My quest for Bernie support began a long time ago. I’d seen him for many years on television, from time to time, before he began running for president in 2015. For the next year, I was out every Saturday at the Metro stop in North Hollywood, passing out flyers for Bernie. I stood on the corner of Sepulveda and Ventura in Sherman Oaks with a group of others, trying to get cars to “Honk For Bernie.” And they did. I spent countless hours, forming Facebook groups – everything from East San Fernando Valley for Bernie to San Miguel de Allende for Bernie. I tried and tried to get the Bernie campaign headquarters to respond to ideas (not much luck there). And I’ve drifted away from the DNC as I’ve understood how neoliberal it is.
After the disastrous Clinton campaign of 2016 I started to lay low. But I’ve been working in 2018, hoping against hope that we can get a more progressive Congress. And of course I’ve suffered with all the rest of you during these Trump Years.
This brings me to something I read in the New Yorker. Carolyn Kormann wrote an article called “Seven Up in a Chaotic Democratic Primary in New York’s Nineteenth.” I actually read it after the primary in NY-19 was over, when Antonio Delgado won, rolling over five other candidates, including Jeff Beals, a former C.I.A. intelligence officer and American diplomat. Beals had become a history teacher in Woodstock, N.Y., and he concentrated almost exclusively on “the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics.” So despite his C.I.A. connection, Beals won endorsements from Justice Democrats and People for Bernie Sanders.
Carolyn Kormann explained the layout of the primary. “Tuesday’s primary is one of the most competitive and bizarre in the country. The Nineteenth—a horseshoe of eleven rural counties around Albany—is one of the House’s rare swing districts. Wealthy, liberal towns dot the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River Valley, but the Nineteenth is mostly white and working class.
“Obama won the district by six per cent in 2012, and Trump won by ten per cent in 2016. In the 2016 Congressional election, the Republican John Faso, a lawyer and former state assemblyman, defeated the Democrat Zephyr Teachout, a law professor who had moved to the district from Brooklyn, by nine points. Bankrolled by four super PACs that contributed a total of $6.7 million, Faso’s campaign flooded the airwaves with attack ads, calling Teachout a “liberal carpetbagger” and “a professor.” In office, he has backed many of President Trump’s positions, voting against the Affordable Care Act and supporting budget proposals that would gut the Environmental Protection Agency.”
In the end, Beals lost, and the only Democratic primary candidate to get a lot of votes to win was Antonio Delgado, “the only candidate of color . . . [He had the most money, with] nearly $2.3 million. He is a corporate lawyer who grew up in Schenectady, just north of the district, earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, attended Harvard Law School, started a hip-hop record label in Los Angeles, and, most recently, was a litigator for a corporate-lobbying firm in New York.”
Despite his winning and his background, Delgado has not drawn support from either Justice Democrats or People for Bernie Sanders.
Despite his winning and his background, Delgado has not drawn support from either Justice Democrats or People for Bernie Sanders.
Despite his winning and his background, Delgado has not drawn support from either Justice Democrats or People for Bernie Sanders. I wrote to Justice Democrats about this, and asked why Justice Democrats were not supporting him. Nasim Thompson responded by saying that “Justice Democrats candidates reject all corporate PAC and lobbyist money. Delgado is heavily funded by a firm known for having the most powerful and well-known lobbyists in DC. It would go against everything we stand for. ”
Open Secrets reported that Akin, Gump, a powerful law firm (the one where Delgado worked for about 6 years ) had donated $178,760 to his campaign.
