REVESZ: Eidelson for real leftism

For American leftists, politics can be painful. We liberals are too often stuck watching our preferred candidates appease a center-right electorate. From John DeStefano to Joe Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67 to Barack Obama, Yale students are represented by those who refuse to advocate for the ideas of the median Yale voter.

That’s why, for progressives, next week’s Ward 1 aldermanic election should be a breath of fresh air. In Sarah Eidelson ’12, Yalies have the opportunity to elect an alderwoman who not only shares our beliefs, but who also pushes for them in a way that rises above the conventional calculus of centrist capitulation.

Too often, Yalies seek office to pad resumes or make superficial connections. Such ambition may be harmless in student organizations, but it’s deeply unfair when it affects New Haven, a city with the 30th-highest income inequality in America and a town-gown divide sharper than every one of Yale’s peer schools.

Eidelson’s campaign has been reassuring from the get-go: She is clearly not a career politician seeking the position to expedite a Senate run in 20 years. Her desire to stay beyond graduation in New Haven — a city she knows and loves — demonstrates that she is running for all the right reasons.

Eidelson’s commitment to the people of New Haven is reflected in her genuinely progressive policies. Her advocacy for enhanced living wage and nondiscrimination laws should encourage students who seek progressive solutions to pressing issues of class, race, gender and sexual orientation. Her ideas for community policing have the potential to improve the strained relationship between New Haven’s law enforcement and its residents, and her calls for a more transparent Board of Aldermen ought to reassure cynics who believe it’s impossible to reform local government.

Best of all, Eidelson doesn’t apologize for her stances. She admits that, while Yale and New Haven’s interests are mostly aligned, the University’s privileged status in a cash-strapped city demands critical examination. For instance, while her opponent, Vinay Nayak ’14, unquestioningly echoes the Yale administration’s reading of the 1990 agreement to close High and Wall Streets, Eidelson supports the Board of Aldermen’s decision to seek independent counsel regarding the agreement’s renewal provisions. This stance may cost Sarah the votes of Woodbridge Hall’s more determined partisans. But those who believe in putting people over institutions should applaud her stance.

Nayak has suggested some promising policies that the next alderman — whoever that may be — should consider. Yet his plans to enact them, as articulated at last week’s debate, are troubling. Nayak apparently views the role of the Ward 1 alderman as a voice brokering deals between squabbling, partisan blocs that ostensibly comprise the rest of the board.

This picture of New Haven politics ignores this year’s primary elections, in which dynamic, progressive grassroots challengers uprooted many of the incumbents who contributed most to the Board’s reputation for gridlock. Nayak’s reliance on the narrative of obstructionist aldermen needing a Ward 1 alderman as negotiator smacks of overconfidence. More importantly, it marks a profound misunderstanding of the dynamics of the incoming Board and the role of the Ward 1 alderman on it — a misunderstanding which would hamper Nayak’s ability to enact his policy proposals.

Eidelson, on the other hand, understands that we need more than a self-appointed mediator as our representative — politics necessitates picking a side. As her endorsements from the surrounding area’s future aldermen suggest, she is unafraid to build strong relationships with others on the board who share her values. Eidelson has demonstrated a willingness to act not as a power broker but as a partner with those who, like her, want to fight for a more just, more livable New Haven.

In an ugly nadir of an otherwise clean campaign, Nayak’s campaign manager complained on these pages that the Eidelson campaign has volunteers who don’t attend Yale — as if that were a bad thing. Those comments only reinforce a problematic town-gown divide that Eidelson strives to overcome.

She has earned the support of New Haven’s non-college residents through her summers registering voters and staffing another aldermanic campaign; she deserves ours for her commitment to reject insular politics. Leftists should be thrilled that Sarah’s campaign is already bringing together New Haven’s various constituencies.

For those who identify as liberal, progressive or leftist, Sarah Eidelson is the clear choice for Ward 1 alderwoman. For her superior policies, experience and rhetoric, the Yale Political Union’s Party of the Left unanimously voted last week to support her candidacy. We, who have been disappointed by countless candidates for political office, know that Sarah is different. Her courageous, unwavering campaign deserves Yale students’ support.

Joshua Revesz is a junior in Calhoun College and the Chair of the Party of the Left of the Yale Political Union. Contact him at joshua.revesz@yale.edu. 

Comments

  • River_Tam

    > For her superior policies, experience and rhetoric, the Yale Political Union’s Party of the Left unanimously voted last week to support her candidacy.

    The only thing scarier than the PoL is the PoR.

  • bcrosby

    As a PoL member and Ward 1 voter, I’m incredibly excited that Josh wrote this piece. I’m thrilled to see Josh take a party of the YPU – an organization which, despite its ostensibly political nature and mission, is often actually rather peripheral to actual politics on campus – and involve it so directly in this crucial election. I’m even more thrilled that the PoL is supporting Sarah; for all the reasons that Josh so ably lays out above (and more!), Sarah is a fantastic candidate and will be a wonderful alderperson!

