If Democrats don’t stand for workers, what DO we stand for?

(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

Comments (7)

  1. Stephen Yellin (Post author)

    Will be back in the morning to respond to comments. Needless to say, what I believe is about to happen in our Legislature is something I find deeply troubling, and utterly at odds with everything I believe in. Let the chips fall where they may politically – I’ve said my piece.  

  2. Couch Potato Politics

    The democratic party (small “d” intentional) has sold it’s soul, literally, in New Jersey. George Norcross III bought it and Stephen Sweeney and Sheila Oliver have wrapped it up in a pretty bow that Chris Christie picked out.

    There really is no alternative but to deny any of these turn-coats any further financial support, campaign aid, boots on the ground and to, in fact, work against them at EVERY opportunity and deny them any political future in New Jersey.

    If they can’t stand for public workers and their unions, the public workers and union will not stand for them.

    There are some clowns on this site who find this whole attack on public workers to be a great idea and view Stephen Sweeney as a prophet but in reality, this is probably one of the worst and most damaging moves ANY democrat could commit and Sweeney is only the “Prophet of Doom”. New Jersey is well on its way to becoming a “Right to Work” state (horrible misnomer) and the Sweeney’s and Oliver’s are making it a reality.

    Pretty soon, between Christie, Sweeney, Oliver, Norcross and the rest of the spineless sellouts, New Jersey will rank right down near Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas as one of the most poorly educated, labor oppressive and right-wing insane states  in the country.

    We are seeing this reality of right-wing cancer become real.

    The garden state is becoming a weed choked tenement lot and George Norcross is the Slum Lord.

  3. 12mileseastofTrenton

    It’s time we take action.  I know I plan on telling the Democratic candidates in my district that unless they promise not to vote for Sweeney for leader or Oliver for speaker, I will not vote for them.

  4. Alex

    Alas, this latest move by this state’s Democratic Party leadship only convinces me more that, whether at the national level (witness the healthcare “reform” or the Bush tax cut extension) or here, much of this party has ceased to be the party of the working class and has become the party of the corporate class. In that regard, it is little different from the other major party. While there are still some Democrats who recall their party’s values, its leadership apparently has long abandoned those principles.

  5. Stephen Yellin (Post author)

    as well as having my diary on the front page.  

  6. FormerBureaucrat

    may wish to pick up the phone and talk some sense to Sweeney, Sheila Oliver, and perhaps even George Norcross about what they are doing to sabotage the President’s chances for an electoral victory in 2012 here in NJ.  The abandonment of 1 million public workers by the Democratic Party in NJ at the behest of George Norcross would do much to create a Democratic enthusiasm gap here in NJ as public workers and retirees would possibly unite to punish the Democrats for abandoning their interests in the face of a a bullying Governor who wasn’t even elected by a majority vote.  Should the Democrats cave now, there will be consequences soon and in the far future as minor Democratic party officials and workers like me start looking around for another party to belong to because the Democrats will no longer be the party that I can support if they allow this slimy deal to stand.  

  7. FormerBureaucrat

    who on many, many, occasions relexively voted Republican and probably voted for Chris Christie, thinking that he would never lump them in the same “pension reform” that affects teachers and social workers, I wonder what they are thinking about their boy Christie now?  It is kind of like how in those westerns when the hostile Indians are all back in the reservation and the Cavalry turns on the Indian scouts who helped them accomplish the task and puts them on the reservation too.  We are all in the same boat now.  Cops, firefighters, teachers, social workers, public DPW people, Sheriff’s officers, corrections staff, Human Services staff, local government personnel, we are all in the same boat now, like it or not and we had better start to do something about it now.  I would not mind being part of a solution, however, there is no millionaire’s tax contribution, no corporate tax increase, no real changes anywhere except for a class war on public employees and the faith based belief that the wasteful public sector solution is always preferable since campaign donors get to line their pockets with the profits at public expense.  I don’t know about other Democrats, but unless the responsible Democrats who are left push back against Sweeney and Norcross and actually support the only real friends that they have, public workers, I don’t know how much of a Democratic Party will be left in NJ.


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