Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Dianne Morales Mayoral Dramedy - an Ed Notes never ending serial - Part 1 - the NYT Take - Attacks on Progressives

A quick summary before we start:

A key person we need to pay attention to is Amanda van Kessel who worked with Morales at her previous job and still works there. She used her relationship apparently to lord it over others. She's also white in a sea of people of color. She was first demoted and then fired. She's also DSA, as was the campaign manager, Whitney Hu, who quit. It is not clear if she quit because van Kessel was fired or because she wasn't fired quickly enough. But both are Queens branch DSA --- which I am also a fringe member of. Oh, the drama to come there as many other Morales staffers also came out of DSA Queens branch.

May 30, 2021, 9 AM

The Morales campaign implosion, apparently unique in political lore, is going to have consequences for how some campaigns are organized in the future. There are lessons about bringing good friends into a campaign. See what happened to Scott Stringer whose supposed friend, Jean Kim, who he says he had a brief relationship with, turned on him 20 years later and imploded his campaign. 

Let me say right up front - I've always had doubts about Morales but this strikes me as a hit job and I intend to pick her as one of my mayoral choices.

Lesson 1: Beware of friends in high campaign places

NYT... two campaign staff members, Ramses Dukes and Amanda van Kessel, had been dismissed. She said they were the employees accused of misconduct. Ms. van Kessel had previously worked with Ms. Morales at the social services arm of Phipps Houses, a housing development group. Mr. Dukes could not be reached for comment, and Ms. van Kessel did not respond to requests for comment.
The two leading progressives in the race have had their campaigns undermined. It is ironic that Morales and many of her supported immediately attacked Stringer and are now claiming Dianne needs a chance to explain. Ironic in that one person charged Stringer while 60 complained about Morales -- obviously not as serious a charge but numbers do count. If no other shoe drops on Stringer, on June 23, when Stringer who had been in the running loses because of that one charge and we end up with who knows who, we might see a reassessment of how to deal with the metoo movement.

I'm going to examine the Morales story in depth because there are many lessons for progressives. Was this a hit by the left, led by DSA members who felt that Morales was a faux leftist - which I have come to believe - but if they didn't know what they were getting into it's on them. Morales has become an instant leftist - she voted for Cuomo and didn't endorse any of the new leftist candidates - but DSA people, including her campaign manager, knew that going in.

In Part 1 I want to share the NYT take which with the comments is an attack on progressives. (Remember - the Times endorsed Garcia who has promised to lift the charter school cap -- do not even list her.) And not all if it is undeserved though we have a lot of unpacking to do. I mean,  a campaign is not a long-term job and some staffers have only recently been hired. A union in the midst of a campaign with one month to go? That's progressiveness gone too far.

Comments at NYT emphasize the anti-progressive pov:

This sounds like sabotage at the highest level. Trying to unionize with four weeks left in the campaign? The staff knows they are sabotaging more than this race; her career is on the line, her name splashed all over the media while the team gets to walk away & join a different campaign. Sad state of affairs all around.


Welcome to progressivism 101. Any success is met with claims of “toxic workplace.” The very values one holds get weaponized against you by people who don’t like it when they don’t feel “centered”. And because you built your campaign on “centering” everyone, you can’t call it what it actually is: selfishness, when they don’t like the fact that you are actually the boss and have to make decisions. It’s lose/lose. And why progressives- despite caring deeply about actual policy, will never win.


This is why kids with no experience doing anything probably shouldn’t gain control of large governments. Reading through Twitter feeds of her staffers reads like the angry message boards of high schoolers upset about a school dress code.


Was really excited about Morales....but she is turning out to be yet another DeBlasio: all talk, 0 action, and considers herself above it all. Depressing to say the least.


She messed up with handling this, but I will say it is peak irony that a "progressive" candidate is sunk by her own truly progressive staff. Also, I agree with the post from the portland guy talking about activist politics. I have seen the exact same thing. It's like my pops always said: "When you're a hammer, everything is a nail." Activist staffers can make for virtually ungovernable teams leaving leaders stuck between a rock and a hard place. The devolution into chaos can be swift thereafter.


I stopped calling myself a progressive when I saw this same circular firing squad happening over and over again in activist politics here in Portland. Noble objectives, but terrible tactics and ungovernable team dynamics hamper the progressive movement’s ability to make change happen.

 More to come in parts 2 through infinity.

Here's the entire article:

Two staff members have quit, two have been fired and four others involved in a unionization drive have been terminated.


The Rev. Al Sharpton hosted a mayoral forum in Harlem on Tuesday night in preparation for his expected endorsement in the Democratic mayoral primary. All the leading candidates were in attendance, save for one — Dianne Morales, who cited a “family emergency.”

In reality, she was meeting with her staff as her progressive grass-roots campaign began to implode.

By Thursday, two high-level campaign staff members had left, two other staff members had been dismissed, a unionization drive had heated up and four employees active in the unionization effort had been fired, leading to a strike among the staff.

The internal strife is a significant distraction or worse for Ms. Morales, 53, who has been able to attract a large number of small donors and an avid group of supporters as the most left-leaning candidate in the field. But the uproar over the unionization effort and complaints of a toxic workplace suggested that her campaign had fallen far short of progressive values.

