Today, I am pleased to present a response to yesterday’s post by Adam Pagnucco from Travis Tazelaar, the campaign manager for Ben Jealous’ Campaign for Governor and the former Executive Director of the Maryland Democratic Party.
I was a little disappointed today to read Adam Pagnucco’s Post on the Seventh State, “Is Jealous Claiming Credit for the Achievements of Others?” The post claims that Ben Jealous was not a “key player” in passing “the DREAM Act, marriage equality, death penalty repeal, voting reform and gun safety.” Adam’s post gives credit where credit is most certainly due: to the long list of legislators and other elected officials who fought, and passed legislation. Adam’s characterization that Ben Jealous is either taking credit for the achievement of others, or that he didn’t play a big enough role worth talking about, is false and misleading to Seventh State’s readers and to the progressive community.
Many people played a role in all the progressive victories outlined in the post, including Ben Jealous. I’d point special attention to former Governor Martin O’Malley, whose role in all these victories is unequivocal, who said of Ben Jealous in the Baltimore Sun:
Maryland is a better state — and ours is a more perfect union — because of Ben Jealous and his commitment to justice, equality, and the dignity of every child’s home… Here in Maryland, he was an indispensable part of repealing the death penalty, passing the Maryland Dream Act, ensuring civil marriage equality and expanding access to voting.
The Sun has also written:
The effort to end capital punishment in America epitomizes Mr. Jealous’ ability to combine on-the-ground organizing with strategic thinking. A year ago, the effort to ban the death penalty in Maryland appeared out of steam. Gov. Martin O’Malley‘s passionate advocacy on the issue had failed to sway the state Senate, and all indications were that Mr. O’Malley would not put the issue on his agenda again. Then he met with Mr. Jealous, who assured the governor he could provide vote counts showing majority support for a repeal in both chambers of the legislature. He did, and a month later, Mr. O’Malley stood by Mr. Jealous’ side to announce he would make another all-out push for a repeal. This time, he would succeed.
As the campaign manager for the DREAM Act referendum in 2012, I can express to you unequivocally Ben Jealous’ assistance in winning that campaign too. Were many others involved? Absolutely. Would he claim sole credit? Never. Nor has he tried to do so.
I could walk through the other victories too. I could go point, counterpoint as to what he did, when he did it, and who else was involved. I could pull more quotes from people on the ground thanking Ben Jealous for bringing the NAACP into the Maryland fights when he was President and CEO. But our energy right now shouldn’t be pointed inward, progressives on progressives, in the manner in which Adam is attempting. What Ben Jealous’ message is about, and is clearly written in the email referenced in Adam’s post, is about Maryland coming together. Adam is correct when he says the operative word here is “we.” WE should be coming together as progressives to do big things in this state again, we should be focused on what we can do for the next generation, not tearing down fellow progressives with misleading arguments about the past, especially when he’s clearly going to support another potential candidate.
Adam asks at the end of the post: “Here’s a question for the veterans of all these progressive wins: how do you feel about that?” As a veteran involved in many of these fights myself, especially once they reach the ballot, I can tell you that I’ve always been grateful to have Ben Jealous right there on the front lines with so many of us, and it’s one reason I’m enthusiastically running his campaign now. I would challenge Adam to discard divisive rhetoric and replace it with words affirming our progressive conviction for a brighter future in Maryland, especially when we all work together.