Friday, September 1, 2017

We Agree to Disagree: Move Forward's Town Hall with Congressman John Faso



by Glenn Geher, a founding member of Move Forward New York

As indicated in our formal press release (thanks to Move Forward member Melissa Servant for her intensive and efficient work on this),  Move Forward New York hosted an impassioned town hall event with Congressman John Faso of New York's 19th congressional district last night in Esopus. 

This post is designed to elaborate on and complement our press release - providing some highlights of the event from this author's perspective. 

The Setting
The setup of the event was met with much anxiety from various parties. Many progressive activists questioned whether this event was an appropriate event for several reasons. Folks questioned if the venue (the Esopus Town Hall) was large or accessible enough. People questioned whether the process of allocating seats was sufficiently fair and open. In short, people questioned whether this event was a good idea. 

So a protest of our congressman was organized and held right on the grounds of the Town Hall. This counter-event was, by all accounts, well-organized and was done in a civil manner. And without question, peaceable assembly to fairly criticize our government is one of the most basic rights that is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Further, as was made clear by the nature of the questions inside the Town Hall, constituents in the 19th district have a broad array of concerns regarding the Congressman's record - so a protest only made sense in this context. 

From the perspective of the members of Move Forward New York, we are, of course, always pleased to see citizens participating in the democratic process via peaceable assembly and similar means. I commend the protesters for their dedication and effort to help hold our elected official accountable.

Highlights of the Town Hall

Going into the event, I will admit that there was a splash of anxiety. Was this event really going to be a "sham" town hall like so many of the protesters were saying? Was there going to be some attempt to have the "tough" questions taken out of the mix? Was this event going to be a free advertisement for the Congressman's platform?

As things played out, I think that everyone in the room would agree that this was a legitimate town hall and, without question, lots of tough questions were asked and there were consistent opportunities for the constituents of the 19th to express their concerns - and to follow up when necessary to underscore these concerns in their communication with their congressman.

Over 100 participants wrote questions on index cards and these cards were sorted by MFNY members Miryam Antunez de Mayolo and Melissa Servant into categories (health care, immigration, etc.). The two moderators, Gerald Benjamin and Debra Clinton, then selected the questions to be asked. And about 20 people were chosen via this process to come up and ask their questions.

My role was to hold the microphone for each person asking a question, so I was right in the thick of it. And this said, I can say that perhaps the most surprising element of the evening for me was this: Not a single person who came up asking a question came out as supportive of Mr. Faso or his voting record. Check the video if you don't believe me - it was amazing to me! We set this event up so that his office allocated about 1/3 of the seats - yet for some reason, the folks who came to speak to their congressman were, seemingly without exception, members of the resistance.

While we worked to create a civil context for the event - which I believe we generally were successful at doing - I will say that there were many moments of clear disagreement between the audience members (who were disproportionately aligned with the resistance) and the congressman. People booed when he brought up the importance of the free market as critical in shaping issues associated with climate change. People cheered when he was asked to denounce his connections with the Mercer millionaires, and so forth.

Some of the highlights, for me, included the following:

* Kelleigh McKenzie pushed the congressman on the great economic divide in our nation and asked how his plans to provide tax breaks for big business was going to possibly help address this foundational issue in our society.
* Tom Kruglinski pushed the congressman on his voting record, asking how he reconciles being aligned nearly 90% with Donald Trump as a representative in a mixed district.
* Tim Hunter raised, in a highly personal plea, Faso's decisions related to healthcare, which could strip millions of Americans of the basic right to healthcare.
* Leslie Berliant raised the "dark money" issue - asking Faso to refuse to accept donations in the future from ethically questionable sources (see below).
* Marc Rider asked the congressman if he agreed that President Trump is unfit for the presidency of the United States. The congressman, as far as I could tell, dodged this question - a point that concerned many in the audience.

While the event had many other highlights, this exchange between Leslie Berliant of Cooperstown and the Congressman certainly was a real stand-out. Herein, Leslie asked the Congressman if he would publicly denounce the accepting of money from entities and individuals such as the Mercers who fund such hateful and (to my mind) Anti-American initiatives such as Breitbart. In his response, as you will see here, the Congressman "agrees to disagree."

Appreciation to the Congressman and His Staff

As I indicated in my introductory comments, as Americans, we expect everyone to agree with our ideas to our own peril. This is the United States and diversity of ideas is a foundational feature of how we run as Americans.

