A few months ago I encouraged my fellow Working Families Party Members to get behind Howie Hawkins for Governor. To my knowledge no one from the Hawkins campaign actively sought the Working Families endorsement. I was not at the convention so I have no idea whether or not anyone was stumping for him, if I had been there I would have, because I think he has the right mix of ideas and recognition to have truly made a viable third party run for governor if he had both major progressive parties in New York behind him. Instead the little-known Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout was the name bandied about the convention as the alternative to “Prince” Andrew Cuomo.
To be honest before the convention I had never heard of Teachout. What I have heard impresses me. She is no nonsense and knows her stuff. She dropkicks the myth that our state taxes keep corporations out, pointing out that our infrastructure keeps industry here across the state and our people keep the financial industry in Manhattan despite a “friendlier” atmosphere just across the border in New Jersey: Manhattan is where the networks and the money are. She wants to end the game of political hot potato the Governor’s office has been playing with the dangerous drilling method known as hydrofracking, an activity that if it comes to our state will endanger millions of New Yorkers drinking water and will outright kill the homegrown agricultural and food production businesses that give Upstate and Western New York not just thousands of jobs, but our character. She will fight to bring the long overdue equity in our public schools, seeing that sorely underfunded districts, both rural and urban, get what they need.
It is a long shot, I know. She has little in the way of funding, in the way of name recognition, or in the way of political experience. She faces a well oiled political machine in the Cuomo campaign and a culture of complicity in which even activists are willing to turn a blind eye to the rot within the system so they have a chance at a place at the table. Democratic faithful have trotted out some of the good things Cuomo has done, most notably “fighting” for marriage equality. How we let him take credit for that win when most New Yorkers were pro marriage equality, overwhelmingly so in some places, is beyond me. With a few exceptions even conservative New Yorkers were less against marriage equality as just not for it. By and large he has been a tool of politics as usual corruption in our state. He has stalled efforts to make life more bearable for the poor and working class in our state at every turn. He is only passionate about something he can get a clear win on, like the SAFE Act right after one of the most horrific mass shootings in our country’s history (and there is a whole different post waiting for that.)
Maybe Teachout does not have a chance to win, but I do know this: she has a chance to shake things up, with your help (talking to the Democrats in the title here.) In less than two weeks you will go to the polls for your primaries. Please go, please vote for Zephyr. Even if she does not win think about what we will accomplish if she can get deep into double digits. Even 15% will raise eyebrows not just in Albany, but across the country. Since Barrack Obama was elected we have seen the Tea Party change the landscape of the Republican party. They have forced, with their mobilization, the party to move farther to the right. By putting candidates they like in the GOP primaries they have won nominations and pressured the establishment Republicans to bend to their will. We can do the same here in the other direction. We can make them listen by backing real progressive candidates like Teachout. For too long now this state, and this country, have had two parties: the party that kicks the working class and poor while they are down, and the one that stands aside and shakes their head, and not always at the people doing the kicking. We deserve better than that, we deserve a party that will kick back for us, and Zephyr Teachout getting a win or at least a respectable loss on September 9 will be the first step toward that happening for the first time in a long, long while.
Come November 4 I will probably still vote for Hawkins, I think it is time to get out of this enforced two party system that we have out grown. It worked when we were a much smaller country population wise, but 300 million people means too much diversity of thought to be contained in two parties. That said, if we are going to stick with two parties for now, those in the two have a responsibility to shape them and that means backing candidates in the primaries that back your ideas. The Republicans have done that the last five years with the Tea Party, it is time the Democrats did the same. It is time they started fighting for candidates like Zephyr Teachout.