It’s Coming Home. From Precarity to Solidarity?

Only if people stop blaming themselves first.

The apocalyptic thinking that Barbara Ehrenreich diagnosed in her 1989 book, “Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class,” has finally gained a purchase on reality. The people Ehrenreich depicted were anxious and self-absorbed, terrified of downward mobility; the ones in Alissa Quart’s book, “Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America,” are anxious too, but now that they know firsthand the kind of profound vulnerability that used to be the domain of the poor, they may be on the cusp of pushing for genuine …  change.

You will be less likely to think of yourself as a member of the privileged elite to which you have been told you belong and more inclined to find affinity with the broadening numbers of the more obviously oppressed, and vote accordingly.

Levittown, NY in many ways embodies the lost promises of a mythic suburbia — a devastating opioid crisis, rising property taxes and soaring flood-insurance premiums in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy have made it an increasingly difficult place to live. Liuba Grechen Shirley, who had her own encounters with untenable health care costs after the birth of her two small children, made that issue a focus of her campaign. The median income in the area is $100,000, but as she put it, “on Long Island $100,000 doesn’t go very far.”

We must recognize that climate change is not just an environmental and economic challenge, but a national security one as well. Our approach to climate change greatly affects our relationships around the world. Without a doubt, the threats of food security, depleted resources, and new flows of refugees because of the impacts of climate change has the potential to create unrest in conflict zones across the world...I support smart investments in renewable energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, create good green jobs, and make energy more affordable for Long Island families.   — Liuba Grechen Shirley, campaign site

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive who ran on a platform of free Medicare and college tuition, did well in nearly every part of her district, but she did especially well in Astoria, Queens, where white residents, many of them young and educated and tagged as invaders, make up roughly half the population. As Ms. Ocasio-Cortez pointed out during her campaign, the price of a two-bedroom apartment in her district rose 80 percent during the past three years. The housing crisis is shared broadly enough that a recent Vassar graduate toggling between an internship and two different barista jobs is facing down the same predatory landlord as the longtime Dominican neighbor she is always imagined to be displacing.

In order to address runaway global climate change, Alexandria strongly supports transitioning the United States to a carbon-free, 100% renewable energy system and a fully modernized electrical grid by 2035. She believes renewable fuels must be produced in a way that achieves our environmental and energy security goals, so we can move beyond oil responsibly in the fight against climate change. By encouraging the electrification of vehicles, sustainable home heating, distributed rooftop solar generation, and the conversion of the power grid to zero-emissions energy sources, Alexandria believes we can be 100% free of fossil fuels by 2035.  

Furthermore, Alex believes in recognizing the relationship between economic stability and environmental sustainability. It’s time to shift course and implement a Green New Deal – a transformation that implements structural changes to our political and financial systems in order to alter the trajectory of our environment. Right now, the economy is controlled by big corporations whose profits are dependent on the continuation of climate change. This arrangement benefits few, but comes at the detriment of our planet and all its inhabitants. Its effects are life-threatening, and are especially already felt by low-income communities, both in the U.S. and globally. — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaign site

The narratives we have constructed around gentrification are not as bluntly outlined as we often conjure them. These races, in fact, revealed more about allegiance than division.

The Democratic Party establishment is vulnerable—to primary challenges. Outside of extraordinary cases, a good left third-party candidate gets 15-20% of the vote in a partisan race without a Democrat whereas they attain 3-5% in a race with one. A Democratic primary challenger can sleepwalk to 20%. Local activists need to understand this, and take a hard look at what can and cannot be done outside the primary. — Daniel Moraff

Adem Bunkeddeko, the son of Ugandan immigrants who grew up with his siblings in a one-bedroom apartment in Queens, ran to depose the longtime Democrat incumbent Yvette Clarke, whose mother served the district before her and who has passed very little legislation of her own. He ran on a platform centered on housing inequity in a string of neighborhoods that includes Crown Heights, where some of the fiercest gentrification battles in the city are unfolding, and he lost by roughly 1,000 votes.

Esteban Girón, a tenants’ rights advocate in Crown Heights, said that a battle over the development of the Bedford-Union Armory in Crown Heights, which was originally planned to contain mostly luxury housing, was led in part by young white members of the Democratic Socialists of America. I asked Mr. Girón what might have brought Mr. Bunkeddeko over the edge, and he said a refusal to take money from real-estate interests who are the real enemy. In effect, Bunkeddeko was an insurgent who wasn’t quite insurgent enough.

“The housing movement has become increasingly socialist,” Mr. Girón said. “The Democrats are not good for us. Adem could have done it if he could have said at every speech ‘I don’t take corporate money.”

It seems like the ‘apocalypse’ drew a lot of people to DSA.

The selling point was that they were doing lots of local actions. That really spoke to me, because I wanted to get out and get involved and I wanted to see what I could do locally—because at the federal level we’ve already lost.

We’re not just getting people that are really good at organizing a rally or a protest, but also some that really understand policy and either work in non-profit sectors or work as community organizers and understand the nitty-gritty, nuts-and-bolts wonkishness of what needs to be done with housing, or the environment, or electoral reform.  — Meet Jabari Brisport

So, why the Green Party?

I was a huge Bernie supporter during the primaries and then once he lost I switched over to Jill Stein. We have a very strong anti-military stance at the national level and here at the local level I think I’m the only candidate that’s calling for massive change in the NYPD—you know, our own local military.

I’m the only candidate not only talking the talk about income inequality and calling for higher taxes on the wealthy, but also walking the walk and pledging to slash my own salary to the median income of Brooklyn. It’s a socialist plank. Politicians should represent their electorate, and that doesn’t just come from looking like the people you serve—a black guy in a black district—you also need to walk in people’s shoes economically.

There are people in DSA strongly against the two party system, and people who think it’s the only thing we can do right now. I think that if you run within the two party system you are supporting it. I believe that trying to bring up far-left issues within the Democratic Party can only get us so far. — Jabari Brisport


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