  • yayasisterhood

    Is this supposed to help her?

  • RexMottram08

    enhanced living wage and nondiscrimination laws = more unemployment

    community policing = more crime

    Leftism fails every time, all the time.

  • btcl

    Regardless of how one feels about the two campaigns, make attacks on policies, not about the character of someone you probably don’t know very well. It seems obvious that Nayak has put a lot of time and energy into his campaign and cares a lot even if you don’t agree with his stances, so don’t say that he is only running to pad his resume. There are millions of activities that sound impressive on paper that require a lot less energy to do. Also, how can you say that Nayak is a career politician? I don’t understand how someone who is 19 years old can be a “career politician”

  • btcl

    Moreover, on a policy level, it is absolutely ridiculous that Revesz thinks Sarah’s stance on the Wall St./High St. contract is commendable. There have been a million debates over the past month over whether the Ward 1 Alderman should only deal with issues affecting Yale or should rather work for New Haven generally. I think an issue like “Ban the Box” is different than this one. Obviously no Yalies are felons, and thus it doesn’t directly affect the Ward 1 Alderman’s constituency, but the stance the alderman takes does not hurt his constituency either. But the contract issue is different, because opening High and Wall Streets would tangibly affect the lives of all Yale students. Thus, it is unacceptable for someone to fill a political position that is meant to give Yale students a voice in town-gown matters and not advocate for our interests.

  • bcrosby

    @btcl: Nowhere does Josh accuse Vinay of being a career politician or running to pad his resume. Josh is just noting that Sarah’s decision to run comes out of sustained engagement with and commitment to the city of New Haven – a commitment amply demonstrated by her decision to stay in the Elm City after graduation regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s contest.

  • bcrosby

    @bctl: Also, you seem to misunderstand Sarah’s position on the High/Wall Streets closure. She has stated over and over again that she supports the streets remaining closed. However, she also supports the Board of Aldermen’s decision – taken despite some pretty blatant bullying by members of the Yale administration – to seek independent legal counsel to better explain the vaguely-written renewal provisions of the 1990 agreement. As I see it, this isn’t at all about whether or not the streets should remain closed – they clearly should. What this is about is the influence of large, powerful, not-democratically-accountable institutions in governance – and I applaud Sarah for her principled stance in favor of a truly independent Board of Aldermen, willing to stand up to even the Yale administration. I don’t want a representative of Woodbridge Hall as my alderperson (Woodbridge Hall is doing fine by itself). I want a representative of Ward 1 – that is, us.

  • anonymouz

    I still can’t see voting for a college student, or even a recent graduate for any office other than student government.

  • elijah

    Wow, I’m impressed. I wasn’t expecting to be convinced by a YDN op-ed to vote for anybody, but this is really compelling. Why Sarah’s campaign hasn’t been clearer in highlighting the differences between her and Vinay that *aren’t* her years of experience in New Haven is beyond me.

    I think one thing ought to be mentioned that hasn’t been — it seems like the two candidates have actually starkly different understandings of the role of the Ward 1 Alderman. If you ask me, Yalies don’t need protection from their representative. I don’t want the alderman to fight for Yale students’ benefits, we have Yale to give us all the benefits we need. Sarah is the candidate that seems to care about solving problems that affect New Haven residents all across the city; she’s got my vote.

  • Jess

    I’m sort of amused by some of the negative comments some (not just here, but in the real world) have put forth about Sarah’s idea of the Ward 1 position as not being purely about representing the Yale students’ “interests.” Do Yalies really think that, without their Ward 1 Alderperson playing the Yale partisan card blindly, the interests of Yale students would go unserved? That’s a view so ridiculously detached from reality that it’s actually hilarious.

  • yayasisterhood

    Representatives ought to serve their constituents’ interests. It is only a peculiar combination of privilege and condescension that makes a small group of Yalies think otherwise.

  • bcrosby

    @yayasisterhood: And Sarah will serve the interests of Yale students, not the administration or anyone else. Jess’s point, I think, is that to paint the interests of Yale students as utterly divergent from those of folks in the rest of New Haven – and identical with those of the Yale administration – is a rather impoverished view.

