What Jewish progressives can learn from the New York Democratic primaries – opinion

(New York Jewish Week via JTA) – After several years of great victories for insurgent Progressive Democrats in New York City – including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – this week’s municipal primary was seen by some as a test of their force, especially when an upsurge in shootings and homicides fueled attacks on progressive criminal justice policies by Republicans and “law and order” Democrats.

New York is essentially a one-party city, so the primary provides a window into some of the internal debates between Democrats here and across the country.

So when Eric Adams, former police captain and current Brooklyn Borough president, became the mayor’s favorite after Tuesday’s very first ranked choice ballot, a narrative emerged that the left, feeling under tension after George Floyd’s protests last year had seen a setback.

Let’s take a look at the reality, in five takeaways:

The left is not dead.

Reports of the left’s electoral irrelevance in New York have been greatly exaggerated. Yes, it’s true that the two candidates adopted by most of the left in the mayoral race fizzled out (City Comptroller Scott Stringer and nonprofit leader Dianne Morales), but progressives rallied around civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley. She was second and has an outside chance to beat Adams when all the results are counted.

In many other races, progressive contenders have won or are currently in the lead. The other two city-wide offices, the Public Counsel and the Comptroller, will be respectively occupied by Jumaane Williams and, if his lead holds up to several instant ballots, by Brad Lander, member of Brooklyn City Council, a veteran of progressive Jewish politics.

Progressive candidates lead the hotly contested races for Manhattan and Brooklyn Borough Presidents. Alvin Bragg, one of four progressive candidates vying for Manhattan district attorney, overcame enormous financial disadvantage to defeat Tali Farhadian Weinstein, an Iranian-born Jewish prosecutor who ran as the centrist candidate of the ‘establishment. About half of the new city council will be made up of progressive to liberal members, with a number of true AOC-style superstars joining the council.

Meanwhile, a few hundred miles away, a Democratic Socialist beat a centrist Democrat in the mayoral primary of Buffalo, New York. Overall, the progressive organizations and unions of the Working Families Party and the Democratic Socialists of America are feeling pretty good after Tuesday’s vote.

The Democratic machines are not dead either.

With Republicans largely out of place in a city that records an overwhelming Democrat majority, the big fights are unfolding between the Independent Progressive Democrats and the real estate / Wall Street / NYPD-focused Democrats.

Overall, Independent Progressive Democrats continue to grow stronger but still have some way to go. The Adams campaign shows that Democratic machines can always measure up, especially when working closely with powerful financial interests. Beyond the mayoral race, the candidates of the Democratic machine – often backed by millions in outside spending – have won handily several widely endorsed independent challengers.

Assuming things don’t change after all the votes are counted and Adams and Lander win, the race for city council chairman will be especially critical. If progressives can elect one of their own, that means Adams will face a progressive lawyer, comptroller and speaker, a somewhat progressive Democratic legislative majority in the state capital and, potentially, a governor. not named Cuomo in a few years. years.

Yet the Democratic machines have traditionally been major players in the speaker race, as they pressure members of their district delegations to vote en bloc. Powerful committee chairs are often traded for support.

In the coming year, the big intra-Democrat fights to watch in New York will involve the president and governor of the city council.

The times… and the times.

The New York Times was perhaps the most influential actor in this year’s primary (yes, even more so than Ocasio-Cortez, whose support was coveted by progressives). Without the Times’ approval, Bragg, Lander and mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia would have struggled to do as well as they did.

Public safety is an important issue for voters. But this primary has shown that this is not the only problem, and it is clear that anti-prison candidates can still do very well in this environment. That said, without some improvements to public safety, it probably won’t stay that way for long.

The Jewish vote still counts.

Jewish voters have been a key part of several successful coalitions. Adams – like Andrew Yang, the former frontrunner who conceded defeat on primary day, worked hard to gain support from Orthodox Jews and Jewish homeowners in the Outer Borough. Lander and Bragg were supported by more liberal Jewish voters in Manhattan and Brownstone in Brooklyn.

The Jewish Vote, a progressive group affiliated with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the Working Families Party (and of which I sit on the steering committee), supported and campaigned for dozens of progressive candidates, helping elect rising stars in the city ​​council like Sandy Nurse, Shahana Hanif and Tiffany Caban.

Lincoln Restler, a Jewish candidate leading his city council race, is, like Lander, poised to be an important standard-bearer for progressive Jewish New Yorkers while maintaining strong relationships with Hasidic communities.

Despite dire predictions that more aggressive critiques of Israeli politics and the occupation by Progressive Democrats would undermine the support of moderate or even conservative Jewish voters, the various coalitions of Restler and Lander are a useful reminder that alignment around Israel is rarely the most important factor for Jewish voters.

Ranked choice voting was a mixed bag for voters.

This year saw the first city-wide election to use preferential voting, which allowed voters to rank, in order of preference, up to five candidates for each office (with the exception of the district attorney). district, which is technically a county office and therefore governed by state law elections).

It is too early to assess its impact. I guess candidates and voters will get used to it and eventually like it over time. We have seen a small number of races where the candidates endorsed their rivals and even campaigned together. Having said that, despite my general enthusiasm for the preferential vote, I think it may discourage consolidation around a single candidate. Having progressive voters spread across three candidates likely hurt all three, as none of them could get the attention they needed.

It was also very difficult to get voters to care about second-best supporters, and hardly anyone had the energy or inclination to actively campaign for two or more candidates for the same position.

Finally, while in theory voters will rank ideologically similar candidates, in reality the second and third choices are much more unpredictable. We will know much more when all the votes are counted in a few weeks.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.


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