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BY JUSTIN GOLDSMAN
In the era of Donald Trump New Jersey should be a progressive beacon to the country, a thriving democracy, where every person’s vote counts the same, where every candidate has an equal opportunity to participate in a democratic electoral nominating process and where billionaires don’t dictate who represents us in Trenton.
Unfortunately, we live instead in the Soprano state, where a few major, mostly unelected, political bosses determine how this state runs. They control members of the Legislature, who write laws to benefit their donors and their corporations – and then, in turn, see that their legislative power remains and grows. This is not democracy. It is an atrophied political system on life support.
That is why in 2017 I started a chapter of Our Revolution, one of 600 international chapters working to restore the common principles of a government that is of, by and for the people. We work tirelessly to advocate for good governance and to transform the Democratic Party into a system that reflects the will of the people. We have worked to elect numerous Democratic candidates, including Governor Murphy.
But now we are seeing leaders of the machine – supposed Democrats – adopt tactics out of the Trump playbook to try to stop an independent investigation of lucrative corporate giveaways to politically connected businesses.
Senate President Steve Sweeney has threatened to hold the governor’s progressive agenda hostage over the issue.
Now, George Norcross, an unelected insurance broker with a stranglehold over South Jersey and a Mar-a-Lago membership, has filed a lawsuit designed to halt the investigation – which is looking into millions of dollars in tax credits awarded to his company – in its tracks.
In this battle, we are confronted with two radically different visions of our state. Governor Murphy is pushing an agenda based on social and economic progress for working families. Meanwhile, Norcross and his friends in the Legislature are seeking to prevent scrutiny and transparency at all costs.
We have reached the pinnacle of Trumpian politics.
The governor’s task force isn’t pursuing a political agenda. It’s composed of former prosecutors and respected attorneys and is dedicated to rooting out corruption.
Our tax dollars shouldn’t be spent on companies that, according to whistleblowers, reported phantom jobs to the state in order to qualify for subsidies. They shouldn’t be spent on projects that benefit Norcross’ company and his friends with a fancy new corporate headquarters – complete with a helipad – on the Camden waterfront. They should be invested in good schools, infrastructure and programs that benefit ordinary New Jersey residents.
True progressives would be working with the governor to enact a millionaire’s tax to make needed investments in our future – not fighting against an investigation that has already raised serious concerns about an $11 billion tax credit program.
This year, grassroots advocates are on the ground in swing districts across the state to build off of last year’s blue wave by flipping seats in the Legislature.
Yet voters in these districts respond to true progressive policies and a clear message of reform. The type of politics practiced by the machine discourages voter participation and makes it more difficult to draw a contrast between Democratic values and the actions of Republicans in Washington.
The progressive grassroots aren’t going to stand by while unelected party bosses like George Norcross subvert our party’s values.
Don’t be sick of politics. Be sick of corruption. The only antidote to that corruption is to get involved and let the establishment and political bosses know that we’re not gonna take it, anymore!
Justin Goldsman is chairman of Our Revolution Essex County NJ