By Arthur Z. Schwartz
Editor: On the morning of June 21st all of the New York Delegates to this summer’s Democratic National Convention met in New York to elect members of committees, fill vacancies, etc. It ended with turmoil over whether Andrew Cuomo had been elected Delegation Chair. The 117 member Bernie Sanders Delegation chose West Villager Arthur Schwartz to address the group. Here is an edited version of his speech.
My name is Arthur Schwartz. For those of you who don’t know me, I am an unrepentant 1970s Columbia University radical, disciple of William Kunstler, serving, for now, as the Male Democratic District Leader in Greenwich Village…and as Counsel to Bernie2016 in New York …
Twenty-one years ago I ran for District Leader for the first time. My campaign was run by a young woman named Christine Quinn (now a Hillary delegate) who was Chief of Staff for then City Council Member Tom Duane (now a Bernie delegate). Back then we were all young and idealistic. We wanted the change the world, fight the oppression of Black and Hispanic Americans, march against the mistreatment of gays and lesbians and take on the scourge of AIDS, keep NYC affordable, keep Choice in place, address the scourge of homelessness around us, and take on political leaders who didn’t know that it was time to go and make room for the next generation, which included Tom and Chris.
In 2008 I was part of Barack Obama’s Presidential Primary Campaign here in New York. In my own county I was joined by only one other elected official, Bill Perkins. Obama got almost a million votes in the NY Primary that year, and his delegates looked a lot like the Bernie crew here today…His campaign inspired millions of young people, with his message of “Hope” and “Yes We Can”. But their reception by the Political Establishment was mixed…
But Obama’s idealistic youth…were soon challenging the economic, political and cultural elite on their own. They named the Elite the 1% and occupied Wall Street and hundreds of other spaces across America. They caught the imagination of large swaths of America, but were derided for not having a political program.
In 2014 Zephyr Teachout, head of the legal committee at Occupy, made an improbable run for Governor, and shook up the NY political world. And Zephyr’s campaign demonstrated something we were not aware of. The balance of political power upstate was shifting Left, and with a shoe string budget, and no field operation, she won a majority of counties north of Westchester.
This leads us to 2016 and Bernie. Obama’s idealistic youth, and the Occupy inspirees, and the Zephyr supporters built a political machine, and a movement here in New York which will not go away. Our campaign had organized centers in each of the State’s 27 Congressional Districts, who collected 85,000 signatures, and fielded a full slate of delegates. The 42% Bernie won was an uptick on Zephyr’s numbers, and this time Bernie won every county north of Westchester.
Why am I reciting all of this? We are proud, but we are grieving political losses, dreams tantalizingly tasted but for now unrealized. The Clinton folks here, the party leadership, need to figure out how to move forward as an inclusive party. The 42% reflected in this delegation needs to be reflected throughout the Democratic Party: on the State Committee, on the State Executive bodies, in the Assembly, in the Senate, in legislatures and town boards around this State. Just like the reform movement of the 1960s left its mark, so too will the movement which speaks louder and louder with each election. The Bernie side of this delegation is full of the young leaders of the future … 35% of the Bernie delegation is under 35 …
We have a massive task this fall, which we will have to accomplish together. Donald Trump is a menace of the sort we have never seen before in this Country. Even the NY Times…has entertained columns which have discussed Trump as a fascist. It is not, of course, an intellectual issue, it is a scary political one, because he is trying to win the Presidency running on a racist, xenophobic, pseudo populist message which is trying to build on the same anger which drove some to choose Occupy and Bernie, but which blames “Others” for America’s problems, not the economic elite. And figuring out how to take on the menace of Trump has to be a job done jointly by both sides in our Party, and the campaign to defeat Trump … must be a joint effort. And maybe, if it’s a joint effort, many of the divisions in our party will begin to be addressed.
I have one last point to make about what needs to happen at the Convention and afterwards. We must speak together as a group in Philly, supporting platform planks which will say to young people, and marginalized working people: “you have been heard, and we will act on it.” New York can play a special role at this convention.
When we get back, the Democratic Party in New York will have to build on that. If the Party doesn’t become more inclusive, recruit young activists with a progressive platform, enact term limits, public election financing, early voting, computerized registration and measures to make it easier to vote in primaries, and begin to reflect the 42% who voted in this State for Bernie, then we will lose more and more of my kids’ generation to independent voting and even a third party.
I know a lot of you, and I know that you are good people. Politics can be a difficult sport. But let’s get it done.”
Arthur Schwartz is the Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village and a “Party Convention, pleaded to Bernie Sanders, Leader” Delegate to the Democratic National Convention