Promoted by Rosi. Photo: Jeff Van Drew and Bob Andrzejczak celebrate Tuesday. Photo: Matthew Strabuk/AC Press
Correction: In an earlier edition we wrote Tanzie Youngblood was endorsed by EMILY’s List; that has not yet happened.
When NJ’s First District Republican Congressman, Frank LoBiondo, made a surprise announcement this week that he would not seek re-election, South Jersey’s top Democrat, George Norcross, skipped over a talented black woman already running, and instead chose to put his money and power behind Conservative Democrat State Senator Jeff Van Drew.
Once again, in South Jersey, progressive ideology is taking a backseat to stodgy old-school politics.
Van Drew’s record is so bad, it feels like satire. As a “Conservative Democrat” (oxymoron alert), Van Drew:
- Sponsored a bill to bring the death penalty back to NJ (still one of the most racially problematic institutions in law enforcement);
- Recently issued a strongly-worded statement against sanctuary cities, (presumably, as a response to Democrat Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s strong stance in favor of them);
- Was one of only two Democrats to vote against same-sex marriage (in 2013! who does that?!)
- Is staunchly pro-guns, recently sponsoring a bill that would allow people in NJ to carry handguns
- Was the primary sponsor of a bill that put restrictions on women who seek abortions. (Mike Pence, we’ve found your spirit animal!)
With Democrats like that, who needs Republicans?
Most troubling about this situation isn’t even Van Drew’s abysmal record on just about every issue the impassioned Progressive base cares about. The worst part is that citizens of South Jersey live in a world where George Norcross simply “chooses” the next Congressman. When LoBiondo backed out, Norcross turned to the old playbook: Pick the next guy in line, fund them, control them. As it turns out, a Progressive Democrat was already running for that seat: Tanzie Youngblood has garnered strong support from members of active Facebook groups like South Jersey Women for Progressive Change. But, with Norcross’ money and power now backing Van Drew, Mr. Conservative becomes the automatic favorite, leaving Progressive newcomers like Ms. Youngblood to fend for themselves in ballot Siberia.
These back-room machinations are precisely why South Jersey Progressives are at their wits end with our own party. We want, so desperately, to be part of the excitement, part of the action, to celebrate on Tuesday, and volunteer like crazy in 2018 to flip congressional seats. But we feel, over and over again, there is little room for Progressivism in the party- and that smart ideas and talent most often take a back seat to control and loyalty. We are sidestepped, ignored, and when we show up and run, newcomers like Ms. Youngblood are pushed aside for white, male, political insiders, chosen by white, male political insiders. THIS, friends, is why we can’t have nice things!
SJ Democrats- you guys are digging your own grave. This level of tone-deafness and control-at-all-costs is simply not sustainable in the time of Trump; the lines are too clear, and the Progressive base too fired up. Do we really want a New Jersey Democrat in Congress who is against abortion and same-sex marriage, and all in for guns and the death penalty? We cannot afford to have New Jersey Democrats voting with the GOP bloc in Washington!
The SJ Democrat establishment must reconsider their strategy- the future of the party depends on it. Progressivism offers a more inclusive, coherent, clearer vision for our state and our country. Our governor-elect is a self-proclaimed Progressive. The most popular politician in the country is a Progressive. Please, before the party is damaged irreparably, let go of your impulse to control, and bring us in– new ideas and all.
Progressives tasted hope this week, and we never want to lose again. Not to Republicans and certainly not to “Conservative Democrats.” It’s our party too.