A slide from a presentation at the event.

By Hannah Reale

Congressman Jerry Nadler, who represents much of the Upper West Side, rallied Upper West Siders to get involved in swinging Congress back to the left at an event last week.

“We have to get people and energy from here to help in other districts,” Nadler said in front of a packed house at Symphony Space. “I think the West Side has been ready to get to work since November 9th.”

According to Nadler’s office, nearly 550 community members came and heard ways to start getting involved in 2018’s midterm elections.

The crowd at Symphony Space’s Peter Jay Sharp Theatre. 

Nadler also welcomed representatives from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Swing Left, and NY Indivisible. Each speaker emphasized that, when looking towards 2018, the best bet for a Democratic take-back is the House of Representatives rather than the Senate.

Applause filled the room when the representatives spoke particularly well, while loud hissing and boos drowned out onstage voices when a picture of President Trump appeared on the projector screen. When Nadler suggested that taking back the House was more realistic than taking back the Senate, an audience member yelled “Both of them!”

From left to right: NY Indivisible’s Michael Vignetti, Swing Left’s Adrienne Lever, DCCC’s Steve Sisneros, and Congressman Jerry Nadler.

DCCC’s Steve Sisneros, who is the director of campaigns and voter contact, kicked off the organizations’ presentations, sharing historical context and recent data that the DCCC has collected that give concrete evidence for Democratic optimism. For example, he showed statistics in various districts that showed new opportunities for Democratic elected officials—even if they were “Solidly Republican” in the past, multiple have recently shifted to “Likely Republican”. He also emphasized that, beyond fighting to flip districts, Democrats need to be making sure that they’re protecting their officials in undecided districts. The bottom line, he said, was that “not only do we feel that the House is in play and that we believe that based on the data… but other professionals in this field who do this work are also seeing the same thing.”

Swing Left’s campaign director Adrienne Lever educated the audience on her organization’s mission and methods. Her presentation, which was more informal than the other speakers’, focused on effective ways that everyday citizens can do to aid and support candidates. She cracked jokes and told anecdotes about her own experience in politically oriented activism, beginning with campaigning for Obama in Nevada back in 2007. “There were about 300 people [in Goldfield, Nevada], so I made it my mission of talking to every single person in that town. And I did. And when the primaries rolled around, we won that town. We won Goldfield, Nevada. This tiny, tiny little town in the middle of the desert voted for the first black president.”

Her story served largely to underscore the power of going door-to-door. Although Upper West Siders overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic candidate, there are nearby districts like NY-11 (Staten Island) that lean Republican. Taking a day or just a few hours and going to Staten Island to knock on doors, she said, can have a real impact on the people that you speak with.

In addition to discussing the details of the upcoming election, Lever touched on a specific tactic Swing Left uses: collecting Commit-To-Vote cards. She emphasized that every vote really counts in midterm elections. “In 2014, we had 36 percent turnout. 36 percent…. This is winnable. This is totally doable. We can win these elections just by going and paying attention to them.” Getting a citizen’s signature on a Commit-To-Vote card—which they see in a reminder that Swing Left sends out right before the election—can motivate them to show up at the polls.

Although Swing Left specifically focuses on getting liberal candidates elected, NY Indivisible’s goal is to ensure that all candidates and elected officials are held to a high standard. As NY Indivisible’s Michael Vignetti said, “We’re defenders of the Constitution…. We’re not another Democratic club. We’re a group of constituents.”

He also noted specific ways that people can work through NY Indivisible: with phone-call “relays,” in which volunteers sign up for shifts so that representatives are getting calls from constituents for the whole day; with letters, which are more personalized than petitions; and town halls with members of the Independent Democratic Conference—also known as the IDC, which is a group of New York State Senators that are allied with Republican senators and give the Republican Party the majority.

After each presentation, the floor opened up to questions from the community. Many expressed concerns that the Democratic establishment was too preoccupied with getting candidates rather than assessing their quality and preening then accordingly. Nadler responded that it is up to the voters to choose their representatives; organizations like the DCCC simply recruit candidates and help them become better politicians.

Other community members shared their frustration with the “Better Deal”, which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer announced on July 5th. Although everyone agreed with the platform, many believed that it had not done enough to unify the party, noting that it had not included anything about reproductive rights or gun safety. Nadler suggested that it was merely a fundamental set of values, a “lowest common denominator” that all Democrats can agree upon. He emphasized that each candidate must have their own individual platform, which most seemed to reluctantly accept.

When a constituent expressed disappointment in the party’s platform not being more progressive overall, Lever noted, “We have primary elections to make sure that we put progressive Democrats in office who we like. That’s what they’re there for…. Once that Democrat has won that nomination, we do also have to recognize that there are places in this country where it is going to be a choice between a sort-of blue Democrat or a Republican…. We have to summit issues, whether it’s about gun regulation or it’s about women’s health, there are issues that are very, very viscerally important to us and we do not want to walk away from them, but we are also not the voters in those districts….”

One memorable attendee asked what she could do, as a minor, to get involved, noting that she was not able to vote and had a lot of homework that occupied her free time. In response, Nadler said, “There are things you can do. When I was your age, I was canvassing door-to-door in New York… It’s important. You make time for what’s important.”

Community members going around tables set up by various groups, such as Swing Left and Democratic clubs. 

Despite obvious anger with the current administration, the tone in the room was decidedly optimistic. In addition to being an educational event, the town hall functioned as a rally for community members to get energized and start acting early.

Lever and Vignetti ended their presentations in similar ways, urging community members to step up and push themselves. Lever said, “I know that, for many of you, going out and talking to voters is not the most natural thing, it’s not the most easy first step into activism. But this is not a moment for easy, this is a moment for making a difference.” And Vignetti later commented, “I just ask you to try and take a little more risk. If you can do a little bit more than what you’re already doing, I think it would mean a great deal. And our freedom really depends on it.”

NEWS | 22 comments | permalink
    1. Scott says:

      Wow what a heartwarming gathering of progressives. Do they even know Nadler is co-sponsor of a law that would put American citizens in prison for 20 years for exercising their free speech?

      Not very progressive, that!

      • Ken J. says:

        What is the content of that bill?

      • Kevin says:


        No one knows that, because it’s not happening. A Google search for any of those terms only leads back to your comments on this site. Whatever you are alluding to is either not actually happening or you are communicating it poorly. Either way, the onus is on you to back up a wild claim like that.

      • ScooterStan says:

        Either you are a troll or a master of disinformation.

        Suspect the latter b/c you are employing half-truths.

        Here’s a thought: PROVE you’re NOT by supplying BELIEVABLE CONFIRM-ABLE facts and documentation rather than blanket generalities and unfounded allegations.

    2. Elizabeth says:

      Scott: Where on earth did you get this information or alternate fact?

      What is the number of the bill? are ou telling the whole truth.

    3. David says:

      Lefty loonies gathered to rant and rave, but it will avail them naught! The silliness embodied in “progressive” ideas, together with “political correctness” have run their course, and an increasing number of Americans are fed up with the direction in which our country has gone. Time to reverse course, and restore America to a common sense direction that brings the country back to its former greatness. President Trump is the right man for the right job at the right time!

      • RedRaleigh says:

        You are aware that Trump and many in his administration, current and former, are under multiple investigations by Congress, an Independent Prosecutor and the NY Attorney General? One of them was just subject to an FBI raid. Indictments will be handed down, people will be fined and some will go to jail.

        How can any American be proud of that??

    4. Rodger Lodger says:

      I’m not sanguine about the Dems taking back anything. They have no idea how voters who are not dedicated to identity politics think, and these voters are much the larger portion of the electorate. The Dems would rather be martyrs than win elections.

    5. Independent says:

      One memorable attendee asked what she could do, as a minor, to get involved, noting that she was not able to vote and had a lot of homework that occupied her free time.

      Had Congressman Nadler asked me, I would have advised him to answer the above question quite differently. Below is a suggested alternative answer I composed.

      It is always encouraging to see young people, such as yourself, eager to become active in public affairs. I would point-out, however, that as a minor, both your body as well as your mind are still developing and you are still highly impressionable. Thus, while I would not want to dampen your spirits, I would urge you, at this point, that rather than involve yourself in politics– of any kind– that you would do better to focus your time and energy in applying yourself to your education; working to acquire a broad base of knowledge, especially of history; and working to develop and sharpen your skills of critical thought and analysis. Perhaps even more essential than any of those, though, is that you work to acquire whatever knowledge and skills will be necessary for the career or vocation*, whatever it may be, that will be most suited and realistic for you to pursue. Most critical of all, in these still-formative years, is that you ensure that you get adequate sleep and exercise, wholesome nutrition and otherwise develop healthful practices and habits to maintain throughout your life.

