After the New York Primary: Analysis from a Bernie Volunteer

by Chris Horton

chris horton

What I heard on the phone calls to New York State was heartening, even amazing.   We saturated New York State in an absolutely unprecedented national volunteer phone-bank operation – our goal was 2 million calls on Saturday and Sunday and we hit 3 million – and huge numbers of doors were knocked by volunteers, including many from Worcester County.  Bernie supporters in New York were lit up!
 
Hillary won (or captured) New York State, 58%-42%. I’ll admit to being very disappointed, but not discouraged. The New York State Democratic Primary was rigged against us from the start. 
 
  • Polls in most of Upstate New York where Bernie was expected to run strongest opened at 12 Noon, while polls in New York City and suburbs, Buffalo and a few other cities opened at 6am.
  • Only registered Democrats could vote in the primary. Voters registered in another party or no party needed to have changed their registration by last October (!), long before many voters had even heard of Bernie thanks to the corporate media blackout!
  • Hundreds of thousands of people (over 100,000 just in Brooklyn!) reported their voter registrations changed without their permission or lost.
 
Bernie won big in Upstate New York, winning in every county except Erie (Buffalo), Monroe County (Rochester) and Onondaga County (Syracuse) and nearly broke even in those, losing Erie County by less than 1000 votes. He won in Albany County and every other upstate county, rural or urban, some by nearly 3 to 1! Three cheers for the many Worcester volunteers who travelled to Albany and Poughkeepsie to knock on doors! (See  http://www.nytimes.com/elections/results/new-york)
 
The Sanders Campaign is alive and well, … But there’s still the disastrous issue of the urban Black and Latino vote.
Looking at the election results of New York City precincts, nearly every Black-majority precinct and most of the Latino-majority precincts were won by Clinton. This is important,  but this is where the corporate media stops. Luckily, the Times also provides a breakdown of precincts by income (http://goo.gl/la7KdW).  I spent some time scanning over these, comparing them to the results by race and ethnicity.
 
  • -Not surprisingly, precincts with average income over $100,000 nearly all went to Hilary, the wealthiest, such as Central Park East and lower Park Ave., by margins of nearly 10 to 1.
  • Precincts with incomes under $50,000 – including nearly all the Black and Latino precincts – overwhelmingly went for Clinton, with a few clusters of white- and Latino-majority and a very few Black-majority precincts that went for Sanders.
  • Bernie showed considerable strength in precincts with incomes between $50K and $100K – roughly, the stable but struggling working class – winning about half. Most of his wins in Black and Latino majority precincts were in this income group.
 
So how do we account for Clinton’s strength among the urban poor – black, brown, Latino and white?  This is critical for us to understand if our Political Revolution is to build a coalition strong enough to confront the billionaire class.  

  

Here are some of my thoughts:
The people of the Bronx, Harlem, northern Brooklyn, eastern Queens – and Main South, Quinsigamond Village and South Worcester – are already organized in
  • Churches and other religious institutions and charities
  • Grant-funded movements around anti-foreclosure work, ex-prisoners rights and criminal justice reform, immigrant rights, anti-repression, civil rights, public safety and health, education, job training, welfare rights and many more.
  • Union-sponsored low-wage organizing through SEIU, the AFL/CIO and Jobs with Justice, such as Fight for 15.
  • Small businesses and their customers, everything from bars and taverns to black-market distribution systems.
  • Clubs and lodges.
  • Schools and parents groups.
 
Also:  
  • the system of elected officeholders providing constituent services – mostly fixing problems, a kind of institutionalized corruption – and their campaign organizations, 
  • many who would have been active in a movement like the Sanders Campaign in bygone eras now work for government and government-funded agencies.
 
Some of these groups are already working and fighting for Bernie’s program – but won’t touch the Sanders Campaign. Their struggles need to continue – with our support – regardless, but we have to solve the problem of drawing them into the political revolution. They, or at least their members and activists, naturally align with us, but nearly all are blocked from supporting it by:
 
  • tax laws forbidding political activity by non-profits and churches.
  • laws forbidding political activity by government employees and government-funded agencies.
  • the unspoken but very real agendas of foundations and their wealthy donors, and of wealthy board members.
  • the institutional ties, relationships and commitments of political and labor leaders.
  • the blind-spots of many top leaders who live in other communities and don’t share their members’ experiences.
  • fear of being targeted by police, regulators and inspectors of all sorts.
 
These constraints are widely internalized as the belief that politics is dirty and divisive – fed by the media’s constant pushing of hot-button issues – and a widespread belief that only local efforts can make a difference.
Of all the ways poor communities are organized, perhaps the one least walled off by these barriers may be small businesses such as variety and liquor stores, auto repair and tire shops, barber and beauty shops and more. Their owners are independent-minded, deeply connected to their communities and often opinion leaders.  It’s certainly worth exploring.
 
This tension, this disastrous division in the progressive forces in the US at this critical moment of political and economic crisis, must be solved, and quickly, because only a political revolution with Black, Latino and working class leadership can fully take hold, last and win!
 
Back to the bright side: my calls to New York voters, as with my calls into Wisconsin two weeks ago, uncovered truly remarkable evidence of a self-organization process underway, such as we would expect in the early stages of a revolution.  Whenever I spoke to someone who said they had voted for Bernie or definitely would, I asked them if they had any friends, family or relations who they knew wanted to vote for Bernie, who might possibly forget until too late, who maybe could use a reminder call.  Most, regardless of their age, apparent ethnicity or what part of the state they lived in, insisted that they had already talked to all their family and friends and were confident they felt strongly enough to be sure they would vote.  Some said they had all gone to vote together!  Some said their friends had called them to remind them!
 

We need to continue working toward knitting this process together into a movement that can endure and continue despite the inevitable setbacks we will face, confident in the power of a united and determined people!

 
Chris Horton is a volunteer for  We Want Bernie – Worcester and the Worcester Unemployment Action Group.  He can be reached at chris44horton@gmail.com.
 
 
 

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