Meet Tom Gallagher, the Democratic Socialist Challenging Nancy Pelosi in 2020
Gallagher’s record provides a bold contrast to the rightward drift of the Democratic Party: he was resisting neoliberalism before we called it neoliberalism.. Tom Gallagher knows a thing or two about
By Patrick Maley
Tom Gallagher knows a thing or two about primary elections. Years before the documentary Knock Down the House (2019) brought progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s dramatic primary election victory into the living room of millions of Americans, Gallagher had theorized that path to victory in his pamphlet The Primary Route: How the 99% Take on the Military Industrial Complex (2015). Unlike the third party route pursued by Ralph Nader and the Green Party in the early 2000s, Gallagher argued that by participating in Democratic Party primaries and caucuses, a progressive candidate could reach a larger audience without being accused of being a “spoiler” – a loss by the progressive would not affect the general election outcome, and the scope of the debate would be greatly expanded.
Gallagher now has a chance to test that hypothesis himself. Gallagher is running as a progressive challenger to Nancy Pelosi in the March 3rd Democratic Primary, but in a sense, he has been down this road before. Back in 1986, Gallagher ran in the Democratic primary to succeed another powerful Democratic House Speaker, Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill. As the left-most candidate of a crowded field running for O’Neill’s seat, Gallagher was endorsed by the Boston Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) as well as Duncan Kennedy, the Harvard Professor of Law and key theorist of Critical Legal Studies (an academic movement which examined inherent class biases in law), but withdrew from the race and supported the second place finisher, George Bachrach, who lost to Joseph P. Kennedy II, the son of Robert F. Kennedy (a name which, it’s fair to say, has some cache in Massachusetts). But things have changed in the last three decades.
Following the end of the Cold War, “third way” neoliberal politicians like Bill “the era of big government is over” Clinton, Tony Blair (UK), Junichiro Koizumi (Japan), and others embraced the view that making the rich richer by privatizing public services, cutting taxes, and deregulating finance would somehow create wealth that would ‘trickle down’ – they would just do it, unlike their conservative counterparts, with a smiling face and a more diverse cast. This has failed spectacularly: the deficit is up, debt is up, wage growth has stalled or declined, business investment has slowed, rents are skyrocketing, and more people are starving and homeless. Nowhere is this clearer than in San Francisco, where nearly 400 people have died on the streets since 2016 amid empty, luxury developments. Even worse, by moving their respective center-left parties to the right, the third way politicians left a space for the far-right to provide “answers” to this economic failure in the form of the racist, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant politics we are now living through. Gallagher’s record provides a bold contrast to this rightward drift: he was resisting neoliberalism before we called it neoliberalism.
Raised in the working class Hunts Point section of the South Bronx to an immigrant Irish father, Gallagher was a precocious child, always with a book in his hand to avoid wasting any time, a habit he maintains to this day. He received a scholarship to the Jesuit-run Regis High School in Manhattan where he excelled at his studies (including Latin and Greek), even receiving second place in the Cardinal’s Christian Doctrine Examination (finishing just behind a future priest!), and later going on to study philosophy at Boston College. The author of hundreds of essays, articles, and book reviews, as well as a very funny book about his career as a substitute teacher (Sub: My Years Underground in America’s Schools), Gallagher belongs to the long line of left writer/activist/politicians, stretching from George Bernard Shaw (Gallagher, like Shaw, is a vegetarian), through Tony Benn, to Arundhati Roy, and Ralph Nader – witty, verbal activists who held out for truth as their parties lazily slid to the accommodating right. A clear writer, with an almost Samuel Beckett-like curmudgeonly candor (“Some see in human adolescence proof for the nonexistence of God, while others argue the opposite – that it demonstrates that there is, in fact, a God, but a malevolent one.”) – Gallagher’s philosophical/theological intellectual background, combined with this working class roots, makes him a formidable foe to any third way centrist. He knows of what he speaks. But will people listen?
