Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Open Message to the President

President Obama and Vice-President Biden took it upon themselves this week to fight voter apathy in the Democratic Party, encouraging liberals to stop "sitting on their hands" and buck up. Their message, essentially, is "we need your support right now, so do what we need you to do." They're taking on their own party, because apparently a hostile Republican minority in Congress, energetic Tea Party candidates across the country with very real chances to win, the challenge of selling the virtues of unpopular legislation to a mildly depressed populace, and fixing the economy while fighting a couple of wars don't quite present enough challenges.

The President and Vice-President seemed to suggest that waning liberal enthusiasm was nothing more than the product of sheer laziness and an unwillingness to look at the results. That's where I have to draw the line. As someone brought into politics by Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing," I consider myself a fairly liberal voter. If I had been old enough, I would certainly have voted for Barack Obama, and even though I wasn't, I drove 4 hours to Nevada on my dime to campaign on his behalf. I'm glad I did, because I think given the polarization of our national discourse in the past couple of years and the gradual closing of the political center, I believe the country would be much worse off in the hands of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

But that said, Mr. President, there's more to how we feel than just sloth. I can't speak for everyone else, but I follow the news closely. During the first year of your term - when you had the Presidency, a supermajority in the Senate, and a firm grip on the House, the only major legislation you signed was the stimulus bill. Admittedly, the ban on federal funding for stem cell research was lifted, you instituted Fair Pay, and you brought our economy back from the brink. You put Sotomayor on the bench, not to mention receiving a Nobel Peace Prize and restoring our relationships with foreign countries across the world. And in your second year, you brought health care back from the grave - no one thought it had a chance after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts. But you brought it back, and because of that, millions more Americans will be insured in the years to come. All while managing two wars and fixing Wall Street. None of that is easy, and all of it was productive.

But sir, no one elected you because we thought the job would be easy. We supported you because you told us that if we did, you would usher in a transformative era in American politics. You told us that you would push to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because it doesn't make sense to discharge qualified and patriotic soldiers at a time when our military needs all the help it can get. You told us you would close Guantanamo Bay, and told the world in your inaugural address that "we reject as false the choice between our security and our ideals," promising to end wiretapping. You advocated fierce reform for public schools in our country, not just $4 billion in more funding without addressing the key issue we face. Most importantly to me, you promised environmental protection and a push for greener, cleaner energy to wean us off of foreign oil. Instead, you lifted a ban on offshore drilling and put off a fight on climate change legislation, despite the fact that Senator Lindsey Graham was willing and eager to help.

I'm 19 and I don't see the policy briefs or the data that you see, nor do I have entire buildings full of incredibly qualified advisors, so I'm sure there are some technical problems with that analysis. Moreover, you're the smartest person in the room - that's why I campaigned for you, and why I'll continue to support you. But please don't tell me the reason I don't feel enthusiastic right now is that I'm sitting on my hands.

You had one full year - a whole year with our allies in the White House and Congress. In 2008, even Alaskans elected a Democrat to the Senate. You had a full year, and all you could come up with was a stimulus bill? I know it's hard to handle the economy, but was it really that paralyzingly difficult, so unimaginably constrictive that you could not mentally handle anything else? I don't work there, but you could have told some aides to spend a week, maybe, figuring out how to push forward on cap-and-trade, or on repealing DADT, or on meaningful education reform. You had a whole year, sir, with our allies. A golden opportunity that Bill Clinton and I both know doesn't come around that often, and what do we have to show for it? The fact that our unemployment rate isn't quite as high as it would have been otherwise?

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind if you actually disagree with me on any of this. I think you truly believe that there is something to be gained from offshore drilling, and I think you believe there is a legitimate enemy in Afghanistan. I trust your judgment, and I support your decisions. What I can't stomach is the fact that you're not willing to fight about the other stuff - the stuff we do agree on. That's what I elected you to do! I heard you say last week that your legislative accomplishments were mild thus far because, and I'm paraphrasing, "it's hard getting stuff through Congress." Did you really not know that going in, sir? Because if so, I should have worked harder for Governor Richardson. Where are you on education reform, on energy policy, on civil rights? We need you to lead, sir.

Here's why I think you haven't, so far. With all due respect, I think you don't want to start the discussion on any of these issues because you think you're going to lose the debate. And frankly, I'd be scared of that if I were you too. If I didn't know any better, and took my cues from the way your communications staff runs the message, I would think we were all socialist, godless, and amoral. I, too, would think we were trying to set up death panels and destroy the private sector, guided by a deep-rooted, anti-colonial, non-American-born ideology. Because when Republicans come out with their ridiculous scare tactics to scare voters into opposing legislation, you usually come out with some variation of "well, to be fair..." instead of slamming them for embracing a deceitful campaign of propaganda in lieu of actually debating the facts.

