Brian Jones Kraft
“Someone once said there are decades where nothing happens, and weeks where decades happen,” said Patrick Shepherd, a volunteer for Salazar’s campaign for State Senator during the introduction.
Attendees were mostly Democratic Socialists or those who agreed with that ideology. They showed how Democratic Socialism is having a moment in New York local politics. The primaries and the climate that lead to it was a rough one for progressives that nevertheless saw them emerge with some potent victories, namely Bronx native Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset of establishment Democrat Joe Crowley in the Bronx and Queens’ 14th Congressional District.
It’s also seen demonstrations across the country that served to cement the increasing popularity of abolishing ICE as a feasible political goal, newly endorsed by mainstream Democrats like Mayor De Blasio and Senator Katherine Gillibrand.
An event that at the start of Salazar’s four month old campaign may have seemed like the meeting of a middleweight political sect seemed to carry greater significance- even for those outside of District 18 that represents much of North Brooklyn including Bushwick.
Fresh off of a Monday conference in Maria Hernandez park where the Colombian born candidate scored the endorsements of Ocasio-Cortez and Cynthia Nixon, Salazar wasted no time underscoring the political gulf between her and her eighth term Democrat opponent Martin Malave Dilan.
She called the current Democratic establishment “vestiges of the Vito Lopez political machine” and stating “Democrats like [Dilan] have failed their constituents. He has had a decade to change course.”
Texas, a cohost of the popular political humor podcast Chapo Trap House, navigated crucial issues on Salazar’s agenda such as housing, Abolishing ICE, criminal justice reform and more.
On housing, she spoke of a crisis affecting the district “where thousands are displaced due to lack of regulation, and of ending policies like vacancy decontrol that incentivize landlords to harass people.”
It came off the back of a quote from this Monday where Salazar denounced centrist, corporate Democrats who took donation money from real estate.
On criminal justice, she promised to end cash bail, calling it a “war on the working class.” She referenced the “enormous amount of people being criminalized at a young age and never given a chance,” stating the need to “stop criminalizing people for this petty shit.”
Among many pressing issues to Bushwick residents, her comment alongside the Democratic Socialists of America’s committing to abolishing ICE is perhaps most front and center. Salazar noted that while New York is technically a sanctuary city, ICE is still able to corner and intimidate people outside of courthouses.
To those unfamiliar with the world of Democratic Socialism, its adherents might occasionally seem too radicalized or hung up on conjuring the ghosts of leftist movements past. You won’t have to wait too long to hear someone use the term of endearment ‘comrade’ in a DSA room, as was the case Tuesday at Starr Bar.
After Ocasio-Cortez’s victory last week, cable TV viewers of all stripes were treated to pundits unpacking the party’s platform with all the bafflement of scientists discovering a relic from some alien civilization, and a much memed screenshot from Sean Hannity‘s Fox News show served to underline the point: Red Scare hysterics and establishment disinterest be aside, the movement now can’t help but be acknowledged, not just as a passing phase, but a force to be reckoned with on local and national stages.
The gates of mainstream political discourse have been crashed, and to an increasing number of Americans, there are benefits to that.
“[Its true that] Democratic socialism has become more normalized,” Salazar told Bushwick Daily, “but that’s really secondary to when you actually talk to the voters- when you approach them and say, ‘How do you feel about your rent? How do you feel about your landlord ? Do you have health insurance?… What does that mean for your life if you can’t take your kids to see the doctor?’”
In conversation, the twenty seven- year- old candidate comes across as energetic and intimately knowledgeable about the workings of state and local politics. For those skeptical of a newcomer’s chances of taking on a seemingly entrenched political establishment, she leaves little doubt of an ability to work with and push the capital’s existing progressive infrastructure.
Salazar also explained how Ocasio-Cortez’s victory gave her campaign more attention.
“I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly… even a hour after the results came in last Tuesday- ever since then, we’ve seen a flood of small dollar, grassroots donations, constantly coming in,” she said. “People genuinely seeing this as part of the same movement and wanting to keep up the momentum.”
A casual glance at the race shows Salazar with a healthy chance of victory: the previous challenger, DSA friendly Debbie Medina, took 40% of the vote in 2016, and on a purely optical level, the difference is striking: the fresh faced millennial’s website is set up to easily accommodate small donations and volunteers.
Like Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, she rejects corporate donations, while on the front page of his own website, Dilan appears weary, surrounded by a group of frowning establishment Democrats.
“From the beginning I’ve been a big supporter of Julia’s campaign,” said Virgil Texas afterwards. “I genuinely believe that she will be a brilliant legislator and someone that will act in accordance with a set of moral, socialist beliefs.”
The interview will be available on the Chapo Trap House podcast.
Photos courtesy of Nathanael Stanek