By EDDIE BORGES
So many New York politicians are desperate to be perceived as progressives today that they are counterfeiting the label, slapping it on their backs and making it as worthless as designer handbags and watches sold on Canal Street in Manhattan.
The objective of progressive politics in the United States since World War II has been to end racial and ethnic inequality and poverty through community empowerment.
Yet among the top priorities of New York’s counterfeit progressives is to purge more than 15 years of hard-earned Latino seniority from the state Senate in September’s Democratic Party primary.
Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Mexicans account for 20 percent of the state’s population and nearly a third of the city’s population, making Latinos the second-largest racial/ethnic group in New York after whites.
More significantly, half the youth in the city are Latino. Half of this population lives at or below the federal poverty line.
Despite these demographics, Latinos number third in the state Senate after whites and blacks.
To position themselves as the strongest advocates possible for this vulnerable, underserved— and underrepresented—community, state Sens. Jose Peralta, of Jackson Heights, and Marisol Alcantara, of Washington Heights, both Dominican natives, for a while belonged to a breakaway group of Democrats who worked in coalition with the Republicans who control the majority in the Senate.
Through this coalition, they were able to help the communities they represent in ways that they could not possibly have done working within the Democratic Senate Minority, which doesn’t have enough members to pass a single bill into law.
Chief among these achievements was using their leverage with their Republican partners to raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour. This was and continues to be the top priority of every organization in this nation working to end poverty.
Now these representatives of predominantly Latino communities are being challenged by those counterfeit progressives who, astonishingly, with no shame, tell everyone and anyone who will listen that the first duty of Democrats is to tow the party line.
This is actually the opposite of what it means to be a progressive. A progressive’s priority is to advocate for the greater good and for the communities they represent, including and especially talking truth to power.
American progressives like Fannie Lou Hamer, who founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party during the civil rights movement to challenge the establishment Mississippi Democratic Party, must be spinning in her grave.
But this is the least of it. In the predominantly Dominican community of Washington Heights, the counterfeit progressives are running an African American man against Alcantara. This is a direct attack on the progressive value of community empowerment.
The Working Families Party (WFP) is chief among these counterfeit progressives. It is a political party led almost exclusively by white men. Yet at the same time that its national chair admitted it made a mistake when it did not endorse Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress in June’s Democratic Party primary, it is still ferociously waging war against Peralta and Alcantara. The WFP is basically painting the two of them with the same broad brush that it’s used to attack all the Democrats who worked in coalition with the Republicans, instead of working with them.
More and more, these counterfeit progressives are starting to resemble the Russian Communists who conducted regular reviews of party members. Those who did not tow the party line were purged, usually by putting them in front of a firing line.
The biggest danger posed by these counterfeit progressives to our democracy is how they’ve undercut someone who through most of his career could not have cared less if he was perceived as a progressive, yet who may be the most progressive among us.
Throughout his career, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been checking off every box that defines what it means to be a progressive in the United States.
Like Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper who ran a homeless shelter on East Third Street in the East Village, Cuomo early in his career founded and ran an organization that built housing and provided services for homeless families and the victims of domestic violence. He then went on to work on these issues as the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet.
Later, as governor, Cuomo pushed bills through the state legislature to make gay marriage legal in New York State and to raise the minimum wage. And he’s the first governor in state history to have an antipoverty czar as one of his most-senior aides.
Despite these credentials, the WFP and its favorite son, Mayor Bill De Blasio, who is probably the biggest counterfeit progressive, have seriously undercut this real progressive’s solid chances as one of the strongest contenders to challenge Donald Trump for the presidency in 2020.
Instead of supporting Cuomo’s re-election bid—so that he could have the election night results that would instantly have made him a frontrunner in 2020—the WFP and De Blasio encouraged and supported a celebrity like Trump, with absolutely no relevant experience, to challenge the governor in September’s primary.
So, like those handbags and watches you can get on Canal Street, on close inspection, many of these counterfeit progressives are just the same old establishment hacks who have no real value.