While I personally am terrified of the fact that Donald Trump is the president, am adamantly in support of campaign finance reform, and fully support healthcare systems that conceptualize healthcare to be a human right, I also appreciate and respect diversity of ideas and I believe that the best learning takes place when opposing viewpoints confront one another in a fair and civil context. Yesterday's event was such an environment.

I give credit to Congressman Faso for participating in this event. He was asked heated questions non-stop and faced a good bit of negativity. He had to pass a long string of protesters before even walking in the door. And as I indicated prior, question after question after question was pointed, impassioned, and concerned when it came to his voting record. It is definitely his job as an elected official to engage in such a process - but it also should be noted that this could not have been easy. So I thank him and appreciate his efforts.

I also thank the congressman's district director, Ryan McAlister, for his work in collaboratively organizing the event. This event was a big deal for Move Forward New York - and I have a feeling that it was a big deal for Faso's office as well. Ryan oversaw things on their end and I want to give him credit for his practical, friendly, and effective approach in this collaboration. Great guy to work with.

And, of course, a lesson here is that regardless of political differences, people are still people - and we need to work together - especially during this difficult time in our history.

Bottom Line

Since the formation of Move Forward New York in November of 2016, one of our goals has been to set up a public forum, or town hall, with our congressman - to help make sure that we have an opportunity to express the many concerns that we have during a time that we consider one of national emergency. After much build-up, we achieved that goal yesterday. It wasn't perfect. It wasn't easy. And the build-up to it was, regrettably, a bit more stressful than I wish were the case.

But no one said this was going to be easy. There is no free lunch - and if you want to make something happen, it's going to take hard work. And all of these truths pertain to participation in government.

In a democracy such as ours, participating actively in government is essential. During this uniquely difficult time in our history, complacency is not an option. I'm proud of the folks in Move Forward New York who helped make yesterday's event happen. I'm proud of our many brave brothers and sisters who looked our congressman in the eyes and asked him, fully in public, the hard questions. And I'm glad that a successful peaceable assembly comprised of Americans exercising their First Amendment rights took place outside of the venue.

Here is to the future. Here is to moving forward.

Move Forward Members (l-r) Joel Alfieri, Marlene Alfieri, Glenn Geher, Fabio Danisi, Debra Clinton, Jason Clinton, Patty Wilson, Melissa Servant


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If ever there was a time to become politically active and rise up, that time is now. Here is to the uprising.

Join the uprising at www.moveforwardnewyork.org

Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

We Will Not Forget Heather Heyer: Charlottesville and the Importance of Grassroots Activism Today

The horrific and unnecessary killing of 32-year-old Charlottesville native, Heather Heyer, is a wakeup call that must be heard across the land. A group of organized white supremacists, many of who self-identify as Nazis, created a situation in which violence was certain to erupt. In our country, we learn about the horrors of slavery, racial discrimination, and fascism in our schooling - and we learn about the importance of standing against these injustices strenuously. At least that's how I was educated. In protesting the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville this past weekend, Heather Heyer, then, was doing her civic duty. The United States is a nation based on compassion and diversity, and taking active steps to help ensure that these core values remain as the foundation of our nation is simply an obligation of living in a democracy like ours.

For someone dedicated to exercising her First Amendment rights on behalf of the values of America to be senselessly slaughtered by a deeply misguided and disturbed 20-year-old Nazi sympathizer / terrorist tells us that the problems with our nation are beyond any reasonable line that one might draw.

If you are concerned that the nation is on a dangerous path, heading quickly away from the core values that formed the basis of this country, I have news for you: Your concerns are warranted.

New Paltz Vigil in Solidarity with Charlottesville

Yesterday, a group known as the Resisterhood organized a candlelight vigil at the park in New Paltz – bringing people together to honor Heather and others who lost their lives senselessly in the Charlottesville incident. Thank goodness for the Resisterhood and for similar grassroots groups that are making noise all around our land.

While everyone who spoke had a unique set of concerns, the common theme was this: We are mad as hell and we aren’t going to take this any longer. 

  • We will not stand for Nazis organizing in the streets.
  • We will not stand for discrimination based on ethnicity, race, religion, or gender identity.
  • We will not stand for a divided United States of America.

At this time in history, it is up to each and every one of us to stand and take active steps to make sure that this country gets back on track. To my mind, there are absolutely no other options.

What We Can Do?

