Everyone agrees that our ultimate goal is building a mass leftist movement; not just getting elected officials into office. We should never confuse being in office with being in power. However, electoral work is crucial for creating the conditions under which our movement can grow and flourish. Cynthia Nixon’s governorship and Jumaane Williams’ Lt. governorship will open up the room to breathe that we desperately need. Under Cuomo’s tyranny, we are gasping for air. Another four years of Cuomo will significantly curb our ability to win concessions from capital to help the working-class, people of color, and LGBTQIA folks. If we can’t win, then we can’t build power, attract new active members, or grow our movement. AOC showed us that recruiting new members and putting socialism into the mainstream happens through victory. And this doesn’t just mean electoral victories. In addition to the bump that DSA would gain from a Nixon upset, her governorship would give us the ability to win far more in our local campaigns. A Nixon governorship would fundamentally alter the political landscape of New York state, disrupting the neoliberal status quo and shifting the balance of power in our favor. On this new political terrain, the wall that Cuomo represents will be lifted and we can march forward. If we are at the forefront of a movement that wins New Yorkers single-payer healthcare, universal rent control, and protection from the neoliberalization of education, people will take notice and see that we are the most powerful political force actively improving the lives of the oppressed. Under Cuomo, none of those advancements will happen. With Nixon, they can. As DSA racks up wins in healthcare, housing, education, mass incarceration, we can recruit new members, build our movement, and split open the cracks that are finally emerging in neoliberalism’s armor.
In our debates both in person and the NYC-DSA Facebook group, many have been concerned that our intervention would not significantly affect the race. But when Zephyr Teachout won 34% of the vote in 2014 (with far less attention than Nixon and in a pre-Bernie/AOC political atmosphere), she swept upstate, and was crushed in the city. The Bernie/Clinton 2016 primary proved this trend even more decisively. As our member Michael Kinnucan has pointed out, statewide elections can be won or lost in Brooklyn and the battle for the governor’s office will be waged on our own home turf, NYC. We occupy the central structural position of this race and failing to leverage it will be the loss of an indispensible opportunity. One of the primary concerns about a Nixon endorsement is that it could detract from the Julia Salazar campaign. But in addition to the fact that Julia herself has said that a Nixon/Williams endorsement would only benefit her campaign, we could easily integrate these campaigns by focusing our attention in Julia’s district and encouraging canvasees to vote for Cynthia and Jumaane in addition to Julia. This electoral campaign can also be integrated with the campaigns for our two city-wide priorities, healthcare and housing. Our main demands for these campaigns live or die with the governorship, so securing Nixon’s governorship should be seen as crucial to our success.
Cynthia and Jumaane might not represent our ultimate destination of democratic socialism. But it’s clear to me that they will open our path to it. DSA has the opportunity to be the best organized, most democratic, and most radical organization within a much larger movement in New York State fueled by voters’ disgust at both Trump and his neoliberal enablers in the Democratic Party. We have a unique opportunity to recruit, educate, and participate in a movement that may not present itself on the state level again for decades. Between AOC’s recent victory and a potential Sanders 2020 presidential run, democratic socialism is on the rise. If we don’t do everything in our power to continue this momentum, our vision of a revived American Left may instead become the re-entrenchment of our wretched neoliberal reality.