By Ed and Cindy Leahy
According to recent reports, efforts are underway by the Democratic Party leadership to bring to heel members of the Independent Democratic Caucus, a group of eight elected state senators who vote as a bloc and are currently aligned with Republicans.
Members of the IDC are threatened with a loss of funding and petition-gathering support, and presumably primary challenges if they do not return to the fold. Included in this group is Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst).
Sen. Peralta has made clear that he joined the IDC because it is not enough to simply assume the electorate will sweep Democrats into office in 2018, and it is not enough to state only what the party is against. Democrats must state what they are for — a strong, coherent statement of both principles and proposed actions.
While the national Democratic leadership has struggled with this, Sen. Peralta’s oft-repeated message is one of progressive economic and social justice. In the recently adopted state budget, he provided an excellent practical example by advocating a $55 million allocation for improved salaries for direct care workers for people with disabilities, which was passed, and which the governor signed into law.
The issues that Sen. Peralta has embraced are bedrock Democratic Party principles dating back to the New Deal: living wages, workers’ protections, safety for the disadvantaged and harmony in our communities. His constituent services team has addressed thousands of people’s problems, including issues involving housing, immigration, safety, employment and quality of life. Peralta listens to his constituents and takes action on their behalf.
We live in a time of unprecedented polarization. Not since the Civil War have we as a country been so divided. Representative democracy is built on the fundamental principle of negotiation and compromise. What our country needs most is not further polarization, or legislators marching in ideological lock-step, but dedicated representatives serving their electorate, working through differences, reaching workable solutions to problems.
People talk about cleaning up Albany. Sen. Peralta has already grabbed a scrub brush. Dont let them take it out of his hands.
Ed and Cindy Leahy