During such a difficult time, people are regularly asking what they can do to help with the greater cause. In the past year, I’ve become deeply involved in activism and have given this question a lot of thought. First off, don’t for one second feel that things are hopeless. They are not. There are millions of Americans who share your concerns and perspective on the world. So don’t give up.

With this in mind, here  are specific actions that you can take to do your part in this war that we now find ourselves in:
  •  Join a local grassroots group – and get involved. In the Hudson Valley, we’ve got lots of groups filled with great people working for the cause. I am a member of Move Forward New York – and, of course, I recommend that you consider joining our movement. But there are others: The Resisterhood, Citizen Action, MarchOn, Individual, Ulster People – and more – way more! And that is just in our little corner of this great nation. Want to make a difference? Get involved.
  • Pay attention to local elections. As is true at the national level, Ulster County has a predominance of democratic voters yet we have a republican-controlled legislature. This is a problem – and a problem that echoes across all levels of government across our land. The first post-Trump elections are set for all kinds of important local races on November 7 upcoming. Good grassroots politics starts with getting a claim on local, county-level, and state-level government – these are the levels that are closer to your day-to-day world than is the national level. If ever there were a time in history when voting is essential, that time is now.
  • Exercise your first amendment rights. Assemble peaceably. Write letters to the editor. Write letters to your state assembly representatives or your representatives in Congress. Speak your mind. This is still the United States of America and we will always have the First Amendment. And, to my mind, the First Amendment will ultimately be the key to our reclaiming this nation
Bottom Line

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan to let Heather Heyer’s death be in vain. The last thing that Heather ever posted on her Facebook page was this: If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

We hear you, Heather - loud and clear.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Grab a Clipboard: The Nuts and Bolts of Activism


"If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard ..."

These are the words of former president of the United States, Barack Obama - given during his farewell speech to the nation.

As someone who has gone full sail into political activism - to the point that I am actually now running for public office myself (yes, I care about the future of this nation - a lot!) - I have to say that I can truly appreciate President Obama’s sentiment.

At the end of the day, if we can’t get strong people who share our vision for this nation elected into public offices around the country, then flooding the mall of Washington, DC, sending hundreds of thousands of pink slips to the White House, marching across the Walkway Over the Hudson, etc., will all be for naught. Now that the first election season since the November 2016 election is heating up, let’s make sure that we don’t lose sight of this fact.

We can take to the streets all we want - but if we cannot change the balance of power in county legislatures, town councils, and state assemblies around the nation, then we have little chance of changing the path that this nation is currently headed down.

Why Should You Grab a Clipboard?

First off, you can get a clipboard from Staples for 87 cents

What a deal! But seriously, as someone who is well on his way along the campaign trail (running for Ulster County Legislator, District 12 - Plattekill, by the way), I now see that going out and knocking on the doors of constituents is one of the most basic parts of the electoral process. And I have to say, it is a lot of fun - and you learn a ton along the way.

Here are the reasons that you need to get a small army and go out with your clipboards - regularly between June and November. That is, if you want to have the best chance of winning …

  • Signatures for Petitions to get onto the ballot for your major party

When a candidate comes up for a position, it takes a lot to formally “get onto the ballot.” I learned this the hard way. A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting of the Plattekill Democrats indicating my interest in running for our seat in the county legislature. I gave a little speech and everyone seemed to like what I had to say - and I was unanimously supported by the committee. I figured that was about it. Then these nice folks started telling me that I had to get signatures of registered democrats in the district so that I could be formally on the ballot. Oh. OK. Turns out that I needed a lot of signatures. And I was encouraged to double the amount that I needed. Wow - this was going to be a lot of work! But of course, I don’t mind doing a lot of work - so I was off. And I was fortunate to have several friends and members of our great local grassroots group, Move Forward New York, and members of the Plattekill Democrats help me with the process.

But that was just another step in the campaign journey! I did not put my clipboard away after that!

  • Getting on the ballot for non-major party lines

Did you ever notice that for elections, a candidate will often be on more than one “line” of the ballot? The candidate for the republican seat on the town council, for instance, might also be on the ballot line for the “Conservative” party. The candidate for the Democratic line may also be on the “Working Families Party” line. And so forth.

Well guess what? The more lines you get your name on, the more likely you are to win. So after you get your signatures for your major party, the next step is to try to get signatures needed to support your efforts to represent other parties - usually other parties that make sense given your perspective and platform. For me, that meant getting on the Working Families line and a few others that are consistent with my general platform.

