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Key Takeaways from Ocasio-Cortez's Victory

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigning (photo: @Ocasio2018)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory seems to be misunderstood in a number of ways. First, it is hard to say that it was representative of Democratic Party supporters in the district. Suppose we measure the Democratic Party voters by Crowley’s vote total in the 2016 Congressional election, when he faced no primary opponent and a nominal general election foe (Crowley won 83 percent). The 2018 Democratic primary total -- 28,000 votes -- was only 19.0 percent of this amount.

Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory reflected the typical outcome of a restrictive voting system favored by the Democratic Party establishment because of its ability to turn out its patronage base. The decline of the patronage base has reduced the turnout of establishment-oriented Democrats while Bernie Sanders has shown the way for a progressive challenger to harness the internet and social media to turn out a base of followers. Thus, Ocasio-Cortez was able to turn the tables on the Democratic Party organization in a low turnout election.

Second, her margin over Crowley was 3,584 in the Queens precincts but only 542 in Bronx precincts. This suggests that her appeal was not primarily to the Latino working-class community but instead the Queens professional class. This thesis is further strengthened by looking at the voter turnout in each borough. In 2016, 66.0% of Crowley’s votes were from Queens whereas in the 2018 primary, 72.4% of the votes were from Queens. Again this is consistent with the Sanders movement.

Despite his principled commitment to working-class politics, Sanders’ message overwhelming resonated with the professional class and little with communities of color. Having a Latina candidate, however, was ideal given the district’s ethnic composition and the desire of Sanders’ supporters to demonstrate their commitment to both far-left politics and multiculturalism.

What happened in the 14th Congressional district certainly reflects the decline of the ability of centrist Democrats to appeal to the anti-Trump movement.
There is also a deeper dynamic at work. In the 1950s, fully one-third of all non-supervisory private-sector personnel were members of unions, giving the Democratic Party a pragmatic working-class base that led to centrist policies.

Similarly, the working class support enabled left-of-center parties in Western Europe and Israel to contest for power with pragmatic centrist policies. In and around 2000, Clinton (U.S.), Blair (U.K.), Schroeder (Germany), Jospin (France), and Barak (Israel) represented victories for this agenda. However, as traditional working-class jobs have declined, as union membership in the private sector has plummeted, this base has shrunk and so too has the support for centrist policies. In the U.K., this has caused a shift in the Labor Party to a much more leftist orientation and this is the direction the Democratic Party has moved in the U.S.; no longer centered around private sector workers but increasingly a party of the professional class and less affluent people of color.

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory crystallizes another important cleavage: the schism between an increasingly active anti-Israel stance among leftist Democrats and the pro-Israel stance of more centrist Democrats. The animus to Israel shown by Democratic Party leader Keith Ellison and candidate Bernie Sanders is amplified by her victory.

She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which has as one of its platforms, support for the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement. Not only has Ocasio-Cortez not rejected this part of the platform, she has enunciated extreme anti-Israel positions and not shown support for a two-state solution.

How will centrist pro-Israel Democrats deal with this increasingly aggressive anti-Israel stance? Senator Gillibrand, in her courting of the left flank, has embraced Ocasio-Cortez as she did Women’s March leaders who embrace the anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan. However, given his unequivocal support for Israel and rejection of BDS, what will Senator Schumer do? If centrists don’t stand firm on the issue of Israel, it further exposes the demise of the traditional Democratic Party.

Robert Cherry is Stern Professor at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate Center.

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Note: this article has been corrected with the intended French leader, Jospin.

Deadline Approaching to Protect Title X and Our Right to Critical Health Care

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(photo: @PPact)

If it were not for Planned Parenthood, I’m not sure where I would have gotten critical health care services that I needed. And now, the Trump-Pence administration is trying to take that access away.

The Trump-Pence Administration recently announced a proposed new rule on the Title X federal family planning program designed to make it impossible for patients like me to get birth control or preventive care from reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood.

With the resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the future of reproductive health policy in the United States is further in jeopardy. Title X is the nation’s family planning program that helps ensure that everyone can access birth control, STD testing, and treatment and other preventive care, regardless of income. Four million people, including 150,000 in New York City, benefit from Title X funding every year.

Under Trump’s proposed “domestic gag rule,” any health care provider who provides abortion, refers patients for abortion, or even mentions the word “abortion” would no longer be able to receive Title X funding.

In 2008, my mom was diagnosed with late-stage fallopian tube cancer, a rare gynecological cancer sometimes found in Ashkenazi Jewish women. My family was heartbroken. We not only had to worry about getting my mom better, but also finding out if this would be a disease that affected me as well. I was attending Hunter College and spent half my week going to school and the other half taking care of my mom as she underwent chemotherapy. In those chemo rooms, I learned how many women were ignored by their doctors when they shared their symptoms and how many didn't know they were genetically predisposed to this illness before it was too late.

Ovarian cancer is known as “the silent killer” and I wanted to do whatever I could to avoid being another woman who lost her life to this horrible illness. My mom's doctor informed me going on birth control pills was the only preventative measure. There was one hiccup though -- I didn't have health insurance. This was before the Affordable Care Act passed and I couldn't afford the monthly cost of the birth control. CVS charged $160 for the brand of birth control pills I needed. As a college student, it was unfathomable.

A friend told me about Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC). So I went to the location downtown, nervous I couldn't afford my bill, but determined to take control of my health. I had a checkup and found out I could get the exact brand of birth control pills I needed for $20 per month. When I went to pay for my visit, I found out it was free thanks to their sliding scale that factors in a person's income. At a time when I was terrified and confused, PPNYC showed me compassion and gave me the tools I needed to be confident in my own health, while taking care of my mom and being a college student.

My mom is now eight years in remission and I graduated from college a triple major. As a writer and performer in New York City, I still use Planned Parenthood of New York City today for my health care. I'm so grateful to be able to continue to have this resource in my life and I lend my voice whenever possible so it can continue to have its doors open for all people, regardless of gender, immigration status, or ability to pay.

The Title X program helped me access affordable birth control from PPNYC, and we need to fight to make sure this program continues to help people like me. In New York, Planned Parenthood serves 52% of patients who get care through Title X. It includes critical preventive services like birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams. It has bipartisan support and is part of the reason we’re at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy in the United States.

The Trump-Pence Administration doesn’t care how many people they hurt. A domestic gag rule on Title X providers would have devastating consequences and threaten health care for millions. All people deserve access to high-quality health care and critical, medically accurate information about their bodies.

Planned Parenthood of New York City was there for me when no one else was, and helped me take control of my future. I proudly stand with them as they fight against these regressive policies that take away our right to make the health decisions best for us. You can join us in the fight for our reproductive health care by posting a public comment to the Department of Health and Human Services site by July 31 demonstrating your opposition to the domestic gag rule and why each and every one of us deserves reproductive freedom.

RoseAnn Fino lives in Astoria and is a patient at Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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Lives at Stake: Senate Must Reconvene Immediately to Pass Speed Safety Camera Bill

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(photo: @NYC_SafeStreets)

No parent expects that a kiss goodbye on a seemingly normal day will end as it did. A phone call from the police. A frantic trip from a parent-teacher conference to the emergency room. Hours waiting with friends, Sammy’s pediatrician, and family. Praying for him to live but prayers turning out to not be enough.

We should never have met. A social worker, parent, and concerned-but-not-an-activist Brooklynite and a committed elected official from Manhattan. But this unimaginable event brought us together in pursuit of a common goal.

The rage and heart-wrenching pain needed an outlet. So we met, and met again -- at rallies, press conferences and meetings. Now together, we fight for a common goal: to protect New York City schoolchildren and to change the culture of reckless driving that is killing someone like Sammy on our streets every 38 hours.

We have a preventable public health crisis. It was a silent epidemic before we met. But now this crisis is gaining widespread recognition, as is a proven life-saving remedy: speed safety cameras.

New York City’s permission to operate 140 speed safety cameras in school zones is expiring. All of the cameras are about to be turned off. All because of inaction by the New York State Senate. But, the Senate can remedy this by reconvening in Albany and passing the life-saving bill that awaits its members.

After a four-year pilot, the data is conclusive: speed safety cameras work. They have reduced speeding, a leading cause of death and injury on New York City streets, by more than 63 percent, according to the New York City Department of Transportation. And at a time when traffic deaths have been on the rise across the United States as a whole -- traffic deaths climbed 14 percent nationally between 2015 and 2016 -- here in New York City, we have watched traffic deaths fall by 28 percent since speed safety cameras were switched on in 2014.

Simply put, if we can conquer the speeding epidemic, we can achieve Vision Zero and prevent people from dying. We’re making progress. Together, we helped pass the state Assembly bill (A.7798C) to expand the speed safety camera program to 290 school zones and allow the cameras to be placed on the most dangerous streets near schools, not just directly in front of school entrances. This bill has the support of over 300 organizations across the city and 77 percent of New York City voters, and has 34 co-sponsors -- including three Republicans -- in the Republican-led Senate.

The Senate needs to reconvene and pass this bill immediately. For Sammy. For all New York City schoolchildren, and for all New Yorkers.

Amy Cohen is a founding member of Families for Safe Streets. Deborah J. Glick is a New York State Assembly member representing the 66th District in Lower Manhattan and is the prime sponsor of the speed camera school safety bill. On Twitter @NYC_SafeStreets & @DeborahJGlick.

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