By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Local elected officials are urging left-leaning New Yorkers to become political activists, saying there’s been a surge in citizen activism around the country since President Trump took office.
The push was made at an event last Wednesday evening, hosted by State Senator Liz Krueger and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman with an introduction by City Councilmember Dan Garodnick. Garodnick has previously hosted other so-called “State of the Resistance” forums, which offer information about how to get involved in local politics and with non-profit organizations around the city. More than 300 residents attended last week’s event, hosted at the Porshansky Auditorium in the CUNY Graduate Center.
“The state of the resistance is really seen in the burst of local activism since the election,” Garodnick said. “New Yorkers are holding their elected officials accountable. (Constituents) are breaking the all-time record for the number of calls to elected representatives.”
Schneiderman told Krueger that he has seen much of the activism from a legal perspective, especially with the travel ban that was enacted at the end of January.
“That was the beginning of the legal resistance,” Schneiderman said of the lawyers working to help those affected by the ban. “Those of us who view themselves as guardians of the law were offended (by the ban).”
Schneiderman and Krueger discussed immigration, as well as reproductive health and abortion rights, but also generally how New Yorkers can get involved.
“We have tremendous power at the state level,” Schneiderman said. “Town hall meetings have emerged as a check on overreach. People are tuning in to special elections now. We have to take back the states to take back the country.”
Krueger noted that New York State has surprisingly low voter turnout, coming in 48th out of 50, and Schneiderman noted that early voting would help increase voter turnout but has been met with resistance from legislators.
“The ugly secret in New York is that incumbents think having more voters just causes them problems,” he said. “(Early voting) has to be at the heart of our platform. People want to feel in control of their democracy and we shouldn’t have to wait in lines in 2017.”
Krueger noted that some constituents she has spoken to feel overwhelmed about the best way to take action, and Schneiderman advised anyone wanting to get involved to focus on issues they feel strongly about.
“We have to be in this for the long haul,” he said. “This requires a sense of solidarity. It can be an inspiring experience but you have to go with your gut. Whatever you’re most passionate about is where you’ll be most effective.”