From a boots-on-the-ground perspective, this means going out some more with your clipboard and your smile - and hopefully with some friends!

  • Getting people to show up for a caucus or primary

Another reason that you might go out with your clipboard in the process would be to encourage people to attend a caucus or primary. In a caucus, all the registered members of a party attend and have the opportunity to vote for one of multiple candidates - each of whom is going after the same party line on the ballot. In our local community, progressive candidate Lisa Lindsley has been supported by the Gardiner Democratic Committee - but she next needs to win the vote of the registered democrats who show up at a caucus later this week against a candidate who is reportedly seeking both the Democratic and Republican lines on the ballot.

Yeah, that’s a reason to get out there with your clipboard! Knocking on the doors of registered democrats and providing them information about this process - and encouraging them to attend the caucus - and, ideally, to vote in a way that is consistent with their political values - that’s another potential step in the campaign journey. And, of course, at every step in the campaign journey, you’ve got your handy 87-cent clipboard in-hand.

  • Getting people to know the candidate and encouraging them to vote

This is probably the best-known form of “canvassing” during the campaign journey. As November approaches, candidates and their supporters famously come around with their clipboards, materials, and smiles - letting folks know who they are, what they stand for, etc. And they also remind people of the date of Election Day. Human resources are, of course, needed for doing this well!

  • 10 Touches and the Voter Universe

Before I jumped onto the campaign trail myself, I had a lot to learn about the process! Good thing that I have had great teachers in folks such as Dustin Reidy, Tara Fitzpatrick, and Mike Grubiak all help provide me clear guidance on the process. Along the way, I’ve learned about the “10-touch” rule and the notion of the “voter universe.”

The 10-touch rule is simple: If you really want to put your best foot forward (and if you know me well, you know that I will do nothing else), then you should make sure that all the members of your “voter universe” get at least “10 touches.”

So here are some definitions:

  • A touch: This simply means one way that a potential voter makes contact with your campaign. This could be a knock on his or her door, a phone call inviting him or her to an event for your campaign, a phone call encouraging him or her to make it out to the polls, a mailing supporting your candidacy, etc.
  • Voter Universe: One’s “voter universe” is essentially the entire population of people who might reasonably vote for that person. If you are primarily running on the Democratic line, this will include all registered Democrats along with all those who are registered for like-minded smaller parties. And some percentage of the folks who are not officially registered for a party.

Once you figure out your voter universe, then the plan ultimately becomes figuring out a way to make sure that each member of that universe gets 10 touches by you and your supporters. Of course, the clipboard will be in-hand at every step!


  • Candidates Need Volunteers Regularly between June and November!

So suppose that your voter universe is 1,000 voters. And suppose that you are going full-guns and plan to have a knock on the door of each voter on at least five occasions (as part of your 10 touches) during your campaign. Now suppose that those 1,000 voters live in 600 houses (some folks live in the same house - married couples, etc.). The math then is this: You are looking at 3,000 door knocks between June and November.

This is where the small army comes into play! A candidate who is running a tightly contested race cannot do it alone. 3,000 door knocks is going to take a lot of work and a lot of commitment. And a lot of people.

  • Great campaigns are 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration

To quote Thomas Edison, at the end of the day, as with anything, it’s hard work that plays the major role in getting things done in the world. You can look great, smile, and say all kinds of wonderful things - but at the end of the day, if you cannot do what it takes to very effectively get the word out about your candidacy to the members of your voter universe, you are not giving yourself the best chance to win.

  • NY 19Votes Summer Canvass

Dustin Reidy, a true legend in the Hudson Valley when it comes to electoral processes, is currently organizing an event called NY 19Votes: Summer Canvass. There are field sites all around our congressional district that he has worked hard to set up. People who are interested in making a difference are being encouraged to sign up and to come out on July 23 between 1-6pm - to kickoff the all-important step of getting the word out about the candidates whom we hope to see in elected positions next year. If we have been truly woken up by the results of the 2016 election, then people will come out in droves for this event - and if you live in NY District 19 and are interested in helping get this nation back on track - and you have no plans for July 23, I say you take 87 cents to Staples, grab a clipboard, and join what may end up being the single-most important part of the resistance to date.

Bottom Line

Walking around with a clipboard may not be as glamorous as marching in Washington, DC - but, at the end of the day, I’d say that it matters at least as much. There is a reason that Barack Obama’s final message to our nation was primarily grab a clipboard. The future is the reason. And the time is now.

