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By Michael Gold
Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and former congressman Mondaire Jones all sounded critical warnings that our democracy is still at risk. It was the underlying theme of the Mount Pleasant Democratic Committee meeting at the Pleasantville Country Club last month.
Latimer, the keynote speaker of the event, said that cable channels are “selling” rather than informing the public.
“We’ve reached a point in this society where perception is more important than facts,” the county executive said.
People think taxes and crime are up, Latimer said, which is not true. County property taxes have gone down the last four years, he said.
Latimer cited crime statistics in the county. Murders in Westchester are down from 19 in 2017 to nine in 2022. Aggravated assaults declined in those five years from 1,199 to 1,063. Robberies are down in the same period as well, from 600 to 422.
“Crime is down! This county government has fully funded the police and we have also begun the process of reforming the police. They are not mutually exclusive,” Latimer said.
Latimer also explained, “I believe in the Second Amendment…but you are shooting people that come to your front door or turning around in your driveway.”
Latimer encouraged the Mount Pleasant Democrats to push back on the negative Republican narrative.
“Somebody has begun a culture war and if we don’t engage them in this culture war, we will lose American democracy,” he said. “We have to save this country right now.”
Stewart-Cousins lamented how people have been divided into different realities, most egregiously by Fox News.
“We are living in separate spaces,” she said.
“In Rupert Murdoch’s world, in Fox News world, we have been sold a different America. That’s the problem we’ve got now. We’ve got half of the country that actually are living in a silo, that somebody who’s a professed billionaire is the most victimized person in the country,” Stewart-Cousins said.
“People believe that you can have an insurrection, you can kill police, you can defecate in the Capitol and that’s not a crime. It’s an expression of your discontent with the process,” Stewart-Cousins said. “You can mow down third-graders or people at a supermarket, synagogues and churches and it’s not a crime. It’s a mental health issue.”
“But it is our persistence in insisting on our humanity, on our equality, on our democracy that will continue to save this country,” she said.
Jones, currently serving on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, explained that “our democracy is still at risk.”
“There’s so much more left to do,” the former congressman said. “Our democracy is hanging on by a thread.”
He cited the Jan. 6 insurrection as part of the effort to tear down our system of government.
“Two thirds of my Republican colleagues (in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate) voted not to certify the election,” he said.
Jones explained that hundreds of voter suppression bills were introduced in states around the nation in 2021 and 2022. In dozens of states many of these bills became law.
The expulsion of two Democratic African-American state representatives in Tennessee is “the latest evolution in the GOP assault on democracy,” Jones said. It began with voter suppression and has grown to include intimidation of poll workers and attempts to overturn the results of certified elections. The two state representatives serving in the Tennessee State House were expelled by a vote of the chamber because they protested the lack of gun control legislation in the wake of a Christian school shooting in Nashville in late March that killed six people, including three children.
Jones said he was part of “the most productive Congress in modern history,” which helped get the nation back on its feet by launching a national COVID testing and vaccination strategy through the American Rescue Plan.
The Congress in which he served, Jones said, cut child poverty in half for a time, allowed schools to reopen, passed an infrastructure plan, passed the largest bill to fight climate change in history and the Inflation Reduction Act and also capped prescription drug costs for Medicare patients, starting with insulin, at $35 a month. Also, lawmakers passed the Respect for Marriage Act.
Jones, who moved from White Plains to Sleepy Hollow in January, making him a Mount Pleasant resident, was given the Outstanding Public Service Award.
Focusing on the future, Jones said, “I’m looking forward to helping the Democrats take back the House (in 2024),” but he made clear that he has not declared himself a candidate for Congress.
Deputy County Executive Ken Jenkins said, “We need to continue to get the message out. When Democrats win, everybody wins. Voter turnout is critical.”
Pleasantville-based writer Michael Gold has had articles published in the New York Daily News, the Albany Times Union, The Virginian-Pilot, The Palm Beach Post and other newspapers, and The Hardy Society Journal, a British literary journal.
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