  • jwr

    @yayasisterhood: so as a Yale student I think my interests ought to be much more aligned with New Haven’s other residents than with the Yale administration. Let’s be totally selfish for a minute: what do I want from a Board of Aldermen? I want to feel totally safe walking to Union Station at 10:00 PM. I want New Haven to be a sufficiently welcoming place for businesses (restaurants/stores/etc.) that will improve my college experience. I want to feel less like Yale exists in a privileged bubble. Yes, I want those streets to remain closed – but it’s frankly immaterial to my undergraduate experience how much Yale pays for that lease, and it’s a misunderstanding of university dynamics to argue otherwise. So the point of my piece wasn’t “the Ward 1 alderman should vote the interests of New Haven’s non-Yale residents over those of Yale students” – that’s a reductionist mindset that doesn’t work. Politicians should represent their constituents, you’re right – but at least in the context of the Board of Aldermen, for Yale students that almost entirely consists of making New Haven a more livable place for *everyone.*

  • btcl

    @bcrosby
    Except that there clearly are issues where “the interests of Yale students are utterly divergent from those of folks in the rest of New Haven” and the High/Wall closure is one of them. If New Haven seeks independent legal counsel, there is more of a chance, regardless of how much more, that Woodbridge won’t want to pay a lot more and the streets will be reopened. Taking against Sarah in this issue isn’t acting as a mouthpiece for Woodbridge Hall – rather it’s saying that the Ward 1 Alderperson should give students a mechanism of protection against Woodbridge Hall in case administrators ever forget the opinions of the students they’re representing (especially since there is a more direct check on the alderperson than on administrators). I’m fine with it if Sarah wants to stand up to Woodbridge on cases where Woodbridge is bad for students, but not the other way around. The Ward 1 Alderperson needs to care about their constituency for New Haven to actually have representative government.

  • jwr

    @btcl: it’s a complete strawman to say that there’s *any* chance that those streets will be reopened and people ought to realize that. Yale wants those streets closed. New Haven, frankly, also wants those streets closed, they just want compensation. This is a *purely* financial disagreement that really only affects Yale students in that either the Yale Corporation will have slightly more money (relative to its total assets) or New Haven’s local government will have more-than-slightly more money (relative to its total assets). Given that a Ward 1 alderman should be of somewhat torn loyalties, here, it seems to me like in this situation having an independent counsel review the agreement is an entirely reasonable way of moving forward with the dispute – certainly more so than reflexively adopting one side’s view over the other’s.

  • Spider14

    Yes, there is no chance the streets in question will be reopened, nor does New Haven even want them to be. But the question then becomes whether or not the alderman representing Yale students should be advocating for New Haven’s hiring a counsel, whose purpose would be to intimidate Yale into paying New Haven some amount of compensation.
First, I think one can raise legitimate questions about whether it’s right for New Haven to spend money on hiring a lawyer just so that it can extract more of Yale’s money to maintain a status quo that Yale has already paid for. Lawsuits should be about genuine issues, not about creating enough of a stir to make one party pay the other more money just to shut them up.
But regardless, maybe New Haven should hire a counsel–I don’t have much of a problem with their getting outside legal advice on the original contract. The issue is whether our representative should be the one advocating for this, or if he or she should rather be on the (very reasonable) side of not trying to reopen what is clearly a closed case.

    Revesz’ belief that “those who believe in putting people over institutions should applaud [Eidelson’s] stance” is simplistic, naïve, and, frankly, offensive to anyone on the other side. Institutions are made up of people. They exist to serve people’s needs and interests. Yale, in this case, serves our interests. Its money goes to our housing, meals, and academic experience. The less money it has, the less we get in services or the more we must pay in tuition. Even if the amount in question here wouldn’t make a gigantic difference in any of these things, I don’t think the Ward 1 alderman should be taking New Haven’s side in one of the very few issues that seems to pit Yale against New Haven (and on that note, one can make a good case that extracting money from New Haven’s largest employer in a period of financial stress, when Yale already had to make cuts in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, does not serve New Haven’s interests).

  • Spider14

    There is, moreover, a meanness and arrogance in Revesz’ writing. I, personally, am an Eidelson supporter. However, I trust that both candidates genuinely want to do their best for Yale and New Haven. Revesz seems to imply otherwise, saying that, “Too often, Yalies seek office to pad resumes or make superficial connections. Such ambition may be harmless in student organizations, but it’s deeply unfair when it affects New Haven”. He goes on to say that Eidelson “is clearly not a career politician seeking the position to expedite a Senate run in 20 years.” The clear implication is that Nayek is a career politician, seeking the position for his own advancement. This is a mean-spirited implication that Revesz does not back up at all. It is clear to me, from Nayek’s previous work in his home town and with the Board of Alderman last year, that while he may envision a career in public service, that is because he genuinely cares about issues he will put work into solving. I think it’s wrong to make out Nayak’s campaign to be an egotistical and résumé building exercise without providing any evidence.

  • JE14

    The title convinced me to vote for Vinay.