By the way, my house will be one of the field sites for the July 23 canvassing blitz. And yes, I have some extra clipboards - feel free to join me as we become part of a district-wide blitz that tells people across the region this: We are here. 

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MORE INFO:

Facebook Event Page: District-Wide Canvassing Event on July 23:

Facebook Event Page: Southern Ulster (Plattekill) Site of the District-Wide Canvassing Event on July 23: https://www.facebook.com/events/113432045950815/


If ever there was a time to become politically active and rise up, that time is now. Here is to the uprising.

Join the uprising at www.moveforwardnewyork.org

Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Why Campaign-Finance Reform Should be a Top Priority: Social inequality, wasteful spending, and the destruction of democracy


By Glenn Geher, 6/23/2017

So I’ve recently put my hat in the ring for an elected position. I am running for the position of Ulster County Legislator - 12th District (Plattekill, NY). I wasn’t ever really planning on going this route - but I am someone who cares deeply and proactively about the greater good - and to my mind, the current state of the nation requires that each and every one of us does all that is within our power to get this nation back on track.

Feel free to check out the website for my campaign: www.GeherForLegislator.org
Or to like my campaign’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Glenn-Geher-for-Ulster-County-Legislator-12th-District-373462716389522/

But that’s not my point!

In joining this process, I’ve learned more about campaign financial issues in this nation - and I have to say that what I have learned has been more than a little eye-opening. For county legislature positions, the expectations for financing are relatively small potatoes in the scheme of things. But the other day, I went out canvassing with my friend Sue Sullivan - also a Plattekill resident. Sue is doing something different altogether - she is currently running for Congress. Think about that! Now that is a big deal!  

The Finances of Running for Congress

So we got talking the other day, and we got around to the topic of fundraising. I’m planning to make enough money to make some signs, print some materials, and make some phone calls. She needs to raise a ton! For various reasons, to get various endorsements, etc., she is talking about needing to raise numbers that are just huge - well over six figures. Of course, Sue is a very hard-working and well-connected individual, and I’m optimistic that she’ll get there. But this issue got me thinking about things in this nation more broadly. In fact, the more I am thinking about this issue, the more I realize that the current system for campaign finance in this nation is the epitome of social inequality - and it is as far from genuine democracy as one could imagine.

Here’s why: Not everyone can raise six or seven figures in a year. I bet I couldn’t - and I’m pretty well-connected, I have reasonably high SES, and I work hard all the time. But that number is just daunting for someone from where I stand. To be able to raise that kind of money, it helps to not only be rich, but to be VERY rich and to know a lot of VERY rich people. Now granted, it is certainly possible that someone who is not rich in the elite sense could join the fray - but the odds are, of course, VERY heavily stacked against that person. From an empirical perspective, my guess is that congressional candidates probably come from a very elite socioeconomic background on average - perhaps the top 3% of income in the US. And of course the same goes for the presidency.

Sociologists would talk about this as a structural inequality situation. No one is saying that you can’t run for congress if you are just a “regular citizen.” This said, the odds are so stacked against you if you are not super-rich, that the structure of the system essentially screens you out before you even get started. We like to think that this is a democracy that is designed for the benefit of all people. The closer I look at how the politics in this nation works, the more I see that democracy is more of a dream than a reality in our nation. And, of course, me being me, I think we need to take active steps to change this so that leadership positions in our government are based on merit and not on wallet. And I have no problem saying that in a public manner.

The Math of Campaign Finance 

In this country, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives. Each one comes up for election every two years. There are two major parties - Democratic and Republican. Generally speaking, there are multiple members of each party who primary against one another during each election cycle (although there are clearly conditions in which an incumbent does not have to spend time and money on a primary). But let’s think about the math. So there are 435 positions and two major parties. Let’s say that each cycle, four people run for each of these 435 positions. That could be three democrats primarying against one another and one unchallenged republican, two democrats and two republicans, etc.

Now remember, $300,000 is a minimum standard needed just to be considered by one of the major parties early on. According to a recent news story by MSNBC, the average amount of money spent by members of the House who won in 2012 was as follows:

“According to Maplight, a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that tracks money in politics, House candidates who won in 2012 raked in an average of $1,689,580 in campaign contributions. That’s about $2,315 each day. Those numbers climb substantially if you’re running for Senate. Candidates who won a seat in Congress’ upper chamber each raised an average of $10,476,451. That’s $14,351 per day.” 

