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Massachusetts Lessons: Democrats Could Lose New York

Massachusetts Lesson: We Will Lose New York With Gillibrand As Nominee

New York, NY—Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate in New York, Jonathan Tasini, released the following statement in the wake of the Massachusetts Senate race.

The Massachusetts Senate race shows what I have been arguing for some time—there is a great rumbling among voters. Progressives can either hear the rumbling and try to capture its passion—or ignore it and let the right-wing capture it. If Kirsten Gillibrand is the Democratic nominee in New York, Democrats will lose the Senate seat.

Rather than look at the the Massachusetts Senate race as Democrats vs. Republicans, I would suggest that the race—and the New York Senate Democratic primary race—is far more about the “insiders” v. “outsiders”. Voters are angry about the dysfunction of the government, the understandable feeling that politicians are not doing the peoples’ business and, obviously, the economic crisis that has deeply scarred people.

The mainstream of the Democratic Party, and the president, have helped fan the discontent. Not by doing too much. But by doing too little—and doing the half-steps in a way that is seen as part of the dysfunction (for example, making side deals with drug companies and catering to individual Senators who threaten filibusters). On Tuesday, I told Politico: “I’m glad the president has suggested a tax on the banks, but it is a half-measure,” said Jonathan Tasini, a labor activist who is mounting a primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). He supports a tax on financial transactions, which the White House doesn’t support. (

2010 will be a year where people look for candidates who are not “insiders”--and voters will have a keen, gut feeling about candidates who are truly independent (as opposed to candidates lacking any principles who remake their images overnight), who are not insiders and who are not awash in corporate money. If you think Massachusetts means trouble, I predict that if Kirsten Gillibrand is the nominee of this party, we will lose the Senate seat in NY because the anger is just building.

We have a chance to do great things in this country—but we have to break out of the conventional wisdom. “Conventional wisdom” has an iron grip even on people who hold progressive views who reflect the system they work in and their own fear of standing up to that system (and, too often, fear risking their own standing within the machine) by talking about our race as a “longshot”. The people who have the courage to speak up now are visionaries and they need to help the others get past the conventional wisdom. Getting past the convention wisdom means hearing the people out there.

Understanding the anger of the voters is the reason we are part of a coalition of organizations supporting a rally at noon on January 21st in front of Goldman Sachs’ headquarters in Manhattan: to give voice to the people who have been robbed by the people who now are doling out huge bonuses to each other.

The campaign in New York could be a game-changer for America and for the Democratic Party. Will the Democratic Party listen?

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