Gallagher was first elected to public office in 1980, representing the Allston Brighton section of Boston in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Affectionately dubbed “Tommy the Commie”, Representative Gallagher – who was a member of the Boston DSA – became the first declared socialist state representative in Massachusetts since the 1920s and proved himself a champion of working people in the area. He stood up for rate payers against Boston Edison which wanted to pass the costs of the energy company’s failed Pilgrim II nuclear plant on to consumers. At a time when other Democrats were preaching an “era of limits” (in Jerry Brown’s phrase) and pushing for public service reductions, Gallagher rallied to the side of frustrated constituents, speaking in the rain to a crown of 150 community residents protesting the closure of a local police substation. In the early waves of deindustrialization, Gallagher was working on bills for the Massachusetts state legislature which would have required companies to give employees advanced notice of a factory closure (providing the opportunity for the state and unions to step in to save jobs). None of these positions earned the love of a Democratic Party distancing itself from the “left” and clamoring for corporate dollars in the 1980s, much less a Democratic Party preaching the benefits of Thomas Friedman’s “super-flat” global capitalism of the 1990s – but they resonate now. When Senator Bernie Sanders – for whom Gallagher was a delegate -received 13 million votes in 2016, progressive America began to recognize itself again. That is the thing about hindsight, now everyone is a “progressive.”
An anti-war activist since the Vietnam War, Gallagher has remained consistent in his critique of US foreign policy, a critique informed by his experience as a United Nations Elections officer in East Timor and as an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observer in Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Macedonia, Russia, and Ukraine. Gallagher opposed the war in Afghanistan “for the simple reason that the logical and appropriate response to the high jacking of four airplanes [by Saudi and Egyptian nationals] is not the invasion and continuous bombing of another country [Afghanistan]” and authored five antiwar resolutions which the San Francisco Democratic Party adopted. In 2008, he authored Proposition U, a City of San Francisco voter initiative which declared it San Francisco city policy that its federal representatives vote against funding for the deployment of the armed forces in Iraq. While this may have been controversial at the time among some Democrats, opposition to the Iraq war was arguably the main factor in the election of Barack Obama, and became an issue in the 2016 election as well. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 64 percent of military veterans felt the Iraq war was not worth the costs, while 58 percent of felt the same about the Afghanistan war. In March of 2018, Gallagher succeeded in getting the California Democratic Party platform amended to include a time-table for withdrawal from Afghanistan, an end to air strikes, and the cut off of further appropriations except those necessary for a safe and orderly withdrawal.
Among his most ambitious policy proposals is a “Marshall Plan” for Central America. Just as the original Marshall Plan rebuilt the countries of Western Europe after World War II, creating stable, prosperous, and largely democratic counter-balances to the USSR, Gallagher argues the US should invest comparative resources transforming El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – three countries devastated by US interventions and trade agreements – into prosperous, democratic countries. As the majority of asylum seekers are fleeing these countries, this would make more sense than investing in private prisons in the US for those fleeing. With common-sense proposals like these, Gallagher has the potential to attract independent-minded voters turned off by the moral cowardice of many “moderates.”
As would be expected in San Francisco, Gallagher is not the only progressive challenging Pelosi from the left. Shahid Buttar, the legal advocate and community organizer, has also thrown his hat into the ring. No doubt there will be others vying to be the next AOC. While California’s Proposition 14 created an open primary system where two same-party candidates can compete in the final election (remember Feinstein versus de Leon in 2018), this was not used to the advantage of progressives in the last race for Pelosi’s CA District-12 seat. The number of progressive candidates divided the vote, leaving Pelosi facing a hopeless Republican candidate – a missed opportunity in a district where Bernie Sanders received 99,594 votes in 2016. To avoid a repeat of this, Gallagher has suggested San Francisco hold a separate “progressive” primary before the March 3rd Democratic primary. The winner of this separate contest could then go on to the March primary with the united support of progressive San Francisco voters. If a multiparty progressive pre-primary primary sounds a bit far-fetched to you, so did the idea of a 29-year-old candidate taking on the 4th highest ranking Democrat in New York’s 14th District.licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
‘We Will Have Her Back’: Jewish Constituents Rally Behind Rashida Tlaib Amid Trump Attacks
“I can’t wait to show my grandmother how I was supported by all of you—it would bring her so much joy,” said Tlaib, who attended a rally organized by Jewish activists Friday night
By Jake Johnson
Dozens of Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s Jewish constituents rallied in Detroit Friday evening during Shabbat to show solidarity with their congresswoman as she faces attacks from President Donald Trump over her refusal to visit Israel under the Netanyahu government’s restrictive conditions.
Beth Miller, government affairs manager for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Action, which organized the event, applauded Tlaib’s courage and said it is “heartbreaking that Rashida had to spend this evening with us instead of her beloved family.”
“And it’s enraging that the Israeli government would hold a member of Congress’s family hostage unless she agrees to censor herself,” said Miller. “For as long as it’s existed, the Israeli government has forced these kinds of heart wrenching and impossible choices on Palestinians. It’s time for all of us to insist our elected officials hold Israel accountable.”