Now think about that! So suppose we have about 4 candidates per House seat running in one year - and they each commit to spending $1,689,580 for the duration of the campaign. Well then for one race (out of 435 total races), we are looking at $6,758,320.

Remember that show The Six Million Dollar Man? Well a typical race for one congressional seat these days will apparently pay for a bionic man - with change left over …

Of course, the math gets much more dramatic, because this 6+ million dollar figure we are talking about assumes a single race. Well heck, there are 435 members of congress. So let’s look at our estimate for one race and see how that extends 435 times. 435 X $6,758,320 ~= $2.94 Billion Dollars. Yup, BILLION. And remember, senate races are much more costly - as are presidential races. The estimates provided here make one point clear - an outrageous amount of money is spent on just campaigning each year in this nation. Billions and billions.

Campaign Money as Wasted Resources 

Based on my estimations in the prior section, when you include elections at all levels in this nation each year, we must be talking between 5-10 Billion Dollars a year - if not more. So now let’s stop and think about how that money is used compared to how it could be used. That kind of money could transform the schools of New York State. That kind of money could fully repair the infrastructures of some of our older cities. That kind of money could probably go a long way to better understanding diseases and other health issues. That kind of money could pay for college tuition for many many bright and hard-working young adults. And so forth.

But where do campaign monies go? Well … they go to campaigns. And they are not really legally allowed to do much else. They pay for advertising, personnel, and equipment for campaigns. And so forth. They go poof - into the machine.

The Two Travesties of Modern Campaign Finance Systems in the USA 

To sum up, it seems to me that there are two inter-related problems associated with campaign financing in this nation. First off, it is downright unfair! This is not a country where any citizen has the capacity to emerge as a leader of our nation! To do that, you need money. Tons and tons of money. Or you need to know a lot of people with tons and tons of money. Most of us just don’t run in those circles! High-elected offices are for the privileged elite - and this fact owes fully to issues of structural and systemic inequality. This is NOT what democracy looks like!

Second, to put it simply, what a waste of money! It would be so much better to take all the money that goes to campaign finance and put it back into the state or the nation. Or, heck, give it to people as tax refund. I wouldn’t have a problem with that!

As it is now, that money, which is raised as a necessary part of our current processes, simply cannot be used for anything else. It is a travesty of epic proportions. When schools all around the nation are hurting. When millions of people in this nation are receiving inadequate health care. When college tuition costs families of modest means thousands and thousands of dollars a year - then we’ve got a problem. Want to fix this Nation? I say we start with campaign finance reform. Not only will effective campaign finance reform put us on a fast track to genuine democracy, but it could help save money on a national level - money that is less like to just burn during yet another American political campaign.

If ever there was a time to become politically active and rise up, that time is now. Here is to the uprising.

Join the uprising at www.moveforwardnewyork.org

Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Democrat? Interested in the future of our nation? Vote at every opportunity.



by Glenn Geher, a founding member of Move Forward New York

If you’re like me - a lifelong Democrat who has been simply horrified at the direction that our nation is taking in the post-Trump-actually-got-elected era, you are probably thinking “what can I do to help get this nation back on track?”

As a founding member of Move Forward New York, I have been privileged to meet many great governmental leaders from our party - folks who make a living trying to help all of us move toward the greater good. And I will never forget what NY Assemblyman Cahill had to say on this front. He made the point that over the next four years, we have NO CHOICE but to be politically active AT EVERY LEVEL - from town school boards on up to Washington, DC. Local politics matters more than ever right now. If we can flood town, county, and state governmental positions with people who stand with our values (which are, to my mind, the truly American values, by the way), we will buffer ourselves against the insanity in DC. Further, doing so will help make sure that we have the infrastructure in place to take over Congress - which will  ultimately have the capacity to stop Trump in his tracks - at least as best we can.

I’m a pretty proactive person - and in this current climate, I’ve actually become convinced that I should run for office. And toward that end, I am running on the Democratic ticket for Ulster County Legislator. You see, in my district (Ulster County District 12), we have a Republican incumbent - who has been in office for about 10 years. I don’t know him personally, but I know a bit about his voting record - which is consistently aligned with the right. To my mind, this is exactly what we do NOT need at the county levels in this nation right now! When my friend Debra Clinton, founder of Move Forward New York and activist sine qua non, told me that this guy was about to run unopposed in MY district, I quickly looked in the mirror and was like, Glenn -  you got this.

