With the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris we celebrate the culmination of a dedicated struggle that began four torturous years ago. The 2016 presidential election result inspired a West Orange neighborhood Unity March. We came together as a community to signal our opposition to the Republic Party’s racist, sexist, and homophobic propaganda and Republicans’ radical rightwing agenda. Out of our unity, Essex Rising was formed, with clear democratic principles and progressive social goals. Realizing that politics begins at home, we resolved to work for change from the grassroots upward, within our town, our county, our congressional district, and our state, en route to the White House, to ensure that those who represent us truly do represent the people who elected them. Now is a wonderful moment to reflect on our many victories during the last four years, won with progressive partner organizations.
We engaged in the primary process to replace Governor Chris Christie and Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, both sycophantic Republicans and entrenched servants of the elite in New JerseyMany people thought it was impossible for a Democrat to win New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, but we were able to help Mikie Sherrill win that seat in 2018 with strong support within Essex County. And, in November 2020, Mikie Sherrill not only won reelection but also turned Morris County Democratic!
Mikie Sherrill9, and 2021
Congresswoman, NJ II, 201
Since Governor Murphy’s election in 2017, he has been implementing a progressive agenda in New Jersey, and has done a great job leading our state through the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the more local level, Essex Rising Steering Committee member Cindy Matute-Brown won election to the West Orange Town Council in 2018, surprising many in the political establishment (but not us!). Today, Councilwoman Matute-Brown is the President of the Town Council.
Councilwoman, West Orange, 2019
Council President, West Orange, 2021
In addition, Essex Rising backed Terry Trigg-Scales for Board of Education in 2018, and Jennifer Tunnicliffe in 2019; both won, and today they are the Board President and Vice President.
The West Orange Municipal Democratic Committee is today chaired by Abdur Yasin, who surprised many when he won election to that position.
In 2020, Essex Rising endorsed, worked for, and then celebrated the November election of both Bill Rutherford to the West Orange Town Council and Melinda Huerta to the Board of Education, further surprising many and proving once again that when we all get involved and insist on representatives who will support our progressive agenda, we win.
We have now defeated the worst president in modern American history. In this last year almost as many Americans died of a largely preventable disease as were killed during World War II. Among his 30,000+ lies, the former President’s most deadly were about COVID-19, but the most dangerous were his attempts to discredit the 2020 election, used to provoke an insurrection against our democracy. The attempted coup failed, but many in this country continue to believe the white supremacist propaganda that seeks to disenfrancise citizens of this country and to perpetuate the institutional racism that has plagued this country since its founding.
Many Essex Rising members worked hard to contribute to the victories for the two new Georgia Senators—the first African American and the first Jewish Senator from that state—who became the key to Democrat control of the legislative agenda in the Biden presidency. In Georgia, the leadership of Stacey Abrams and the grassroots work of Georgia organizers, particularly to deliver African-American voter turnout, have shown the way toward taking traditionally southern, Republican states, and this has many lessons for us in Essex County as well, as we think about local entrenched power structures.
The last few years have shown us that our democracy does not function very well; it needs much work to improve it, and to guard it. Looking back at the last four years, we have proven that our commitment to that work will lead to success. We are proud of those who have chosen to run for public office and of those who have organized local discussions of difficult, sometimes uncomfortable, topics. All of this makes a difference in the way our government and our society function. We need to do this at every level, from our town to the White House.
It takes hard work and commitment to deliver democracy. But, united, we can do it. We can achieve even what many view as impossible. We have begun the process. The struggle continues with the help of our members.
If you are eager to participate in the hard and fulfilling work of organizing, leading, and promoting a progressive agenda, please contact the Steering Committee and join us as we work for progress!