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New York Democrats Cancel Presidential Primary, Disenfranchising Bernie Supporters

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Other Local Progressives Also Removed from Democratic Primary Ballots — We Need a New Party of Working People!

In a shocking decision, today the New York State Board of Elections decided to cancel the state’s presidential primary, using the coronavirus crisis as its excuse. This completely anti-democratic move means that no New Yorker’s support for Bernie Sanders will be registered in 2020, and no Bernie delegates from New York will be elected.

As the Huffington Post reported, “A provision in New York’s new budget empowered the state’s board of elections to remove presidential candidates who have suspended their campaigns.” The Sanders campaign’s attempt to fight this process “did not end up prevailing on the board’s two Democrats, co-chair Douglas Kellner and commissioner Andrew Spano, who voted unanimously to remove Sanders.” Therefore the state’s primary, originally scheduled for tomorrow and then pushed to June, is now canceled.

Quoted in the New York Times, Kellner said, “What the Sanders campaign wanted is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous.” His attitude shows how mistaken Sanders’ strategy is, of appeasing the leadership of the Democratic Party in order to slowly win whatever gains he can. Seeing Bernie on his knees, the party had no problem in cutting off the head of the campaign.

Local Progressives Kicked Off the Ballot

Leading up to today’s bombshell announcement, the Queens and Brooklyn Board of Elections removed several progressive candidates from the Democratic primary June ballot.

Mary Jobaida, running for state Assembly in Long Island City, and Moumita Ahmed, running for Democratic district leader in Jamaica, have been removed for miniscule technical issues around their names on the ballot not matching the names they registered to vote with. The BOE, according to them, did not notify them or asked them to correct the issue before removing them. Both are now proceeding to challenge the decision in court.

Sandy Nurse, running for a vacated New York City Council seat in Bushwick, was also kicked off the ballot after a legal challenge against her petition signatures. The forces opposing her are backing Darma Diaz, the Kings County Democratic Party’s pick for the vacant seat.

Greenpoint district leader Nick Rizzo was also challenged and defeated around the technical issue of signature gathering, despite receiving 200 out of the needed 150 signatures that were needed.

Jobaida and Ahmed have rightly protested the obvious racism and sexism in this decision. The Queens Democratic machine has relied on an overwhelmingly conservative, white, and male power structure to sustain their pro-business interests through the years. This power took a shock when, in 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young progressive Latina, defeated their number one “Queens boss” Joe Crowley. However, two years later, the machine is refusing to be taken by surprise amid the increasing challenge they’re faced with by young progressive candidates, mostly members of the Democratic Socialists of America. This includes Tiffany Cabán, who narrowly lost a contested Queens District Attorney race to establishment candidate Melinda Katz.

Importantly, not even AOC is not “safe” from the Democratic Party bosses. Five Democrats and eight Republicans are running against her, most supported by some combination of the city’s real estate and healthcare industries — and some supported by the Democratic Party establishment. AOC and local district leader Rizzo of Greenpoint show that the Democratic Party is a hostile environment even for progressive incumbents who take power. 

Democratic Line Looking Less Pragmatic

The Democratic party machine — at every level — has been working overtime to dismantle progressive and socialist candidates because they oppose these candidates’ politics. With the momentum created by Bernie Sanders and AOC, dozens have stepped up to challenge the Democratic Party establishment, fighting for Medicare for All, free higher education, universal rent control, and protection for immigrant workers.

Yet the resistance they have faced has clarified that even the pragmatic reason for running in the Democratic Party primaries — specifically, that it makes it easier to get on the ballot — is seriously undermined by actual events. The progressive momentum that began in 2016 is now facing a counter-attack from the party’s indestructible ties to big landlords, pharmaceutical companies, and Wall Street. At the height of a global crisis, where millions have lost their jobs, the party establishment is seeking to remove from the agenda key working-class demands (which now include rent suspension and full paycheck protection).

As seen with Bernie and AOC’s capitulation to support Joe Biden’s nomination — for no tangible rewards, like the VP pick or a guarantee to support Medicare for All — “pragmatism” often transforms from a tactic to a strategy and then to a platform. The decision to support Biden is not merely a question of compromise for the higher goal of defeating Trump, but a subjugation of the forces, energy, and ideas of a rising socialist movement to the interests of the billionaire class.

The 2020 fiasco, beginning with the sabotage of Bernie’s campaign, and continuing with the bureaucratic removal of self-identified democratic socialists from the ballot, provides fresh evidence to defend Socialist Alternative’s long-standing contention that working people need our own independent political organization, a new working class party.

As a first step, the dozens of DSA members running for city, state, and federal positions, should run not under the umbrella of the capitalist Democratic Party, but as independent socialists. They should run under a united, socialist program, debated and decided on by democratic meetings of working people. This democracy in action, so absent today, is part of what a working class party looks like. There is no better time to begin that process than right now.

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