My point, sir, is pick your battles - you have too many as it is. I'll vote on November 2nd, and I'll line up and vote for the Democrats, because I think they're a lot better than the alternative. But that's why I'm not inspired, because that's my motivation for voting Democratic on election day - they're better than the alternative, not because I believe strongly in our capacity for the progress you promised.

If you want my enthusiasm, sir, and I think you're going to need it when you run against Mitt Romney, I suggest you hire a new communications team, tell them to stop making our party look like a bunch of clowns, and most of all, gear up for the policy fights I expected you to fight.

How the DNC Rules New Media

This afternoon, I received an email from Organizing for America (namely Natalie Foster, the OFA Director of New Media). OFA wants testers for a new tool they are going to deploy. The tool is meant for phone-banking from your own home without the need for a call sheet. As described from the College Democrats of America website
The tool detects where you are, automatically brings up contacts in your area, and takes you straight to a script. And you don't even have to create a new username -- you can sign in using either your Facebook or accounts

In other words, if you're like me and hate canvassing, but don't mind phone-banking and have any sort of free time, you can help ensure a Democratic victory this November. I tested the program and it is very easy-to-use and straight forward. You bring up the website, a person information is listed (name, address, age, sex, and phone number); a script is provided; you call the person and record the results with the online form (this is all on a single web page). And you can do as many or as few calls as you wish.

However, if any of you have been following any of the other improvements OFA and the DNC have been developing, you know that this tool is the tip of the iceberg.

Currently, both the DNC and OFA have iPhone and iPad apps. They allow for you to read recent blog posts, get discussion points, find events, and contact members of Congress.

On the OFA app, you have an option to "Go Canvass." The app will determine your location and provide you with a listing of residences in the neighborhood to persuade to vote for the Democratic candidates. Once you get to the house, you can bring up your canvassing script. Instructions are provided on what questions to ask and when to stop. Once you're done, you reply back with the result and that gets sent back to OFA. As an incentive, with the more people you contact, the more awards you receive (like FourSquare badges).

Of course, none of the phonebanking or canvassing really matter if the people aren't registered to vote. So, the Technology Department at the Democratic National Committee created a website widget called "Raise Your Vote." Simply, it is an online form that you can add to any website. Users open up the form, enter their information, and a PDF which the user has to print and mail in is generated. We currently have it on our website (, if you choose the "Register to Vote" link on the left navigation.

Finally, as proof that the Democratic Party is the Party of open government and politics, they open sourced much of their codes on Of course, they do not have their core codes listed (that would lead to users finding possible security lapses), but the source codes for the peripheral programs and widgets are freely available for anyone to download.

I don't know any other way to put it, but the work by the DNC's new media and technology teams is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Fordham Dems Blog Need Contributors

Hey Fellow College Democrats!

As some of you may know, we have a blog ( However, we don't have that many contributors (currently, I am the only regular writer for the blog).

The Democratic Party is supposed to be the party of ideas and bringing together people from all different walks of life and have them exchange their ideas in order to create the best decisions possible for the people. Having one writer for our blog is the antithesis of the ideals of our party.

If you have any sort of opinion about the political process (which, considering you all are reading this, you all MUST have), I urge you to contribute to our blog. There are no right or wrong answers or discussions. But it is imperative that the College Democrats of Fordham University hold true to the spirit of the Democratic Party and the democratic process.

If any of you are interested in writing for our blog, please email us at and we'll add you as a contributor.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lazio Out

The rumors are true. Rick Lazio will be dropping out of the race for Governor today. However, he may still appear on the ballot in November.

According to election law in the State of New York, there are three ways for his name to be removed as the Conservative Party's nominee for Governor: he dies, he moves out of New York State, or he gets nominated for a judgeship (the deadline, for which, I should add, is today).

Due to Paladino's use of "hateful rhetoric," Mike Long, the Chairman of the New York Conservative Party, does not want a Paladino win (source:

Provided that Lazio's name was removed from the Conservative Party line today, Paladino has 1 day (deadline: tomorrow 9/28/2010) to get the Conservative Party's nomination (source: I mention this because no Republican has won any statewide office without the endorsement of the Conservative Party of New York.

To all of you, I suggest you follow the news closely for the next 36 hours to see if there will be any political game changers.

Update (12:29 PM): The Bronx County Republican Chairman Jay Savino has announced that Rick Lazio will be nominated for a judgeship tonight. In other words, Lazio will be out of the race for Governor following tonight's proceedings.

