New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon on Friday called for a transformation of the Democratic Party, and said “we have to turn the system upside down” in order for the party to be “a vehicle for all working people in this country.”
The actress and activist, who’s hoping to beat Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York’s Democratic primary next month, made the remarks at the Netroots Nation annual conference taking place in New Orleans.
“The Democratic establishment doesn’t like primaries,” she argued, because it sees a challenge to incumbents as hurting the party. In her view, however, it’s “centrist, corporate Democrats [that] hurt the party, and I think they need to be held accountable.”
“We are witnessing an incredible moment for the progressive movement right now,” she said, because “people are rejecting the status quo, and establishment Democrats, and a party leadership that is so often whiter and wealthier and more male than the party base.” That situation, she said, has driven hundreds of progressive-minded newcomers to seek office and put forth a better “vision.”
“This movement that we are building around the country isn’t just about the next election—it’s about offering a vision of the ways things could work if only we had the leadership and political courage to make that vision a reality.”
“Because it can’t just be business as usual anymore. We have to turn the system upside down. We have to uproot the broken establishment,” she continued. “And we have to usher in a new generation of leadership. We have to transform the Democratic Party into a vehicle not just for corporations, not just for Wall Street, but a vehicle for all working people in this country,” she said.
She chastised the party for putting “their thumb on the scale” by picking “candidates based on nothing more than their ability to fundraise from big donors,” and for warning candidates not to run on progressive issues like single-payer healthcare and abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). “This is the same Democratic establishment that once up on a time told us not to talk about civil rights, or same-sex marriage, or abortion, or a $15 an hour minimum wage,” she noted.
“This is the same Democratic establishment that says we can’t win with candidates like [New York congressional candidate] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” she said to cheers, “because she’s too far to the left. I have to say to them, ‘Please.'”
“A lack of moderation was not the problem” in 2016, she said. “We tried it their way and we lost to a racist extremist.”
“If Democrats are going to win this year, it’s not enough to just be better than [President] Donald Trump. We can’t just give people something to vote against. We have to give them something they’re going to want to show up and vote for.”
After embracing the democratic socialist label, she laid down a challenge to the audience, saying, “This is not a time to settle for the way things are. This is a time to fight.”
“This year progressives want power, not concessions,” she said, “and if we want real change, we don’t just need to elect more Democrats. We need to elect better Democrats.”
Watch Nixon’s full speech below in the video uploaded by Netroots Nation: