“Progressive Politicians” Shouldn’t Shut Down Dissent Like The Establishment Does

Former Congresswoman Nina Turner, left of practically every Democrat even if she isn’t as left as we are, lost to neoliberal Democrat-backed Shontal Brown in the Ohio special election for Congress last night. Brown was the choice for Hillary Clinton, James Clyburn, and the rest of the liberal elite, but she was notably also backed by the reactionary pro-Zionist lobby group Democratic Majority for Israel.

DMFI obviously opposes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction movement against Israel as anti-Semitic, and they spent $738,000 opposing Nina Turner and $203,000 supporting Shontel Brown, with a large portion of the spending ($351,000) going towards producing and airing anti-Turner attack ads and smaller amounts going to digital platform advertising and direct mail pieces.

Brown thanked her “Jewish brothers and sisters” during her victory remarks, adding how her 2018 trip to Israel gave her insight into the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship. I’m guessing she didn’t see the open-air prison that is Gaza or the poverty and oppression that Palestinians live in. Or let’s just say she doesn’t care because they couldn’t finance her campaign the way Israel did. But it is important to note that the northern Ohio district, which includes much of Cleveland and bits of Akron, is home to the state’s largest Jewish community; just over 20,000 Jewish voters make up about five percent of the general electorate. So the campaign ads against Turner that made the difference of course painted her as anti-Semitic because she has been vocal about ending US support of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

But that’s just one part of the story. The other part is that many of Brown’s financial backers are also backers of the GOP, and Trump in particular. 

Matthew Cunningham-Cook reports in The Intercept that New England Patriots owner and Trump supporter Robert Kraft, the former chair of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, Roger Synenberg contributed directly to Brown’s campaign, and a list of other Republican contributors who gave money not directly to her campaign but gave to DMFI, which used that money for the anti-Turner ads exposes the depths to which so-called Democratic politicians will go to ensure anyone left of their capitalist neoliberal zionist apartheid supporting principles are not challenged.

I can’t help but think of a quote I heard recently, I think it’s from Hubert Harrison, but if I’m wrong somebody feel free to correct me. It goes “Show me who feeds you and I’ll show you whose song you sing.” Whose song do you think Shontel Brown is going to sing in Congress? Working-class and poor people? We’ve seen who feeds her, so we know whose song she’ll be singing, and it won’t be ours.

And I gotta say, the new eviction moratorium from the CDC is a band-aid being applied to a gunshot wound. I’m not entirely sure that everything I saw at the Capitol last night when Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were not part political theater, and I need to say that we need to be very careful about not wanting to criticize politicians when millions of people’s lives are on the line because they’re our favorite, or because they have done good work in the past.

I’m not wild about the way people who asked what would be done about the 10% of the folks who aren’t covered by the CDC’s new targeted moratorium were shut down and drowned out by music played from Bush’s campaign staffers and then shouted down by folks wanting to celebrate a “win.” I’m not going to say the CDC moratorium is “nothing” but is it a win when thousands have already been evicted, homelessness has already risen because of that, and more people will still be evicted who aren’t covered by this new moratorium, and in October, we’ll be right back here again fighting for the same thing? Is this a win, or was the can kicked down the road by with help from progressive Democrats this time? You know the answer is kicked down the road.

I had an interesting conversation with Rep. Al Green who shed a bit of light into the situation for me. First of all, I appreciate him taking the time to talk to me, just moseying on through the crowd like the OG he is, chilling out seeing what the kids were doing. Then I asked him why the new moratorium wasn’t universal, why it didn’t cover everyone. Rep. Green answered that he did not know why the Biden administration didn’t push for a complete moratorium like the last one. He said that there comes a time when you have to stand up for people, stand for something, and this was that time, and he didn’t see the administration doing that with this targeted moratorium that didn’t cover everyone. Rep. Green said that while it was great that there was a response to do something, the pandemic didn’t start yesterday, the evictions didn’t start yesterday, and this wasn’t enough, more has to be done.

And then he said that we (lawmakers on Capitol Hill) have to know where we stand on these issues. We have to force some votes on things sometimes, so the people know who is standing for them and who isn’t.

This is important because one of the criticisms that people have of Rep. Bush and Ocasio-Cortez is that they did not want to force a vote for Medicare 4 All, reasoning that there weren’t enough votes to pass it. But as I’d argued over and over again, and very heatedly last night with someone at the Capitol, forcing floor votes is not done to pass legislation all the time, as much as it is a tool to expose to the people who in the party is on the side of the people or not. Now that is coming from Rep. Al Green, not me. And if that man who’s been at politics for as long as he has understands that, I don’t know what people don’t get.

So what does this all mean? Is Cori Bush a fraud? No, I wouldn’t go that far. But I do see the political play in last night’s announcement at the capitol and how that was handled. Dissent is not welcomed, even with some progressive and I don’t think that’s a good look. I also see that the need for deep political education is very, very critical since so many who were there were happy to celebrate this announcement as a win, and leave that 10% of people and those already evicted and homeless to fend for themselves.

Confronting politicians and engaging with people one on one are tactics we need to continue to use in this fight, because it is far, far from over.