Update (12:37 PM): Rick Lazio has announced that he will not endorse Carl Paladino for Governor

Update (1:08 PM): Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long has said he will recommend to party leaders that Carl Paladino receive the party's nomination.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Some Numbers May Actually Lie

We all heard about how Carl Paladino is a mere 6 percentage points behind Andrew Cuomo in the race to be the next Governor of New York. Well, that was just one poll. Cuomo said that Paladino was up because of the media coverage regarding his from-behind win to becoming the the Republican nominee for Governor. Well, that was one poll.

Since the first one, by Quinnipiac University, two more have come out. One by SurveyUSA and another from Siena College. I don't know how the polling for SurveyUSA was conducted, but I do for the other two. The Quinnipiac poll surveyed "likely voters" and only gave two options (Andrew Cuomo or Carl Paladino). The Siena poll surveyed "registered voters" and gave three options (Cuomo, Paladino and Rick Lazio). What is the difference between "likely voters" and "registered voters?" Likely voters do not include first-time voters (and, may, exclude voters that did not vote in recent elections).

Below is a break-down of the results of the polling data for all of the state-wide races:

Governor Quinnipiac SurveyUSA Siena
Andrew Cuomo 49% 49% 57%
Carl Paladino 43% 40% 24%
Rick Lazio 8% (listed as "other") 8%
Undecided 3% 10%
Attorney General Quinnipiac SurveyUSA Siena
Eric Schniederman 37% 45%
Dan Donovan 36% 32%
Undecided 27% 23%
Comptroller Quinnipiac SurveyUSA Siena
Tom DiNapoli 46% 51%
Harry Wilson 30% 25%
Undecided 24% 25%
Senate (Full Term) Quinnipiac SurveyUSA Siena
Charles Schumer 54% 54% 63%
Jay Townsend 38% 53% 30%
Undecided 3% 6%
Senate (Special) Quinnipiac SurveyUSA Siena
Kirsten Gillibrand 48% 45% 57%
Joe DioGuardi 42% 44% 31%
Undecided 4% 12%

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What A Night It Had Been

Editor's Note: The times, percentage points, and number of precincts listed are estimates based on the writer's recollection of the evening.

What an insane night it was last night. Here is my story.

My evening did not get interesting until 9pm last night when my class was dismissed. I took the Ram Van down to Lincoln Center. I was told the night before that the Eric Schneiderman and Carolyn Maloney parties would both be at the Grand Hyatt.

On the ride down to Lincoln Center, I was anxiously checking my Twitter feeds for results (Twitter, I find, is one of the best and fastest source available for breaking news). The first surprise of the night came in: Christine O'Donnell, a Tea Party and Sarah Palin-backed Republican, beat moderate Republican Congressman Mike Castle in the Delaware Republican primary. For a candidate of whom I didn't even know until two weeks ago, I was amazed. It was obvious to everyone that the Democrats had just won the Senate seat previously held by Joe Biden. Within minutes, the story on Twitter changed to how Delaware Attorney General, Beau Biden (son of the Vice President) must have been feeling at that moment since he chose not to run for that Senate seat.

I asked a friend for confirmation that the Schneiderman party would be at the Hyatt. I was told it would be, but my friend said that she was at the primary election night party for Assemblyman Jonathan Bing. I responded that I wanted to be at the party with all of the cool kids.

After getting to Lincoln Center, I hailed a cab and I was taken cross-town

By 10 PM, there were some early reportings on NY1. Tea Party-backed Carl Paladino, with about 1% of the precincts reporting, already had a sizable margin of about 35 points over the establishment-backed candidate Rick Lazio. As these numbers showed up on the screen, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer walked past me. Stringer has had a few not-so-nice words to say about Paladino (see: and I found the timing of this scene to be interesting.

The races we all were watching were the 14th Congressional District (Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney versus Reshma Saujani -we cared about the margin of victory; Maloney won with 81% of the vote), the 33rd State Senate District (Gustavo Rivera versus Pedro Espada), and the 39th Assembly District (Francisco Moya versus Hiram Monserrate).

With the early sets of returns, Rivera was leading Espada by about 30 points. Still, there were allegations of dirty tacits by the Espada camp (see: Meanwhile, Monserrate, in the course of 20 minutes, at one point in the evening, went from being 30 points down, to up 30, and down 30 again over Moya.

Of course, the race we all were watching was Attorney General. Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice was taking an early lead of about 10 points over Manhattan State Senator Eric Schniderman with Sean Coffey in 3rd place by only a few percentage points.

