A notice appeared on Facebook yesterday from actress Diane Neal announcing the kickoff of her campaign for congress in NY-19 as an independent. The State Board of Elections had rejected her candidate petition, invalidating 1,800 of her 4,100 signatures, which left her with less than the minimum, but she appealed on a procedural technicality and won a place on the ballot, at least for now.
Yes, you read that right. According to her own ad, Neal is kicking off her campaign on September 27th, six weeks before the midterms. To be fair, she announced her run in February (still late in the game) but never did the work that other candidates were doing, nor has she raised much money, which she claims is unimportant. It takes a special kind of arrogance to believe–assuming she actually believes–that a third-party candidacy has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning in the current political climate, especially with a popular candidate like Delgado (who has been working the campaign trail hard for a year-and-a-half) running against an incumbent GOP insider like Faso. For a newcomer like Delgado to poll at 45% (to Faso’s 43%) outside of the two week window before the election–when most voters begin to focus on the candidates–is an achievement.
I won’t vote for Neal. I don’t question her motives, and at this point they don’t matter. The bad judgment she demonstrated in establishing and conducting her last-minute candidacy is disqualifying, and insults the district and the progressive voters who have been working so hard for so long.
Thousands of NY-19 residents–most of whom had never participated in politics, many of whom were unaffiliated–rose in unison after Trump’s inauguration in January of 2017 and began organizing. Many formed autonomous groups like Indivisible, and some joined established groups like Citizen Action, MoveOn and the Democratic party. We networked and began to build alliances, holding actions, events, forums and socials. Congressional candidates quickly emerged and reached out to us, and we met with each of them and got to know them, seeing them at event-after-event for more than a year preceding the primaries. These events weren’t limited to Democrats, but Diane Neal was nowhere to be seen, and has never been a noticeable part of the resistance to Trump and Faso in our district. She tweets about talking to “people I see every day,” and “I know my people,” but that’s not enough. She should have been doing what the other candidates were doing–traversing the district holding events and knocking on doors. That’s what candidates do. She didn’t reach out to our Indivisible group nor did she participate in any meaningful way in area activism. A real candidate would have engaged with the resistance, would have joined in protests, would have built a presence alongside the other candidates. A real candidate would have actively endeavored to hear from voices outside her local circle. But Neal did very little, if any, of that.
Furthermore, in interviews and statements Neal said she was motivated to run because of the vitriol and negativity of both parties and candidates, and because both parties take corporate money. But while the Faso campaign has been a cesspool of deception and vile dog whistles, the Delgado campaign has maintained a relatively positive tone and tried to keep the conversation focused on solutions to the issues that concern NY-19. Neal employs the old “both parties are equally corrupt and bad” trope in the great tradition of perennial loser Ralph Nader, but it’s a sham. Purity tests are part of what has held the Democrats back in recent cycles. The “logic” goes something like this:
- Democrats and Republicans both take corporate money, so they are the same.
It’s not much different than:
- A mouse and an elephant are both mammals, so they are the same.
It’s a position that doesn’t allow for nuance or proportion, and it leads to inane conclusions like “a Gore presidency would have been no different than a Bush presidency,” or “a Clinton presidency would have been no different than a Trump presidency.” People who still cling to fantasies like these are not worth arguing with.
To think that Neal can be a spoiler now is preposterous, and trivializes the blood, sweat and tears of thousands of volunteers–Democrat, Independent, Unaffiliated and some Republican–who have been working hard to bring Antonio Delgado to the brink of victory. Those volunteers from across the political spectrum have spent the last twenty months making in investment in a great candidate, Delgado, and to imagine that they would suddenly break from him in large numbers is delusional. This conclusion isn’t the product of negativity, nor is it made to elicit fear. It’s a pragmatic observation based in reality. It doesn’t take any special genius to see that Neal would need to win over a large portion of the activists who have been working hard to elect Delgado, and that simply won’t happen. Neal describes herself as a progressive, so it’s fair to assume her candidacy will have the greatest negative impact on the Delgado candidacy in a similar manner to Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential race between Gore and Bush–just how negative is anyone’s guess. For this reason, it also makes sense to wonder whether conservative groups will give her money or Russian bots will re-tweet her posts. In the end, it won’t matter to her chances of winning, which are close to zero.
With Trump running amok in Washington, destroying every thing he touches, and Faso staying silent and failing to be a check on executive power or corruption, the stakes have never been higher. Neal has every right to run, and we have every right to call her run ridiculous and reject her disrespectful, uneven, last-minute candidacy.
Let’s keep working to Fire Feckless Faso and elect Antonio Delgado.