      Certainly, devoting some time to community service is encouraged for youth your age, as doing so can be quite beneficial in a number of ways, both to yourselves as well as to the people served. Here, I would suggest helping the elderly; the disabled or otherwise disadvantaged; or the young. There are many such opportunities available…

      It is hoped and expected that by the time you have reached your early twenties (which will be here a lot sooner than you can now imagine, trust me), you will have acquired much knowledge as well as much life experience, including that of meeting and conversing with many people, from many different walks of life and of many different political and ideological views. It is likewise hoped that you will have given much deep and critical thought, not only to current events and political questions but, more importantly, to the basic, fundamental existential and ideological questions that underlie and inform the former.

      It is hoped and expected that at that point, you will have developed the skills and acquired the knowledge necessary for developing informed, thoughtful, well-reasoned and conscientious independent views and opinions. And, once you have done so, you will undoubtedly find many opportunities for becoming politically active.

      I realize that the answer I have given you is probably not the one you had expected and almost certainly not the one you wanted to hear. I would urge you, however, to at least spend some time thinking about what I have said before dismissing it. Remember, I have the perspective of one who has lived on this earth many more years than you. I can still recall much from when I was your age and I believe that I have learned from my experience and from the mistakes that we all make in our youth. I wish you a long, fulfilling life, filled with much success and happiness.

      *I would add that the role of full-time mother and homemaker is no less a valid one for a young woman to choose than any other. It is, however, in today’s ruthlessly predatory Globalist economy, less likely to be a financially viable option than in times past.

    6. Paul says:

      The version of this bill in the house is called H.R.1697. Here’s a link to an article about the bill in The Intercept:

      This is the list of co-sponsors from the House’s own site:

      As you see, it includes Rep. Nadler.

      • Jen says:

        Thank you for the info. The bill is indeed horrific. I can’t believe it was drafted in the first place.

      • Chris says:

        Horrific. Rep. Nadler is an idiot and thankfully is not in charge of anything important.

        I support Israel but the whole point of living in this country is not to have nonsense like this.

    7. DB says:

      Good grief. No wonder the party is dying, and it’s deserved since it abandoned its former base. Tell you what, I’d gladly pay 70% in taxes in exchange for high quality single payer, college, and improved social security. I can still be an investor, innovator, in short a capitalist.

    8. Chris says:

      It would be a better deal if they promised to lower my taxes otherwise its a bad deal.

    9. B.B. says:

      Moving along….

      Democrats will never take back the House and or gain a significant majority in senate unless or until they can make inroads into “fly over” country.

      Just winning more of the same areas (North East, and West coast) isn’t going to help democrats that much. The Midwest, South, Southwest, “Rust Belt”, etc… are where populations need to be swayed. That is how DT won and why HC lost.

      Sadly long as the democrats are associated with identity politics and seen embracing over liberal causes (and shoving them down other person’s throats), they won’t win large majorities where they need to in order for any “take over” to happen.

      Hillary Clinton referring to DT’s followers as a “basket of deplorables” told many what they already suspected. Democrats have forgotten the “working” or “blue collar” classes and favour elite liberals.

      This may be true or may be false, but that is the working theory out in “fly over” country. It explains even badly as he GOP has *governed* in many states and now federal government they still keep winning elections.

      Being all this as it may increasingly many voters, especially the younger generations are “independent”. Party affiliation matters less and less, but rather voting by issue does. People want to know how things affect them on the ground; not hearing about what this or that party “stands for” or whatever.

    10. Skippy says:

      I don’t know. Hope this is the beginning of a revival of a party returning to its roots. Thomas Frank seems more optimistic than I at least.

    11. Biffmeister says:

      UWS Democrats should focus on making NYC great again, and a wonderful start would be ensuring that DeBlasio is not re-elected. So cross party lines and vote for Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis. DeBlasio has been a disaster on every level. Time for new blood, new ideas and common-sense governing.