(I’m lucky to be here at Netroots Nation which starts today, surrounded by sane and rational progressives. People I’ve talked to already lament the demise of democratic principals in the Democratic Party. Mr. Liberal’s diary hits the nail on the head for the New Jersey incarnation of the new DiNoism. – promoted by deciminyan)
“I do let loose my opinion, hold it no longer”
– The Tempest, William Shakespeare
This is probably the least politic diary I have written on Blue Jersey in the last 5 1/2 years. As a young Democratic activist, I’ve thought, wouldn’t it be politically inane to speak out against the leaders of my own Party? As a candidate for local office in a conservative part of New Jersey, I thought, wouldn’t it make more sense to stay silent rather than alienate potential constituents?
Yet I cannot stay silent. I am a Democrat because I believe in the rights of workers – blue collar and white collar, male and female, of all races and creeds – to seek a just and better world for themselves and their families. It is that fundamental freedom – the right to organize – that I see under attack in New Jersey tonight.
We Democrats have stood with the working people of America going back to Jefferson and Jackson. We have spoken for the “common man” (and woman), while our Republican opponents have spoken for “survival of the fittest” and corporate greed. In our ranks were Franklin Roosevelt, Robert Wagner, John Lewis, Harry Truman, Bobby Kennedy and Paul Wellstone. In their ranks were the Rockefellers, J.P. Morgan, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan and Roger Ailes.
Today, we have our Richard Trumkas and Russ Feingolds to fight for the working people of America. In New Jersey, Democrats have Loretta Weinberg, Joe Cryan and Bonnie Watson Coleman fighting the good fight. Alas, they are not the leaders of our Party in 2011. Instead, our leaders are Steve Sweeney and Sheila Oliver.
As a well-read student of history, I can tell you that when generals desert their troops in the heat of battle, they are equally liable to be court-martialed as the foot-soldiers who obey them. In the face of the enemy of the working people of New Jersey, our “generals” have deserted the troops.
Yes, I know our state’s fiscal status. Yes, I know middle-class New Jerseyans like me face higher and higher taxes every year. Change must happen.
Yet I also know the solution does not lie in gutting the very reason our middle class exists today.
The solution does not lie in turning our teachers, police, firefighters, office workers and social workers into “enemies of the state”.
The solution does not lie in turning a profit for a political leader who never appears on a ballot, yet who has more representation in Trenton than any other citizen.
And the solution most certainly does not lie in giving an autocratic bully absolute power to shape our state’s future any way he wishes.
Were it not for the power to collectively bargain, people like Steve Sweeney would never have become powerful. Were it not for labor rights and civil rights leaders working together to affect change, people like Sheila Oliver would never have become powerful. It is deeply troubling to me that the fruit of the tree sown by organized labor in New Jersey now tastes so bitter.
We Democrats ought to be pushing for more rights for workers, not less. We see Republicans in Wisconsin and elsewhere attempt to strip workers of their rights, to say nothing of their dignity.
Is the principle of giving every American the chance to climb the economic ladder worth sacrificing for a few backdoor deals? Shame on those who think it is.
I ask you, the reader, the following questions:
If we Democrats don’t stand for the rights of workers, in New Jersey and nationally, what on God’s green earth do we stand for?
If we Democrats are led by those who go along with Republican values and Republican goals, are those leaders worth keeping?
If we Democrats are willing to trust Chris Christie to decide the fate of workers and their families in New Jersey, why would any worker trust us? With Democrats like us, they can say, who needs Republicans?
Two years ago, when Governor Richard Codey was dethroned as Senate President by Steve Sweeney, I drafted a letter to be posted here. I never published it; the deed was done and I wanted to give the new leadership the chance to stand up for our Party and our values. That chance is long over.
This is what I wrote, in part:
If the State Senate Democratic Caucus goes ahead and replaces its President, then We The People of New Jersey will be the worse for it…What does it say to the ordinary New Jersey voter, as Election Day approaches, when our Party wants to remove one of our best leaders and replace him with someone they’ve probably never heard of? To launch what appears to be a political coup d’état now, just when Governor Corzine is within reach of reelection, seems to me to be completely irresponsible and childish, as well as detrimental to the Governor’s cause.
It has indeed proven to be “detrimental” – far more than I could have expected.
It is far more than a Democratic Party struggle. It is a struggle for the conscience of a cause. Whose side are you on, reader? The working people of New Jersey, or the side captained by their Drumthwacket doppelganger?
I know what side I’m on.
– Stephen Yellin