CD2 Gets Ugly: Sean Thom Criticizes Progressive Candidates of Color

What follows is a sharp rebuttal of former CD2 candidate Sean Thom’s critique of the two progressives in the twilight of the race in which he was once a candidate. As a candidate, Thom asked that we take his words seriously — and we do here, and SJ Pamphleteer argues that his approach to the end of this race is deeply problematic. But we also want to further dialogue on these issues within the progressive community, and are happy to host a response from Thom. Promoted by Rosi

Beware the progressive who asks for the support of communities of color when he’s running for office, but blasts candidates from those same communities when it serves his interest.

Want an example?

Last week, Sean Thom — a former candidate in the heated CD2 primary — came out with a Facebook video  – in the link and also below at the end of this post – sharply criticizing the remaining two progressives in that race: Tanzie Youngblood and Will Cunningham. The video started with his personal link to a gun victim, but veered into strange territory — arguing that speeches by candidates at events such as March for Our Lives were inappropriate and too politicized. It’s an odd claim for a progressive to make; one that comes straight out of the NRA playbook whose response to progressives and gun arguments uses the same language of “politicizing tragedy”.

The NRA playbook isn’t what you’d expect Sean Thom to be quoting. As a candidate in CD2, he became a progressive darling by standing up for progressive values, and loudly criticizing Democrats’ support of the conservative Jeff Van Drew. But talk to progressive organizers in CD2 and you hear a different story.

There were warning signs early in Thom’s emergence onto the progressive scene. Few knew him as late as March 2017, when he arrived at the Working Families Summit and introduced himself as a Senate candidate to challenge Bob Menendez in the primary. His resume was thin as a Senate candidate — he mentioned little experience in politics, policy, or organizing, and he centered his credentials on his experience as a charter school educator in a community of color.

Thom not only filed to be a Senate candidate, but also a Congressional candidate in New Jersey’s second district. It was in that race that he developed a loyal progressive following by being fiercely vocal for progressive causes.

But since leaving the race, he’s returned to being lightly involved in politics. Local activists report being frustrated that he hasn’t done more to help with local organizing, voter registration, or beyond. They didn’t necessarily expect him to endorse a candidate he ran against — but they did expect him to use the platform that grassroots progressives helped him build, and to use it to support those grassroots progressive efforts.

They feel he hasn’t. And now, just a few days before the election, he’s using his platform to blast the remaining progressives in the race — both of whom are candidates of color and advocating for a progressive agenda against a candidate that does not hold the same values. For those that saw him as part of this wider effort, this is deeply disappointing and even cause for suspicion.

In the comments section of Thom’s video criticizing Youngblood and Cunningham, Alison Arne — the Atlantic County chair of ATNJ — publicly asked Thom if he had met with Van Drew. Though Thom had responded to multiple other questions in the thread, he didn’t respond to that one.

But we don’t have to assume such a meeting or deal happened to understand Thom’s actions. His actions can be understood based on his assessment of where he fits into the movement. Thom is willing to ask people to make him the face of progressive movements as a candidate (first Senate, then Congress), but reticent to do the long and hard work of organizing to support progressive movements.

In the education world from which Thom hails, there is a name for this: the white savior complex. The white savior complex refers to a white person’s attempt to help a community of color through largely self-serving actions. It’s rooted in the belief that the white “savior” is helping — and thus, anything that helps that white person, helps the community of color.

It’s an easy pattern to recognize in a political candidate. Look for the white candidate with a light track record, but who believes his work in a community of color qualifies him for leadership in an unrealistic office. Look for a candidate who is visible when he’s running for office, but doesn’t do the work of organizing or working with these communities or organizations when he isn’t. Look for a candidate who asks for support from communities of color when he runs for office, but is happy to throw candidates of color under the bus when it’s convenient for him.

In other words, look for Sean Thom.

For sound on the video, adjust the volume slider, bottom right of the video.

When will political candidates stop using the deaths of our youth as their campaign platform? Yes Tanzie Youngblood for Congress & Will Cunningham for New Jersey, I’m talking to you…#mauricelewis #longlivereese

Posted by Sean A. Thom on Thursday, May 31, 2018

Comment (1)

  1. Bertin Lefkovic

    Or we can take his words at face value and accept that he was angry that a memorial service had been politicized, which in and of itself is a legitimate argument.

    As far as the candidates themselves are concerned, it is hard to take the progressive bona fides of anyone who has ever worked for Cory Booker seriously. In fact, part of me wonders if Cunningham is still in the race solely to prevent Youngblood from getting the near-unanimous support of the district’s African-American community, which is the only way that a candidate not named Jeff Van Drew can win the nomination.

    As far as Youngblood is concerned, where does she stand on a $15 minimum wage or Medicare for All? Has she committed to sponsor all of the 8 bills on Our Revolution’s website? Has she committed to sponsor any of them?

    Nate Kleinman was an early Bernie supporter and is the only candidate running in CD2 who can undoubtedly be called a progressive. Electing more candidates of color is important, but not at the expense of the issues that should matter most.

    Does Bernie Sanders’ gender and lack of pigment make him less progressive than Cory Booker and Kamala Harris?


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *