Privilege and Politics: Why I Changed My Vote

Please note: this article was frantically written at 9am after Ryan Grim direct messaged me on Twitter with his published piece. You should read it first before reading this story. Thanks!

My name is Nick Haby, and this may be the last time you hear from me after I’m destroyed by the Queens Democratic Party. It’s a bold statement, I know, but it may prove to be truer than Russian collusion. You should probably read this first and then the rest of this blog post. Here’s my story.

I am a current resident in Astoria, NY, a registered Democrat, and a political activist. I was born in Colombia and was adopted at only nine weeks old. I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey in an upper middle class family and in a town noted as top 30 best places to live in the country, according to Money Magazine. I studied architecture in college and pursued a career in digital marketing. I moved to Astoria in 2015, and it’s been a wild ride since.

I supported Hillary Clinton throughout 2016. It was after my first organizing event “Astoria for Hillary” that I ran all by myself that I got on the radar of local Democrats in Astoria. I joined the Powhatan & Pocahontas Regular Democratic Club in April 2016. A year later, I became the Chairman of the Marketing and Social Media Committee. I’ve met so many passionate people who are smart and determined to save our democracy. However, for a “Democratic Club,” the club’s organizational structure and political influence is not very democratic.

The woman at the top of the club is AnneMarie Annzalone. She is the female District Leader for my district in Astoria. She’s also the District Campaign Manager for Joe Crowley. He’s the incumbent for House District 14, who’s also slated to become Speaker of the House.

Before I really knew much about Alexandria Ocacio-Cortez’s campaign, I was at Joe Crowley’s Queens campaign office opening back in February. Everyone in Queens local politics was there, including city officials like Tish James. Everyone wants to support their congressman, including me.

It was at that event, AnneMarie wanted to talk to me for a few minutes. I simply obliged not knowing what to expect. Later in the event, she pulled me aside in a tiny office, locked the door, and began asking questions. For the marketing and social media for the club, I wanted to include Sister District and Swing Left in an organizing event that I was planning for March 3. (Side note, that event took place and was one of Powhatan’s most successful events, boasting over 50 people in attendance. I even had a Joe Crowley representative present.) She was concerned that those groups would be in conflict with Joe’s campaign. I assured her they support Joe or don’t get involved in races until after the primary. What she revealed next was shocking to me: that if people don’t like the candidates “the club” supports or the things we do, they can find another club. Shortly after, she said that she would die for her boss. Yes, she’s so committed to her work that she would die for Joe Crowley. I mean, I’ve had some great bosses, but would you die for yours? So the idea that local Democrats who disagree with you are meant to be exiled from a democratic club AND the fact that she said she’d die for Joe, showed me that this is all very deliberate. It’s all about power.

It was a hard pill to swallow, but I respect any woman who is competitive and serious about her job. A man can do it and we don’t judge. A woman can do it, but she gets criticized for it. I took her words and kept them in the back of my mind.

I continued to support Joe and his campaign. I later went on to phonebank for him, and I petitioned for him. It wasn’t until I had a few close friends started whispering in my ear about Alexandria that she was on my radar. Those close friends of mine came to my March 3rd organizing event to support me, but they were not happy with Joe Crowley’s representative. Now they did support Bernie whole heartedly in 2016, so we were still at odds with each other politically. But after hundreds of hours of conversations, YouTube videos of The Young Turks, heated discussions, talking to people on social media, and progressive articles, I slowly began to change my perspective.

You see, the Democratic Party lost in 2016 because they did not embrace the progressive wing of the party. We saw that at the DNC and even after with the election of Tom Perez over Keith Ellison. So by shutting out these voices, the base was not energized. The progressive wing had to regroup among their own circles in order to fight back. And fight back they did. As I kept a close eye on the 2017 races and the 2018 special elections, I noticed that progressive candidates, women, and people of color all started to win races across the country. Change was happening in America, but it seemed stagnant here in Queens. Queens County, mind you, has over 2 million constituents and is literally the most diverse county in the country. Why has our leadership not reflected the population let alone made the changes like the rest of the country? Well, simply put, there’s one man responisble for that: Joe Crowley.

Joe Crowley is at the top of the Democratic Party in Queens. He’s the chairman of the Queens Democratic Party. He’s a district leader. He’s on an executive board. He is also our congressman. His power is so deep rooted in the county that it’s hard for any challenger to rise up, especially someone like Ocasio-Cortez.

I learned more about Alexandria and her campaign after my best friend invited me to one of her organizing rallies. He came to my event with Crowley, so it was only fair. I didn’t know much about her, but it wasn’t until I entered the church basement in Jackson Heights that room had a very different energy than Joe Crowley’s events. The room was buzzing, hip hop music was playing, and there were so many people of color all excited and ready for Alexandria. I took my seat near the front with my friends as we waited for her to speak. When she finally came to the front of the room, I was in awe. Short, stylish, and bright-eyed, she really had this presence that lit up the room. From the second she opened her mouth to the time she ended her speech, I was transfixed. Alexandria spoke from the heart about her life, her campaign, and her vision for District 14. She had so much fire in her heart that I started to tear up. It brought back all those memories of Hillary Clinton fighting so hard to break that glass ceiling. And here is the legacy of Hillary Clinton and any woman running for office standing right here in front of me. The fact Alexandria is looking to unseat a privileged white man who has been in the same seat since 1999 plays all into establishment politics that was happening at the national level. Now that brings me to that one fateful Sunday in May.

(Don’t forget to read: https://theintercept.com/2018/06/09/joe-crowley-alexandria-ocasio-cortez/)

I was invited by two close friends of mine, Andy & Paula, to a small gathering at their apartment with Joe Crowley. They wanted people they knew who either supported him or wanted to know more about him to have the opportunity to speak with him. The event was great. People asked a lot of questions, and Joe had some pretty solid responses in terms of policy and substance. It wasn’t until they were wrapping up the Q&A that I asked the last question of the night. I had a lengthy intro, but I essentially asked “Congressman, after you win the primary, what are you going to do to re-engage voters from the progressive wing who did not support you, particularly with issues regarding campaign finance reform and healthcare, specifically single payer?”

In all honesty, Joe had a solid response. He answered my question directly where he said he believes corporations need more transparency for who they’re donating to and need to be held accountable. He also said he believes in universal healthcare for all but did not specifically mention single payer. If he left the answer at that, I’d be appreciative. It wasn’t until moments later, he upset me with his notorious comment: “In regards to my opponent, who likes to make this about race…it’s not my fault I was born white.”

It’s not his fault he was born white. It’s not anybody’s fault that they’re born. It’s not my fault I was born in Colombia, was adopted, and grew up in an upper middle class family. However, I use my white privilege to help others. I use my white privilege to call out those who are wrong. I use my white privilege to help others rise up in the system that’s inherently racist and sexist. It’s absurd that a man slated for the Speaker of the House thinks it’s okay to dismiss his primary opponent because she’s a woman of color; his own belief that he said that night, “I was born to be in this role I am today,” is dripping with so much white privilege that it could fill the Grand Canyon!

I left the event feeling bothered by his comments, though I was still unsure about voting for him. It wasn’t until the very next day a fellow club member and friend of mine sent me an article that stated Joe Crowley endorsed Jose Peralta. Peralta is the current State Senator for NY District 13 who became a member of the IDC. He voted against progressive reforms countless times. I actually have been working very closely with Jessica Ramos and her campaign. She’s challenging Peralta for his seat. She’s a woman of color, too, who has been fighting for marginalized groups and progressives throughout Queen for years.

The fact Joe Crowley endorsed this man plays right into the establishment politics that locks out women like Ramos and Ocasio-Cortez from even entering the playing field. Did you notice that I used their last names? Did you catch that? Now you’ll understand why I will continue fighting for progressive women of color and why my vote will go to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on June 26.

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