COMMENTARY: Phil Murphy has most progressive platform ever seen in N.J.
Earlier this year, on Feb. 14, Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-N.J.), one of the Democratic candidates for governor, released his campaign platform after nearly five months of his campaign website consisting mainly of a donation button. One would think that after five months of careful deliberation, Wisniewski’s team would have crafted a detailed and comprehensive platform. Instead, the campaign platform is only three pages long, each of which lists a series of alarming facts and opinions and then spends only a few sentences detailing his proposed policies.
The three issues addressed in the platform are climate change, higher education financing and electoral reform. While all three issues are important, they are not enough for a complete policy platform. Issues such as gun violence, labor rights, retirement security, LGBTQ rights, housing, veterans’ affairs and the opioid crisis go unaddressed.
Phil Murphy dealt with all of these issues as well as climate change, higher education and electoral reform in his own platform, which has been available to the public since May of 2016.
Wisniewski’s policy agenda demonstrates a clear attempt to mimic Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (D-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, casting corporations, banks and party establishments as enemies of the public and Wisniewski himself as the sole crusader against them. The three issues it has chosen to tackle are all close to the hearts of many people, but particularly to college students and young people, who made up a core component of Sanders’ voters in last year’s Democratic primary. It is thus clear that Wisniewski has decided to campaign in Bernie’s footsteps as an outsider and a progressive. However, one needs to question Wisniewski’s bona fides as an anti-establishment and progressive politician before supporting him.
A close examination of Wisniewski’s record shows that he is neither an outsider nor a progressive nor a Main Street everyman, and he is using his support of Sanders in last year’s election as a means to deflect legitimate criticisms of him and his record. Wisniewski has been a Democratic member of the New Jersey General Assembly since 1996, and he served as the chair of the New Jersey State Democratic Committee from 2011 to 2013. Wisniewski’s law firm is currently facing down accusations of pay-to-play. A lawyer and politician who rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from taxpayers is not representative of the 99 percent Wisniewski claims to champion. Furthermore, his voting record in the General Assembly has toed the party line consistently, and at times has actually shown a conservative streak. He even voted in favor of anti-choice legislation in 1997 that was vetoed by former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman.
In light of his insider record, Wisniewski’s claims to be a progressive outsider hinge upon the fact that he has received virtually no endorsements from his colleagues or other politicians in New Jersey. He claims that this is because of “corrupt” party interests — party interests he easily upheld as state Democratic chairman and has partaken in for the past two decades. Furthermore, he has complained about each county’s nominating process for the governor’s race being rigged against him, even though many of them used extremely transparent methods in the selection process at their conventions. All of this gives the impression that Wisniewski is not an outsider, but rather a sore loser.
What is most telling of all though is that Sanders himself released a public statement indicating that he would not endorse Wisniewski, which is a noticeable abandonment of his former statewide director. This could be in part because Sanders shares the suspicion of many grassroots activists in New Jersey: That Wisniewski only endorsed Sanders and supported his campaign as a means to promote himself prior to this year’s gubernatorial race. Wisniewski aims to win the support of former Sanders supporters by running with his progressive outsider persona, but he has not earned it.
The true progressive in this gubernatorial race is Phil Murphy, whose platform is the most progressive platform ever seen in a New Jersey campaign. It is for this reason that he has won the support of many unions and progressive organizations. He will be the governor who has our back.
Sandeep Patankar is a School of Arts and Sciences junior.
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