Tiffany Cabán, the insurgent leftist candidate for Queens District Attorney, is falling behind in late results against establishment candidate Melinda Katz. Based on a recent interview in the Washington Post, this is a fact that local representative Greg Meeks seems to be revealing in.
To his credit, it’s been a tough few months for Meeks, who gained control of the local Democratic Party after longtime establishment hero Joe Crowley shockingly lost a primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Democratic party apparatus in both Queens and the state of New York—historically embodied by moderates like Meeks—is in the midst of a dramatic transformation; a powerful cluster of legislative power in Albany was destroyed in the last election, triggering a wave of progressive legislation, while local newcomers like Cortez, Julia Salazar, and Cabán have been running fiery campaigns against establishment figures. Cabán’s defeat, in this context, is a win for someone like Meeks, a counterattack to the insurgency that threatens his power. An insurgency that, he seems to believe, predominantly comes from outside agitators, who seek only to create chaos at the expense of established consistency.
But to frame politics in this way is insidious, and ultimately a disservice to voters. Meeks is trying to instill a sense of unity to an electorate that is clearly not unified around the status quo. Cortez, Salazar, and Cabán are candidates that have received national attention, sure, but they also got here as a result of true concerns within their constituencies that were not being addressed. A vote for Cabán is not a vote for disunity or a retread of 2016 Presidential primary, it’s principally a vote for a candidate that better represents a community that is predominantly minority and generally open to more progressive criminal justice laws. If the system of governance embodied by Crowley, Melinda Katz, and the slow-motion-legislation of the Independent Democratic Caucus is not in line with the values of a majority of voters, then it is a system that deserves to be torn down in favor of something new.
To deny that, to try to turn this wave of energetic elections into another example of nihilistic left-wing provocation, is an insult to voters who want change and a disservice to anyone who believes in the power of representative government.
It remains to be seen what will happen in the Queens race. As the Posts points out, the election may ultimately hinge on around one hundred Cabán ballots that did not include the mandated “Democrat” label. If so, the establishment may be able to hang onto an election by way of technicality. But this is only one battle, and statements like Meek’s only show the nessecity of war.