There is no indication that Ms. Morales will drop out of race. But on Thursday evening, Farudh Emiel Majid, a senior organizer for the candidate, called on her to suspend her campaign, saying she had created “a hostile work environment towards Black and Brown staffers.”

Over five hours at the meeting Tuesday night — after the first resignation, of Ms. Morales’s campaign manager, Whitney Hu — the candidate listened to staff members share grievances about harassment, race-based mistreatment and exploitation and call their working environment toxic. Employees told her they felt siloed; work felt repetitive and unstructured.

Staff members in attendance called the meeting “candid” and “raw” and said Ms. Morales spoke at length about the challenges of her unique candidacy: She is an Afro-Latina first-time candidate running to the far left of her peers, and her campaign is heavily reliant on public funds.

She also spoke about the challenges of the recent explosive growth of her team — from half a dozen people to around 80, in just a few months. Ms. Morales openly accepted her role in the creation of any strife that might have taken place.

It wasn’t enough. Ifeoma Ike, a senior adviser, resigned early Thursday, leaving the campaign in even deeper chaos, with less than a month to go before the Democratic primary election on June 22.

Ms. Hu and Ms. Ike’s exits followed concerns over two other staff members accused of mistreatment: one who staff members said used a previous professional relationship with Ms. Morales to try to impose authority in an abusive manner, and another accused of making female staffers uncomfortable, according to three staff members who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation.

Krysten Copeland, a campaign spokeswoman, said on Thursday that two campaign staff members, Ramses Dukes and Amanda van Kessel, had been dismissed. She said they were the employees accused of misconduct. Ms. van Kessel had previously worked with Ms. Morales at the social services arm of Phipps Houses, a housing development group. Mr. Dukes could not be reached for comment, and Ms. van Kessel did not respond to requests for comment.

In her statement, Ms. Morales addressed the issues in her campaign.

“Our campaign works to intentionally center the voices of those who are excluded from politics,” the statement read, “and we acknowledge that mistakes have been made in our attempts to do this.”

In response to the recent allegations of misconduct, staff members had launched a unionization effort that they said was intended to rectify what many considered a toxic work environment, as well as to codify the progressive principles that were espoused in Ms. Morales’s campaign — but not, they said, within her workplace. According to the union, the union has majority support, and Ms. Morales has voluntarily recognized it.

But on Thursday, four staff members involved in the unionization effort were terminated minutes before a scheduled meeting to discuss the collective’s demands.

Employees began a work stoppage late Thursday.

“It is deeply disappointing that a candidate who claims to support unions refused to engage in this conversation,” the employees who had formed the union said in a statement.

Ms. Copeland said that the candidate had not known that the terminated employees were involved in unionizing. She did not immediately explain why the four were fired.

Ms. Morales said on NY1 on Thursday night that the unionization drive was “a beautiful and messy thing” and added: “I think it’s a reflection of a very transformative campaign that we have been running that they’ve organized this way, and I’ve been fully supportive of that from the moment it was raised to me.”

Union organizing had begun in earnest after Ms. Hu and Ms. Ike resigned.

“I officially resigned from the Morales campaign on Tuesday on my own accord after demanding that I would no longer be able to continue on the campaign until harmful actors were removed,” read a statement from Ms. Hu. “I continue to stand in solidarity with the team.”

Early Thursday morning, Ms. Ike said on Twitter: “I am formally resigning from the campaign as it no longer aligns with my values.”

According to several staff members, tensions in an already fraught campaign rose in recent weeks after some employees approached Ms. Hu with personnel complaints, including those about the colleagues they accused of being abusive.

Ms. Hu and Ms. Ike were the most senior staff members of the group that took these concerns to Ms. Morales, and the two said that if the candidate did not sufficiently address the complaints, they would quit, according to several staffers familiar with the exchange.

But Ms. Morales did not respond as they expected. The staff member who was accused of abusing power was demoted twice, then terminated on Sunday.

A team-building consulting firm was brought in and introduced an externally created code of conduct that employees were expected to adhere to, a departure for a team that prided itself on open communication and collaboration.

Staff members met on Monday to discuss growing concerns, but Ms. Morales, while invited, did not attend.

On Tuesday, Ms. Morales encouraged campaign staffers to practice “self-care.” On Wednesday, campaign headquarters were closed. Some returned to the office to find that the access code had been changed, and they could no longer gain entry. A Wednesday press event for New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools was canceled with little warning.

“To be honest, it doesn’t look good,” said Gina White, a Harlem resident who came to the schools event, hoping to hear the candidate speak. “At least if she wasn’t here, she should’ve sent someone from her campaign staff to represent and give a statement.”

In a statement released on Thursday, Ms. Morales again addressed the issues arising in her campaign, saying that she took swift action when allegations of misconduct arose.

“By making these changes, it is my hope and responsibility to guide our team through the last stretch of this race in a way that espouses our values of honesty, transparency and loving disruption,” she wrote.

Jazmine Hughes is a Metro reporter and a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine. @jazzedloon




David Suker said...

The Left is a joke! Who would ever trust anyone that came from the nonprofit sector. All these fake leftists running around thinking they’re going to change things for the better. They’re just looking for their piece of the pie. They should all go get a real job. I’ll give Adams at least that much credit.

Anonymous said...

Happy Memorial Day, and let us remember the brave men and women who gave their lives for our Republic.