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 firstname.lastname@example.org.