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Why I'm Taking on Hillary Clinton

Challenging the as-of-now presumed Democratic presidential nominee sends the message that 'Republican Lite' is no longer an option for an opposition party.
 
 
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Imagine walking into the ballot booth and casting your vote without having to hold your nose. Imagine being able to vote for what you really believe, instead of telling yourself (yet again) that the best you can do is pick the lesser of two evils, including voting for someone who is a supporter of the war in Iraq. I can imagine having a real choice -- and it's the reason I'm challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for Senator from New York.

My campaign will give New York voters a voice and a choice, for the differences between the incumbent and myself are stark and wide. She supported the war in Iraq from the beginning, and even now, after the deaths of 2,100 Americans and countless thousands of Iraqis, and the waste of hundreds of billions of dollars, still holds a position not very different from that of George Bush (find a "winning" strategy, then withdraw troops ... sometime.)

She still says NAFTA was a good thing. You remember NAFTA: it cost thousands of Americans their jobs, threatened the environment and encouraged big corporations to move jobs to countries with dismal labor rights. She has never advocated for real health care reform, like universal health care, because that would have meant taking on the powerful drug and insurance company lobbies. And she receives campaign cash from big corporate donors, including Wal-Mart.

My background, my positions and my beliefs are a mirror opposite. I am a long-time labor leader, organizer and activist, who will draw financial support in small amounts from many thousands. I am a patriot who has firmly and vocally opposed the war -- who thinks that real homeland security means bringing the troops home now -- and who believes that our economic future should not be determined by an ideology of corporate protection that moves good-paying jobs to countries that desecrate the environment and abuse their workers, and which leaves hardworking American men and women to face a dead-end future. I support providing Medicare to all Americans, so good health becomes a right, not a luxury for those who can afford it.

I also stand in challenge to the politics of business-as-usual -- and to the Democratic Party which has a chance to regain power, if it has the courage to put forth a message and agenda that is something more than Republican-lite. I have talked to people throughout New York State and the country, and they are hungry for that vision. My campaign offers progressives a chance to say their votes cannot be taken for granted, simply because a Democratic Party candidate is the "less bad" option. It gives us a chance to pursue our conception of what America should be.

Can I win this race? It's always tough to take on an incumbent. But whatever happens, I hope to leave behind a network of activists committed to taking back the country and electing leaders who have the nerve to stand against corporate abusive of power and those who would impose an American empire on the rest of the world. And I do not believe victory is impossible. The late Paul Wellstone's slogan was "vote for what you believe in," a slogan that is the clarion call for If the people of New York do that, we can win. The time has come to stop accepting second best. I've worked for a better world my entire adult life, and I still believe it's within reach.

Jonathan Tasini is the president of the Economic Future Group and the author of two books, including They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs .