As a longtime supporter of Eric Schneiderman, it was solace for the political soul, on a grim election night, to mark his victory as New York State’s attorney general. His win is one that should give us hope as we continue to fight for a more fair, decent and just country.
As I wrote in endorsing Schneiderman, he has a proven record of fighting for social justice, economic fairness and women’s rights, and an abiding commitment to a cleaner and more ethical government. Indeed, in the pages of The Nation, he has written of a "transformational politics" needed "to challenge the way people think about issues, opening their minds to better possibilities."
Schneiderman successfully pursued that tough and principled course in leading the fight to overhaul the disastrous and racially biased Rockefeller Drug Laws. He also showed his mettle in taking on political corruption when he wrote and sponsored the most sweeping ethics reform legislation to pass the legislature in a generation.
In his rousing victory speech, Schneiderman sounded like he was channeling that Nation piece he wrote nearly three years ago. He spoke of the need to restore public confidence in government as "a force for good," and "in the basic institutions of the private sector." This is an elected official who will stand with ordinary people versus corruption whether on Wall Street or in government.
In closing, Schneiderman spoke boldly, "This is the time for big ideas, for all of the innovators, for all of the reformers, for all of the activists—this is our moment."
Here’s what Schneiderman said Tuesday night at a packed ballroom at NY’s Sheraton Hotel….
Eric Schneiderman, Victory Speech, 11/3/10
Thank you Democrats, thank you New York. And thank you to all the people who have helped me so much in this improbable journey.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being with me. Thanks to the advocates, leaders and activists who supported me. This is a campaign, and it has been from the first day, of activists. This has not been a campaign by people who are into the cool calculations of who is the ideal Attorney General according to some computer program.
But people like Citizens Union, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, Planned Parenthood, Citizen Action, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, the Brady Campaign, Gun Free Kids, the Empire State Pride Agenda….
This was a campaign of activists and boy did we show what activists can do… and I would not be standing here but for the work of the hardworking, perpetually working, effectively working members of the New York State labor movement—thank you….
We’re going to have a lot of time to talk about public policy. We’re going to have a lot of time to talk about cleaning up problems in the public and private sector. But I am humbled and honored tonight—and really kind of amazed—to stand here before you as the next Attorney General of the State of New York.
Our victory tonight—because this is our victory—I don’t pretend for a minute that I won this by myself, I’m a part of a coalition. I believe in movement politics. I believe in being a part of a collective that works for the common good. You are my collective. You are the people who got me here.
And our race shows that you can run a campaign on issues. It proves that if you are willing to speak up for justice, if you are willing to speak the basic truths that define what Democrats are supposed to be, you can win an election. And you can win an election in a year that is supposed to be a year where the conservatives are sweeping America.
The conservatives did not sweep America in this race.
We ran a positive race full of ideas. I am so, so grateful for the fact that I do not have to issue a public policy paper or a reform proposal tomorrow. Thank you Greg Krakower for the 841 proposals we’ve issued.
So, the message of the campaign is the same message we started with when I stood on the steps of City Hall and many people here were with me: I’m running because I’m a deep believer in the idea of equal justice under law. Equal justice under law.
To me these are not just words carved on top of a courthouse. This is the essence of what America is about. This is the core of what my mission is as Attorney General. I’m ready to stand up against powerful forces who seek to divide us, powerful forces who seek to denigrate others, powerful forces who seek to deny some New Yorkers equal justice under law. I’m ready to go. I’ve stood up against powerful forces before and, ladies and gentleman, you may have noticed I’m hard to kill.
And the last time they tried it I ended up in la comunidad dominicana. Muchísimas gracias, mis hermanos y hermanas.
And listen, I will continue the same crusade, the same cause, the same effort. We need to get to work restoring New Yorkers faith in government. As the party that tells people government is a force for good, as the party that tells people the public sector can do good things, Democrats have to be the harshest critics of fraud, waste and abuse in government. That is our mission. That is our mandate.
And I spent a lot of time traveling around this state, and ladies and gentleman, it is amazing how much in every community, regardless of ethnicity, region—people talk about the same things. They’ve lost faith in the basic institutions of the private sector. In the words of the Ohio Attorney General, "People went into Wall Street and felt like it was a rigged casino."
We gotta get that confidence back. You need an Attorney General who will stand up against bad actors in the financial markets, I will do that for you. Not to punish people but to restore public confidence that when you buy a triple-A rated security, that’s not just because someone threw a dart at a board, that is a triple-A rated security. I will work to restore confidence in the markets.
And ladies and gentleman, I take the same approach to the public sector. I believe in our electoral democracy, and the people who say it’s all "throw the bums out," you know, the tea party rhetoric—no, I have the same approach. We go after the bad actors. We go after waste, fraud, and corruption, so that the beautiful fruits of the greatest system of democracy in the history of the world can be realized for all the people of this state and this country.
So, you know I’ll stand up for the underdogs, you know I will stand up for justice. As Attorney General, I’m going to pursue every day on the job the fundamental American ideal of greater justice, greater equality. I want my daughter, and I want her children, to be in a society that is more just than the one I was born into. That is more equal than the one that I was born into. I want us to keep going with this quintessentially American mission of moving our country forward. This is the time for big ideas, for all of the innovators, for all of the reformers, for all of the activists—this is our moment. Thank you.