  • bcrosby

    @Spider 14: I really don’t think anyone is accusing Vinay of wanting to be a career politician. Josh is just noting that Yalies in general often seek out leadership roles (in campus organizations and the like) for rather self-serving reasons – and that it’s a good thing that Sarah ISN’T doing that. I don’t know Vinay as well; I hope the same is true for him and it seems like it probably is. But I think it’s pretty indisputable, as Josh points out, that Sarah is deeply, deeply committed to the city of New Haven – not her own future career, whatever that may be, nor even progressive ideas abstractly, but this specific city and the specific people who make it up. You said you’re a supporter, so this probably isn’t news to you, but I do think it bears repeating: Sarah’s demonstrated commitment to this city is a particular strength of hers. I don’t think saying this is to bash Vinay; I just think it highlights what a particularly unique candidate Sarah is.

  • jwr

    @Spider14: I tried my hardest to be clear where I was drawing comparisons between Sarah and Vinay, and where I was praising Sarah as an exceptional candidate regardless of her opponent(s). I hope it’s clear that the paragraph about Sarah’s reasons for running falls in the latter category, and apologize if I didn’t succeed in giving off that impression! Let’s resist the temptation to view this race as more adversarial than it needs to be – I *don’t* want a candidate who views this office as a stop on a way to greater things, and I feel confident saying Sarah isn’t that sort of candidate. I think you (and the two columns above mine) make a persuasive case that Vinay isn’t as well. In order to support Sarah, we don’t have to demonize Vinay – and vice-versa. It’s totally fair, of course, to highlight differences – but I tried to make those differences explicit. I’m very sorry you think my piece is “mean” and assure you that’s because you’re reading comparisons where none were intended!

  • bcrosby

    Moreover, on the High/Wall streets issue: I don’t think it’s entirely fair to accuse the Board of Aldermen of “reopening what is clearly a closed case.” The 1990 agreement to close the two streets clearly stipulated that it was to be reviewed in 20 years – the question is what exactly the review should be about, and it’s a question upon which the agreement (I’ve read it) is pretty unclear…that’s why the BoA felt it needed to consult legal counsel. To state that the aldermen are simply trying to ‘extort’ Yale assumes a certain reading of the 1990 agreement, a reading which may not be correct.

    Further, you seem to be collapsing the distinction between Yale students and the Yale administration in your criticism of Sarah’s stance, assuming that the Yale administration is nothing more than an advocate for our interests. I feel pretty strongly that this empirically isn’t true – I’m not out to demonize Woodbridge Hall, but at the same time the administration (itself not a monolithic entity) has other constituents, other priorities beyond just its students (see, for example, the decision to decrease financial aid allowances, made without student input or involvement). It’s not a bad thing that the administration has other constituencies (I’m very glad, for example, the Yale’s workers have forced the university to take their concerns and interests into account), nor is it true that all of these other constituencies have interests opposed to ours (consider the recent involvement of both students and workers opposing the unilateral decision to close Commons for dinner) but it is true – and so to suggest that the administration is always simply looking out for us, and that we thus owe it our support, seems to worryingly understate the organizational complexity of the modern research university. At the end of the day, I want an alderperson responsible firstly to her/his constituents, and then to the people of the city as a whole – and not to powerful, not-democratically-accountable institutions, benign or not.

  • btcl

    “but at the same time the administration (itself not a monolithic entity) has other constituents, other priorities beyond just its students.”

    This is exactly the point I was trying to make earlier, when I said that since Woodbridge Hall is NOT 100% our representative, we fully need a representative on the Board of Alderman as much as any other district in New Haven. This is why we need Sarah to care about Yale interests, which a lot of voters in this race clearly fail to recognize (see below, copied from elijah’s comment above, an argument that has been thrown about a lot in this race, usually to Sarah’s benefit).

    “If you ask me, Yalies don’t need protection from their representative. I don’t want the alderman to fight for Yale students’ benefits, we have Yale to give us all the benefits we need.”

  • bcrosby

    @btcl: Then at that particular point I don’t disagree with you. And more importantly, I don’t think Sarah does either. Consider the two campaign-slogans-of-sorts: Vinay’s “With V, For New Haven” and Sarah’s “I want to live in a New Haven where…”: Vinay’s doesn’t mention the particular needs or interests of his constituency at all, unlike Sarah’s. While both candidates are committed to seeing a changed New Haven, I think it’s Sarah who has more clearly articulated the link between a juster New Haven in general and the needs of her constituents – us! Perhaps what folks like elijah mean is that, given that constituent services ARE largely provided by the University, Yale students often do not have particularly unique interests vis-a-vis the BoA, but rather have interests that reflect needs common to New Haven residents (feeling safe walking off-campus at night, more accountability in the NHPD, etc.). This is, for example, what Jess, attacked above, seems to be saying. I wholeheartedly agree – ‘serving New Haven’ verses ‘serving Ward 1 residents’ is ultimately a false dichotomy; our alderperson can best serve us in Ward 1 not by restricting her/himself to a narrowly-defined set of purely Yale student interests, but rather by partnering with others on the Board to create a better place to live for residents of all 30 wards.