This fact was certainly known to the voters in the Democratic Primary. As Carolyn Kormann reported:
[At a meeting], “A woman in a flowy blue dress asked Delgado about his funding. “We’ve been sold up the river a lot of times by politicians. I was looking at your record today, and you sound really good, but somebody told me that you worked for a big lobbyist corporation,” she said. Delgado spoke eloquently about what his career had meant to his working-class parents, about how, after graduating from Harvard Law, he had worked with disenfranchised youth in Los Angeles for five years. But he wasn’t making any money, and his parents were scratching their heads. So he took a job with a prestigious law firm; he was one of only two or three African-American attorneys out of two hundred employees. “It was a momentous occasion for my family,” he said. “What I learned there were skill sets that too few folks from my community get.” He added, “My diverse set of experiences put me in a position to be a real champion, a real advocate, for our shared progressive values.” When he finished, she asked again, “And you’re not taking money from big business?” He said he was not; of course, corporations are not allowed to donate to campaigns. Outside, as the sky turned pink, I asked Delgado about that moment. “Look, I’m empathetic to that,” he said, wearily. “There is corruption in our system. The sensitivity is warranted.” His press aide, who was recording our conversation, reminded him to discuss his role at the firm. He nodded, then looked back at me, holding my gaze. “I am not, nor have I ever been, a lobbyist. I’m a litigator.”
In his campaign website, Delgado says this about dark money in politics:
“I am deeply concerned that our democracy has been under assault in recent years. A small minority of the super-rich and powerful have sought to control our elections using dark money, massive redistricting efforts, and campaigns to repress voter rights. Simultaneously, our President has expressed his contempt for the Constitution both by questioning the role of the Judicial Branch and by lining his pockets with payments from foreign powers in violation of the Emoluments Clause. I believe that we need to immediately fight to preserve the integrity of our Democracy, by pushing for reform to address Citizens United, gerrymandering, and the restriction of voters’ rights. And unlike President Trump and his hollow promises to “drain the swamp”, I will actually work to eliminate corruption and cronyism in Washington D.C.” These are, of course, just words, and as one person said in a comment to Delgado’s Facebook page, “So then denounce your corporate overlords and adopt progressive values like single payer healthcare, free college, student debt forgiveness, etc. etc. etc…. instead all we get from you is mealy mouthed platitudes that are corporate approved… prove me wrong so I don’t need to go to another party that actually reflects my values.”
Nevertheless, there is one part of Delgado’s background which gives me some comfort, and that is what he wrote (and sang) in the five years when he was a rap singer in Los Angeles. John Faso, the Republican Congressman, says that background makes Delgado unfit for Congress. “In 2006, Delgado released his first and only album, called Painfully Free. The album offered social commentary on topics including the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, and capitalism.” Delgado “argues that his music simply spoke to pressing social issues, which he would also call attention to in Congress. “It was different contexts, different tactics, but same desires and same outcomes,” he told the Times. “Issues like income inequality, issues like gender equality, issues like the pollution of our environment and climate change — these are all issues that I talked about back then as an artist that I’m now talking about.”
“The New York Post first reported on Delgado’s controversial lyrics, where he “hurls the N-word, slaps the two-party political system, rips the ‘dead’ presidents as ‘white supremacists,’ blasts capitalism, likens blacks to modern day slaves, calls poverty the ‘purest form of terrorism’ and boasts of ‘having sex to a porno flick.'”
“I wanna see a righteous capitalist, if it’s possible for one to exist,” Delgado says in his track entitled, “I Want.”
Delgado’s other lyrics include: “Dead presidents can’t represent me, not when most of them believe in white supremacy, like spittin’ on my ancestry.”
In another song, entitled “SOS,” Delgado questions why the response to Hurricane Katrina “wasn’t as fast as 9/11.”
Other tracks available online include “Venom,” where Delgado raps that America rose “from the ashes of imperialism.”
I’m not sold on everything Delgado said in his rap lyrics, but I think they go a long way to undercutting the idea that he has sold out to the “corporate overlords.” While he has obviously taken money from people who have too much of it, his background and story suggest that – once elected – he is likely to support people like his working class family using ideas that were expressed in his rap music.
