‘Women Are Dying Because We’re Losing Elections’: Progressives Demand Change at Candidate Training

“We need Democrats that are accountable to voters, not corporate donors. This is not a time to settle. To sit on the sidelines. To stand down. This is a time to fight."

[Photo: Rep. Keith Ellison]
"We don’t have the right to lose a damn election," said Rep. Keith Ellison. "We have to win." Alex Wong/ Getty Images

There is a “path to victory” for candidates campaigning on progressive values. That’s the message Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), gave this week during the organization’s Progressive National Candidate Training.

“Any blue just won’t do,” the room of hundreds of progressive candidates chanted, at the urging of Nina Turner, president of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) group, Our Revolution, as they gathered in Washington, D.C on Friday.

More than 450 candidates were expected to attend the weekend’s events. Of them, 70 percent are running for office in 2018 and 64 percent are running for state or federal office in districts President Trump won in 2016. The candidates represent delegations from 48 states, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

Among the speakers was Cynthia Nixon, who is running a progressive challenge to incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo for New York’s Democratic gubernatorial nomination. “Everyone here today has something in common—the Democratic establishment didn’t want us to run,” she told the crowd. “Well that’s too bad, ’cause here we are.”

Nixon called for the Democratic Party to better address the issues that matter to voters. “Democrats can’t just give voters something to vote against. We have to give them something to vote for,” she said. “Young people, people of color, women, working class people of all backgrounds are going to stop showing up for the Democratic Party if the Democratic Party doesn’t start showing up for them.”

She noted that her campaign would not be “accepting a single dime of corporate money,” and addressed her positions on marijuana legalization, criminal justice reform, and single-payer health care.

“This is first and foremost a matter of racial justice,” she said of marijuana policy. “We’ve got to stop putting people of color in jail for something white people do with impunity.” She added that legalization would not be enough to address the systemic inequalities that disproportionately harm people of color. “We also have to correct past injustices by clearing prior convictions,” Nixon said, going on to call for criminal justice reform and ending the school-to-prison pipeline.

After vowing to fight for a “Medicare-for-all” health-care system should she be elected, Nixon pivoted to the need for progressive candidates.

“We don’t just need to elect more Democrats, we need better Democrats,” she said. “We need Democrats who are accountable to voters, not to corporate donors. This is not a time to settle. To sit on the sidelines. To stand down. This is a time to fight. This year thousands of us, progressives all over America, are running for office for the first time, because we’re realizing if we want things change, we’ll need to step up and do it ourselves.”

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, addressed the room, telling those gathered, “This year we have to do whatever we can to take our government back. We have to go back ourselves, and we have to seize it.”

Ellison cited rising maternal mortality rates in states like Missouri and Texas as a reason progressive candidates need to run. Though recent startling statistics out of Texas on the issue turned out to be inaccurate, maternal mortality remains on the rise nationwide.

“Women are dying because we are losing elections,” Ellison said. “We don’t have the right to lose a damn election. We have to win.”

In interviews with Rewire.News, candidates and people considering runs for office suggested that today’s progressive interest in running comes as the public is realizing the power and influence of money in politics.

Katie Muth, who is running for state senate in Pennsylvania, told Rewire.News that “people are paying attention, and that’s good—because a lot of us maybe weren’t or didn’t understand.”

“It’s coming to a head where we can’t go on like this, because it’s harming people and its impacting our lives in a sense where the dollar is more important than the everyday person,” she said.

Beth E. Finn, one of the organizer’s of Philadelphia’s Women’s March, told Rewire.News she believes “the nation is finally waking up to the fact that these career politicians and these corporations that are owning our politicians are not doing good things for the country.”

“And we need to stand up for ourselves,” she said. “We need to make sure that our own voices are heard and not the voices of these career politicians and corporations. I think anytime should have been a good time for progressives to run, but we’re finally realizing that nobody is going to do it for us.”

“We are the change that we want to see in the world, and we’re doing it,” Finn continued.