By 10:30, it was becoming obvious that Carl Paladino was about to win the Republican Party nomination for Governor. A few minutes later, NY1 announced that Espada had conceded the race. At 11pm, the Associated Press called it for Paladino. That left just one race: Attorney General.

A little after 12am, my group of friends and I decided that we would head to the Schneiderman party. By this point, Schneiderman was up by 3% points over Rice with about 70% of the preciencts reporting. We hailed a cab and headed over the the Grand Hyatt. In attendance at the Schneiderman party were many notable local politicians including Governor David Paterson, Congressman Jerold Nadler, State Senators Daniel Squadron and Eric Adams, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

As the minutes passed, the number of precincts reporting steadily rose. A rumor began to spread that once 90% of the precincts were reporting and Schneiderman was still in the lead, the Senator was going to declare victory. The projector in the ballroom where the party was being held was tuned to Fox5 and then, later, NY1. One of the networks (I can't remember which one) showed the Rice election night party in Carle Place, Long Island. It was completely bare. Not a sole was there. It was empty. The room became very optimistic.

By 1am, my BlackBerry's battery was on its last legs. I grabbed my backpack and sat on the floor in the hallway at an outlet to let it charge. Around 1:10, I heard a chanting coming from the ballroom of "Er-ic! Er-ic! Er-ic!" I knew that either the Senator was up at least one more percentage point, we had reached the magin 90% number, or, maybe, just maybe, someone was ready to declare a victor. I pulled my charger out of the wall socket, shoved it and my BlackBerry into my pants' front right pocket, hoisted my backpack onto a shoulder and dashed into the ballroom.

I arrived exactly when the President of NARAL Pro-Choice NY, Kelli Conlin, began to speak. I didn't have to look at any screen or ask anyone what had happened. The energy of the room said it all. Eric Schneiderman was officially the Democratic Nominee to be the next Attorney General of the State of New York. At the end of his speech, the Senator introduced the next senator from the 33rd Senate District: Gustavo Rivera. Two great winners of the night together. Words cannot describe the feeling we all had/

I didn't get home until 3:00am this morning. I didn't fall asleep until about 4:15 and, even then, it seemed more like dozing than anything else. My voice, as of this writing, still has not recovered. The energy and enthusiasm you get when your candidate wins makes up for it all. If you all want to remember how I felt last night, recall November 4, 2008.

Photos from last night coming soon

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Primary Election Day: A Debut of New Voting Machines

25 years ago, half of all 18-24 year olds voted. Today it's 25%. 18-24 year olds represent 33% of the population but only account for 7% of the voters. Think government isn't about you?

How many of you have student loans to pay? How many of you have credit card debt? How many want clean air and clean water and civil liberties? How many want jobs? How many want kids? How many want their kids to go to good schools and walk on safe streets?

Decisions are made by those who show up. You gotta Rock the Vote!
-CJ Cregg (The West Wing, "College Kids")

It's here! It's here! Primary Election Day is here. Today is the day where we pick our parties nominees for office. It is also the formal debut of the new voting machines in New York.
Being a good voter, I was at my polling place bright and early today. I felt that I was well-prepared with the new voting machines since I had been to a demonstration over the summer and I would be in and out in a few minutes. I was wrong. So, I have a few tips for all of you. This is not meant to be a reference on how to use the new machines, for that, please go to the Board of Elections website. This is just some helpful hints based on my experience this morning.
  • After you get your ballot, take a moment to look over each of the offices listed. Since the paper ballot has to be a fixed size, the offices are no longer limited to single columns. You may have multiple offices grouped into one column. The grouping is not as intuitive as you may think.
  • Read the instructions! Under each office, it will say how many votes you may cast for a single office. For example, my ballot said, under Delegate for Judicial Convention, to vote for any 11 candidates and for Attorney General, to vote for any 1 candidate.
  • DO NOT FOLD YOUR BALLOT! You may think that you are protecting your private vote, but if you fold it, your ballot will be ruled invalid. If you want to keep it secret use the "privacy sleeve" (a manila envelope). When I picked up my ballot after I signed in, I was told that they did not have any privacy sleeves available. I said I wouldn't mind taking and casting my ballot without it. The poll worker, while handed it to me, began to fold it over. I nearly screamed at the poll worker not to fold it since I knew it would be invalidated if she did.
  • Flip it over. Candidates are listed on both sides of the paper ballot.
  • When in doubt, ask for help. Since this is the first time most of us have used the new voting machines and used the new ballots, you may not know how it all works. If you need help, ask a poll worker.
Make sure you get out an vote today. If you care about the air you breathe, the water you drink, the streets on which you drive, you have to do your duty and had to the polls, otherwise your voice is silenced.