Today is one of those days where I have more to say than I have actual time to say it. Part of the modern struggle in this country is that we not only live in a very disturbing and problematic time, because of social media, we here and see and live through every single detail of it. In other words, 2018 is one of the most problematic years in modern American history and social media makes sure we know every detail of just how problematic it is.
Today I want to give context to four very different news stories going on right now.
Yesterday, Officer Michael Rosfeld, the East Pittsburgh officer who shot and killed Antwon Rose, the unarmed honors student, was charged with criminal homicide. Listen, we’ve been here many, many times before. Charging an officer is not a conviction, but in 99% of police shootings, a charge never even happens. And we can’t get a guilty verdict if we don’t first get a charge.
Let me tell you a few quick reasons why this case is different.
- Officer Rosfeld had a history of violent misconduct and was fired from his previous police department.
- In this shooting, he is going to lose some of his legal protections because he never gave a single verbal command to Antwon. He never told him to stop. He never told him to put his hands up. Nothing. That’s part of why he was charged.
- Witnesses on the scene said the officer could be heard openly admitting he had no idea why he shot Antwon.
- Antwon never made a single move, motion, or twitch that caused this officer to believe he was in danger. Nothing. And it’s all on film.
- Lastly, shooting an unarmed person in the back who is clearly running away, in broad daylight, is legally different than shooting someone coming toward you, or even facing you.
I am increasingly skeptical that we will ever get justice, but I still have a small bit of hope here.
Next, as you may have seen, on Tuesday, in a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court decided to uphold Trump’s Muslim Ban. It was genuinely one of the worst, most bigoted, disturbing decisions in the entire history of the Supreme Court. It is easily the most bigoted decision in our lifetime – on par with Plessy v. Ferguson – and the decision to uphold Japanese Internment Camps. It’s that bad. In essence, the Supreme Court said the President has the power to ban entire nations or people groups from entering the country. It’s just a power the president has. All day yesterday I heard from men and women in tears because this means their own loved ones are now banned from entering the United States. It’s fundamentally absurd and has nothing to do with safety or security and everything to do with bigotry.
Also yesterday, the Supreme Court struck the largest blow ever against workers unions, declaring that union dues cannot be mandatory, that they must be optional – which is estimated to strike a major blow to the budgets of unions everywhere.
I want to close with two thoughts. One an honest assessment and the other an encouraging sign.
Trump is winning. Republicans and conservatives are winning on key issues. And they are winning because in 100 different ways they out-organized and out-strategized us. They out-bullied and out-muscled us – on the Supreme Court, on the Presidency, on the House & Senate, and now we are paying a mammoth price.
But let me share some good news.
On Tuesday night, New York’s 14th district, which encompasses the Bronx & Queens, voted a 28 year activist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as its Democratic candidate for Congress. It’s a solidly democratic district and she is almost guaranteed to win the seat. When she does, she will become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress and the first woman of color for that district, which is majority people of color.
I’m lifting her story up – because she won – because she out-organized and out-strategized her opponent. She knocked on more doors. She met and talked with more voters. She won over new voters – thousands of them – and she won them over with a vision that was fundamentally better than her opponents.
Her opponent, Joe Crowley, literally outspent her 10-1. He spent $3 million and she spent $300,000 – and she still won by 15%, because she did it the right way. He wasn’t mired in scandal. In fact, he had every major Democratic endorsement and corporate endorsement you could imagine, but the people chose Alexandria.
It’s a huge victory for activists, for women, and for progressives, and I think she taught the entire left a lesson on how to win in these times. We can’t keep doing what we’ve always been doing. We must do something different. And that’s exactly what she did.
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