All of this brings us to the general election itself. John Faso, the present Republican Congressman, is a Trumpista of the first order and just the sort of person that we want to dump from Congress. At this point, our choice is doing nothing or supporting Delgado and hoping that he is not going to be the “lesser of two evils.” Frankly, with all of his background, I really don’t see him as a neoliberal. He is actually endorsed by End Citizens United and other progressive groups. Furthermore, if Bernie Sanders and his supporters come out strongly for him and he wins, in the future he will have little need for money from Akin, Gump and the like.
What I find most troubling about Justice Democrats’ need to ignore Delgado is the fact that he is not the only one suffering that fate. Susan Wild, running in PA-7, has the same problem. She “was largely unknown to voters last fall when she entered a crowded field of Democrats fighting to represent the Lehigh Valley on Capitol Hill.
“Among the six candidates was Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli, a centrist whose name recognition eclipsed everyone in the race, and community organizer Greg Edwards, a Bernie Sanders-endorsed candidate holding the same “progressive” mantle to which she had laid claim.”
In other words, Justice Democrats also endorsed Greg Edwards, and he lost to Susan Wild. And now they aren’t endorsing her, either. “Wild was one of several women who won a Democratic nomination statewide Tuesday. [She] entered the race in the 7th District as the only female candidate, attracting the support of the pro-abortion rights group Emily’s List.”
Here’s what she says about herself: “Growing up in a military family, Susan moved frequently throughout her childhood. But the Lehigh Valley and the 7th District, where she moved more than three decades ago, is the only place she’s ever truly called home. It’s where her two children were born and attended public schools. It’s where she’s built a well-respected and recognized legal career, including becoming the first female Solicitor of the City of Allentown where she shepherded in a new era of accountability and transparency. And it’s where she’s become a respected and outspoken community leader.
“Susan joined the race for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District because she shares her neighbors’ values and recognizes that, too often, our leaders in Washington do not. She believes we can grow overall economic prosperity while still caring for the vulnerable members of our community. And she knows, now more than ever, it’s working-class families that deserve a break in this economy — not big city billionaires and wealthy corporations.”
She has endorsements from Emily’s List and a clutch of local Democratic politicians. So has the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ organization. So has the LCV Action Fund, which supports environmental issues. . And so has Barack Obama.
But not Bernie and Justice Democrats. The latter became incensed when the DCCC encouraged other Democrats (Susan Wild among them) to run against Greg Edwards. ““It’s a shame that the DCCC and the wealthy white donors and revolving door consultants that make up the Democratic Party establishment are actively trying to stop Greg [Edwards],” said Waleed Shahid, a spokesman for Justice Democrats, a group that has endorsed left-leaning candidates in a number of races, including some with incumbents, where party leaders prefer different candidates. “Their consultant-driven strategy seems to prefer milquetoast candidates who they believe can appeal to moderate Republicans over progressive candidates of color. This is what systemic racism looks like.”
This explains why Bernie and Justice Democrats are not endorsing Susan Wild. Unfortunately, they seem to be forgetting the alternative, the Republican candidate, Marty Nothstein. “Will the Lehigh Valley’s next member of Congress be a seasoned litigator who promises a “progressive” platform of stopping ICE raids, banning assault weapons and preserving a woman’s right to choose? Or will Valley voters choose an Olympic gold medalist who vows to uphold conservative principles of ending sanctuary cities, preserving gun rights and opposing abortion?”
This, again, is shooting yourself in the foot. Susan Wild has no negatives (at least from my point of view) other than the fact that she entered the race against Greg Edwards at the behest of the DCCC. That’s little reason to stand aside when Wild has an excellent chance of winning and the Republican candidate is pretty darned awful.
So – c’mon Bernie! C’mon, Justice Democrats. Don’t suck on sour grapes. I’m one of your big supporters, and I hate what you’re doing. This 2018 election may be one of the most important in our lives. As NBC has said, the consequences of the 2018 election are huge. . No one who is progressive should refuse to back a progressive candidate.
Michael T. Hertz