into practice on issues that really resonate with people.

  Ben’s primary victory represents a shift in the balance of power in Maryland politics and within the Democratic Party away from the old, corporate consensus that the only kind of change that’s possible is incremental. He is bold, and so are we.

  It’s proof that Progressives are now organized enough, and strong enough, to win statewide elections. People in the state have often speculated that Maryland was more a moderate state, a more establishment Democrat-driven state. Ben’s win totally proves that theory wrong.

  It also shows that the path forward for progressive values and working people’s values is through organizing and creating meaningful alliances between populist progressive, white constituency groups and progressive people of color, who want to who want to vote for people who knows the issues of our communities and who will put forward hold solutions that meet the needs of our constituency.

  Ben represents the success of this kind of coalition, and how it can beat establishment politics. And it also represents to me, as an African-American man, that we are strong enough to win in Maryland, and in the nation.

  Maryland’s Democratic electorate has long been significantly been driven by Black voters. The fact that Maryland’s Democratic contender for governor is now African-American is powerful. But even more powerful is that Ben’s campaign is not just based on racial identity. It’s based on the real values he puts forward, the types of ideas that he has, and the vision that he’s putting forward for our state. These are the values and vision that Maryland needs now.

  We’re clearly witnessing a changing of the guard, especially in the Maryland State Senate, where the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Senate Finance Chair, Senate Pro-Tem and Senate Health and chair of the Environmental Affairs Committee were all unseated by progressive challengers.

  Regressive incumbents like these have held back progress in Maryland on the minimum wage, sick leave, criminal justice reform and other policies that matter most to ordinary people, so these victories open the door to real change in our state.

  Ben now stands poised to lead this progressive wave. We’re proud of him, and proud of all the progressives who made strong showings across our state – such as Cory McCray, Mary Washington and Antonio Hayes in the State Senate, Mark Elrich and Brandy Brooks in Montgomery County, and Krystal Oriadha and Juwan Blocker in Prince George’s County. At Progressive Maryland, supporting candidates like these demonstrates our commitment to doing politics in a different way – now, in November and beyond.

  Ben has a bold vision, one that’s right for Maryland. Onwards to victory, Ben. You demonstrate when you really tap into our state’s progressive electorate, you can win with progressive ideas: go bold.

Larry Stafford is executive director of Progressive Maryland.

Nash Jenkins
Time Magazine
June 27, 2018 

  By all accounts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset of a 10-term Democratic lawmaker on Tuesday night was a stunner. The 28-year-old former bartender — a democratic socialist who ran on a platform of universal health care, ending tuition at public colleges and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — defeated Rep. Joe Crowley by double digits.

  Crowley, who had his eyes on a Democratic leadership post, raised more than $3 million for the primary in New York’s 14th congressional district, with a donor list that read like a NASDAQ ticker; Ocasio-Cortez had just north of $300,000. Perhaps more critically, Ocasio-Cortez won on a campaign putting forward the sort of left-leaning ideas that until very recently many Democrats considered fringe. The district, which encompasses parts of Queens and the Bronx and is about half Hispanic, leans deeply Democratic and her primary win all but assures she’ll soon be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

  Despite all this, Democrats on Capitol Hill downplayed the larger meaning of the result on Wednesday.

   “Yes, I was surprised, because no one expected him to lose,” Rep. James Clyburn, the South Carolina Democrat who serves as the House’s Assistant Minority Leader, said as he entered an elevator off the House chamber. But when asked what, if anything, the New York contest augured for the party’s ideological tact, he was curt. “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing for the party.”

   “One election out of five hundred and thirty five?” Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy scoffed when asked the same question, boarding the subway train connecting the Capitol to the Russell Senate Office Building. “Listen, I do not know the district. I’m not trying to dodge your question.” The train then pulled away.

  Critics of the Democratic establishment say this is precisely the strain of dismissiveness that has stoked disenchantment among the party’s base. This was a spiritual tension at the core of the 2016 Democratic primary: Sen. Bernie Sanders, a previously little-known independent from Vermont, ran on an unabashedly progressive platform; his dogma, and the grassroots support it received, underscored the relatively centrist campaign of his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

  The gap between these two factions has not narrowed in the years since. The intraparty battle continues to be especially loud on social media platforms like Twitter and played a role in the fight between former Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Sanders ally Rep. Keith Ellison to chair the Democratic National Committee. (Perez won.)

   But a number of the party’s rising stars seem to sense that change is afoot. In October, a quarter of all Senate Democrats — notably including potential 2020 contenders Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren — signed onto a Sanders bill for universal health care. He had introduced a similar bill two years prior, and couldn’t find a single cosponsor.

  Sanders was elated on Wednesday after what transpired the previous evening in New York, and also in Maryland, where Ben Jealous, a progressive who previously chaired the NAACP, had won the Democratic primary for governor by more than 10 percentage points.

  “When you are running a grassroots campaign, when you are talking about issues that matter to people in your district, you can win no matter what,” Sanders told TIME in a telephone interview. “Today, you’ve got well over a hundred million people who are struggling to put food on the table. You’ve got 30 million people with no healthcare.”

  “In other words,” Sanders continued, “You have a middle class which is struggling and you have some people living in desperate poverty, and for too long the Democratic Party did not understand that reality.”

  The party stands now at an ideological crossroads ahead of this November’s midterm elections. For months, pundits have predicted a “blue wave,” citing President Donald Trump’s unpopularity and the historical tendency for the president’s own party to lose seats in the first midterm contest after his taking office. But progressive commentators care less about the numbers game of the horse race and more about whether the party will move left.

  “Alexandria’s victory is incontrovertible proof that not only is the progressive agenda deeply resonating with voters, but that running ‘uncorrupted’ is a powerful electoral tool,” Emma Vigeland, a correspondent for the progressive digital media outlet The Young Turks, tells TIME. “The Democratic Party would be wise to learn from this historic win.”

  Her victory is also the latest strike against the leadership of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a longtime bête noire for conservatives who in recent months has faced increasing criticism from her own ranks. A number of House Democrats — both progressives like Ocasio-Cortez and moderates like Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, who won in a special election in his Trump-supporting district earlier this year — have declined to support Pelosi’s continued leadership. Crowley, who at 56 is a generation younger than the 78-year-old Pelosi, was widely considered her successor.

   When asked about this on Wednesday, however, Pelosi’s allies did not seem particularly concerned, chalking up the upset in New York to an anomaly.

   “We can’t write trend stories at this point when one thing has happened,” one senior leadership aide tells TIME. “You’re talking about a district that’s probably in the top 5% of the most liberal districts in the country. I think everyone is surprised, because Crowley and his folks were giving off very confident vibes. Obviously, he tried to move to the left, and it wasn’t enough.”

   But the demographic peculiarities of the race did not detract progressives from their confidence in what they saw as the election’s broader philosophical crux: that Democratic voters seem ready for a change.

   “You’ve got to present an agenda and ideas to the American people and working families that make sense to them,” Sanders tells TIME. “But that’s not enough. You need to run a strong grassroots campaign. Alexandria was outspent by 10-, 15-to-one. And she won. When you get people involved in the political process, nobody can stop us.”

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