As I reflect on the recent midterm election, I am both breathing a sigh of relief and also shaking my head in disbelief. While Democrats had a far more successful night nationally than expected, on Long Island and across New York State, fear, dishonesty, and racism prevailed. We have much work to do.
I am relieved that Gov. Kathy Hochul defeated Congressman Lee Zeldin. Mr. Zeldin’s positions on issues including fracking, reproductive rights, and gun safety would be harmful to this state. His vote to overturn the 2020 presidential election, hours after the violent insurrection at the Capitol, marks him as someone who does not respect free and fair elections.
The loss of state and congressional seats in New York, coupled with the narrow win of Gov. Hochul, ought to give the Democratic Party pause. The Hochul campaign seemed to cede Long Island to Mr. Zeldin, and barely engaged the base out here. This cost us Democratic seats down ballot at the congressional and state level.
Jay Jacobs serves as both the state party chair and the Nassau Democratic chair. Rich Schaffer serves as the Suffolk County Democratic chair. Under their leadership, Long Island has bled seats for several election cycles, at the local, state, and federal level. Democrats deserve better leadership. In any failing organization, the leaders must be held accountable. It is past time for new leadership in the Democratic Party.
When I think about what should come next for the Democratic Party, I believe it’s a long overdue moment of self-reflection. Women are vulnerable, with their reproductive rights under attack. Communities of color are over-policed and disproportionately incarcerated. Young people struggle to live in the place they were raised. The income inequality and segregation on Long Island is staggering.
Despite this, too many Democrats aim to “work with the other side.” As a prime Democratic voter, I am not seeking a kumbaya moment with insurrectionists and their sympathizers. I want my daughter’s reproductive rights to be protected. I want my children to not live in a world of school shootings and lockdown drills. I want affordable housing for the next generation. I want to protect our climate. It is time for Democrats to affirm our values, and stop cowering and pandering. That is how Democrats on Long Island can stop themselves from becoming a minority party.
Despite my disappointments, I remain hopeful. When I speak with young people, I see their passion for environmental, social, economic, and racial justice. Gen Z came out to vote in historic numbers this year, and was key to Democratic success across the country. Our youth are the future, and they are grounded in hope and action, not bigotry and fear. And for that reason, I will continue to fight the good fight, alongside and in solidarity with my children’s generation, who deserve to inherit a better world.
Shoshana Hershkowitz is a Democratic activist, music educator, musician and writer. She lives in South Setauket.
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