Of course, it’s not going to be a gimme - and county-level politics is not exactly the same as the field of education - which is where I usually live - but I am so deeply concerned about the future of this nation and about making sure that I take every step possible to help, that I feel a strong calling on this one.

Voting in Off-Year Elections

Odd-numbered years are considered off-year elections. For instance, in 2015, we had the opportunity to vote for an Ulster County Legislator position and for the Ulster County Executive Position - and for a few other things that, at the time, I didn’t quite understand or think much about.

Well it turns out that in my town of Plattekill, NY, even though we have nearly even numbers of Democrats and Republicans, the Republican Legislative candidate won (by about 99 votes). Pretty close actually. But get this: Only about 30% of Democrats in my town came out to vote - while about 37% of the Republicans came out to vote.

You don’t have to be Einstein to realize that if these proportions flipped - and 37% of Democrats came out while only 30% of Republicans came out, the incumbent Republican legislator would have been unseated.

If you are a Democrat, you better think about this fact. Because that was then, and this is now.

Republicans Control the Ulster County Legislative Chamber!

So to see in even more detail how tragic this all is, think about this. In Ulster County, according to the New York State Board of Elections, about 68% of registered voters are Democrats, with close to only 30% being Republicans. With a proportion like this, you would think that Democrats would control the legislative assembly, right? And you would be WRONG! Think again.

Of the 23 legislators in the assembly, 12 are Republican and 11 are Democrats - so Democrats make up 68% of the registered voters in this county, yet their representatives make up only 47% of the legislature. Seriously.

If you’re like me, you immediately see connections with national-level politics here. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, won the popular vote by about 3,000,000. Yes, that is THREE MILLION! Yet the White House and both houses in congress are flooded with Republicans.

I see this all as a lesson in when democracy fails. When our representatives end up mismatching the interests of the majority of the people - and when this happens at all levels of government, then we’ve got a problem on our hands. And we are not functioning like a democracy.

Are You Planning to Vote in the Next Off-Year (2017) Election?

If you are a Democrat and are outraged by the direction that this nation is taking, as I see it, you don’t have the luxury of sitting back and hoping that someone else fixes the problem. There is WAY too much at stake. My wife and I have two kids - and I know full well that it is up to me to take any and all steps possible to help make sure that they and (one day) their kids have the extraordinary opportunity to live in the United States of America. With this in mind, we cannot let the values that form the foundation of this nation fall by the wayside.

And we need to grab this country by the grassroots - and take advantage of each and every opportunity we can to get this nation back on track.

Do I think I’m going to win the election for Ulster County Legislator, District 12 on November 7? Well I sure hope so. But this said, I will say that I am optimistic. Sure, I think I have a good set of experiences and skills and I know that my heart is in the right place. But to be honest, I don’t think that all is going to get me the seat in Kingston.

What is going to get me that seat is the groundswell of Democrats who have been awoken by the current national situation. It is the uprising that is going to get me to Kingston. The same uprising that flooded Washington, DC and municipalities around the world for the Women’s March. The uprising that flooded SFO, JFK, and airports throughout the nation in protest of a highly xenophobic and anti-American travel ban. The uprising that got scientists, who are largely introverted, out to march in political rallies from sea to shining sea.

https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/8fa5872e8c00d3d4abdfe2c23a86a9aa34e7ca32/c=365-0-5217-3648&r=x408&c=540x405/local/-/media/2017/02/20/Poughkeepsie/Poughkeepsie/636232037986853258-pc022017-new-paltz-rally-3.jpg 
Not My President's Day Rally, SUNY New Paltz; February, 2017

Bottom Line

As I’ve written about in the past, the Tea Party was very successful in flooding seats at all levels of government with Republican and conservative candidates. Well guess what? That was then - and this is now. And to my mind, the Uprising that we have on our hands now makes the efforts of the Tea Party look like kid stuff.

My money says that the Democrats in Plattekill - and in places like Plattekill around the nation - come out in unprecedented numbers in the 2017 off-year election. I sure hope so, because this will allow me to put my money where my mouth is and take direct steps as an elected official to help effect positive change in Ulster County - and beyond.

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If ever there was a time to become politically active and rise up, that time is now. Here is to the uprising.

Join the uprising at www.moveforwardnewyork.org

Note that the views expressed herein are expressly the views of the author and are not necessarily the views of Move Forward New York as a collective entity.