Tlaib, who attended the rally Friday night, fought back tears as she thanked her constituents for their support.
“I can’t wait to show my grandmother how I was supported by all of you—it would bring her so much joy,” said Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman ever elected to Congress. “Thank you for hearing me, thank you for seeing me, thank you for loving me. And thank you for allowing me to be not just your congresswoman, but also a granddaughter of a grandmother living under occupation.”
— Jewish Voice for Peace (@jvplive) August 16, 2019
The rally came as Trump launched a dehumanizing Twitter attack against Tlaib and her 90-year-old grandmother and accused the Michigan congresswoman of orchestrating a “setup” by refusing to visit Israel.
The Israeli government, with the enthusiastic support of Trump, initially barred both Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from entering the country. After backlash, Israel decided to grant Tlaib permission to visit her grandmother, but the Michigan Democrat ultimately refused to accept the condition that she refrain from expressing support for boycott activities.
“Being silent and not condemning the human rights violations of the Israeli government is a disservice to all who live there, including my incredibly strong and loving grandmother,” Tlaib said in a statement. “This type of oppression is painful for all humanity, but it is especially painful for me personally every time I hear my loving family members cry out for the freedom to live and the right to feel human.”
Tlaib’s Jewish constituents on Friday vowed to continue supporting their congresswoman as she speaks out against the oppression of Palestinians.
Not bad for a few hours notice. A pleasure to share Shabbat dinner in the park with Congresswoman Tlaib. From Detroit to Palestine, she has our love and support! ✊🏽✌🏽 pic.twitter.com/LQRD6u1qoO
— reutweeted (@telushk) August 16, 2019
“We know what Rashida’s values are, because she has served our community so well for years—during her three terms in the Michigan legislature and now in Congress,” said JVP supporter Barbara Harvey. “This community remembers her love for all of us and her passionate commitment to us and to justice for all. We will have her back as long as she is willing to serve.”licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Workers Were Reportedly Ordered Not to Protest or Show Any ‘Resistance’ at Trump Rally in Pennsylvania
“Field reports from the Banana Republic of America.”
By Jake Johnson
Workers in attendance at President Donald Trump’s rally at a Shell plant in Pennsylvania on Tuesday were ordered not to protest or do “anything viewed as resistance” during the event.
That’s according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which reported late Friday on the strict instructions employees were given by their bosses ahead of the event.
“No yelling, shouting, protesting, or anything viewed as resistance will be tolerated at the event,” read orders from one contractor. “An underlying theme of the event is to promote good will from the unions. Your building trades leaders and jobs stewards have agreed to this.”
According to the Post-Gazette, “Several union leaders said they were not consulted about the arrangement before it was sent out.”
Forced demonstrations of loyalty from workers for the dear leader: https://t.co/LFmSFcDkiS
— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) August 17, 2019
Attendance at the rally was not mandatory, according to the Post-Gazette, but workers who opted not to show up lost out on a full day of pay.
As the Post-Gazette reported:
The choice for thousands of union workers at Royal Dutch Shell’s petrochemical plant in Beaver County was clear Tuesday: Either stand in a giant hall waiting for President Donald Trump to speak or take the day off with no pay.
“Your attendance is not mandatory,” said the rules that one contractor relayed to employees, summarizing points from a memo that Shell sent to union leaders a day ahead of the visit to the $6 billion construction site. But only those who showed up at 7 am, scanned their ID cards, and prepared to stand for hours—through lunch but without lunch—would be paid.
“NO SCAN, NO PAY,” a supervisor for that contractor wrote.
Trump’s Pennsylvania event was funded by taxpayers, and thus legally not supposed to be a campaign-style rally—but the president wasted no time making it exactly that.
During the event, Vox reported, “Trump used a slur to demean Sen. Elizabeth Warren, insulted former Vice President Joe Biden as ‘sleepy Joe,’ bragged about poll numbers that he inflated, took credit for legislation signed into law by his predecessor, urged union leaders to vote for him (‘and if they don’t, vote them the hell out of office’), and mused about canceling the 2020 election and serving as many as four terms.”
Critics were quick to denounce the reported orders against any protests as coercive and more befitting of a dictatorship than a democracy.
“Field reports from the Banana Republic of America,” tweeted Bloomberg’s Bobby Ghosh in response to the Post-Gazette‘s story.licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.