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Six Months of Vulgar Marxism
If you've appreciated this newsletter's coverage of New York politics this year, please help it continue to thrive in 2022.
Today is the six month anniversary of Vulgar Marxism! I can hardly believe it’s been half a year already, but you know what they say: time flies when you’re slingin’ takes. I’m so delighted by everything the newsletter has accomplished so far, and I’m beyond grateful for all the support that has made it possible. As of this morning, 629 people have signed up in total, and 105 of them are paying subscribers. I cherish every single one of you, and I always strive to put out a product worthy of your generosity.
When I launched Vulgar Marxism, I thought I should organize it around a few clear goals in order to provide readers with some metric to gauge its value. It’s a jungle out there in the left media ecosystem, with endless newsletters, podcasts, and YouTube channels - many of dubious quality - competing over the limited disposable income of our downwardly mobile millennial customers. I hoped that defining these objectives would both help me do my best work and allow subscribers to judge whether or not they were getting what they paid for. So I settled on three goals: 1) deeply sourced, original reporting on New York politics, 2) robust qualitative and quantitative research, and 3) unapologetic class-first analysis.
To mark six months of publication, I’ve made a list of the pieces that stand out as my best efforts to meet each of these goals. Day-one comrades can use it to take a trip down memory lane, while newer readers can check out any items that pique their interest that they missed the first time. And if you haven’t yet purchased a paid subscription, please consider doing so for just $5.60/month.
As you read through the list, I hope you’ll come to share my view that Vulgar Marxism has been making a positive, worthwhile contribution to New York politics. It’s exposed corruption in our judiciary, broken news about important elections, and provided the kind of data-driven analysis that the left sorely needs to understand the challenges we’re facing. There’s nothing I’d love more than to continue doing this work full time, but the newsletter is still far from sustainable on its own.
So if you’re one of my many regular readers who isn’t yet a paying subscriber (but whom I still love!), I humbly ask that you consider upgrading to a paid subscription so I can keep slinging the takes you crave while staying out of the poorhouse too.
(Monthly subscriptions are my favorite since they provide consistent income I can’t blow through like I can with a lump sum - this is also why we shouldn’t privatize Social Security.)
(P.S. If you’re already a paying subscriber but would still like to help more, please share the web version of this article (or another one of your favorites) on social media and encourage your audience to subscribe. This would mean the world to me!)
I. Deeply sourced, original reporting on New York politics.
For the most part, the Substack panic is just a collective nervous breakdown among a media class scandalized by any dissent from their cherished liberal pieties. However, there are a handful of legitimate critiques. The most compelling is that the platform rewards punditry at the expense of journalism, and monopolizes consumer dollars needed to support the industry as its traditional business models have collapsed. While there are obvious limits to a one-man operation, I try to do as much actual reporting as I can, with a focus on topics that mainstream publications aren’t tackling.
Here are a few highlights:
Julie Won with the People. A deep dive into one of the year’s most shocking upsets in city politics: Julie Won’s victory in CD-26. Interviews with her staff - including her campaign manager husband - reveal how they pulled it off, with exclusive details on the drama behind her snub from WFP.
Top New York Judge Madeline Singas Failed to Disclose Potential Conflicts of Interest. A look at how the former DA of Nassau County misrepresented her finances on official disclosure forms, even as she investigated others for that very offense. Nationally renowned expert in legal ethics Rebecca Roiphe discusses how this was potentially a crime. Part one of two.
“Palestine is an Invitation to Organizing.” A profile of State Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani, focusing on his advocacy for Palestine and his status as one of the most vocal elected proponents of BDS in the country. Our extended interview touched on the chilly climate for pro-Palestine voices in Albany.
Inside Jay Jacobs’ Deteriorating Democratic Party in Nassau County. A look at how New York’s Democratic chairman has presided over the party’s atrophy in his own home base, featuring interviews with Nassau political insiders.
The Dianne Morales Campaign Reveals the Charter School Industry’s Remarkable Reach. An investigation of the former mayoral candidate’s long relationship with the charter school industry. Packed with details not reported elsewhere, like the dozens of pro-charter executives who backed her campaign.
II. Robust qualitative and quantitative research.
Substack gets heat for rewarding take-mongers instead of fact-gatherers, but this problem is also widespread in traditional media, where all sorts of sloppy thinking is uncritically reproduced as conventional wisdom. I put considerable effort into testing these assumptions using precinct-level election results and demographic data, with a focus on the Number One City’s Number One Borough: Queens, baby! It’s the future, in case you hadn’t heard.
Here are some pieces that consider what that future might look like:
The Cabán-Adams Voter. An analysis of how a public housing project in Astoria has voted in state and local elections since 2018, and how left-wing candidates have built trust with its primarily black residents over time.
The Black Socialist Base in Brooklyn. An analysis of how socialist candidates have improved their performance with working-class black voters in Central Brooklyn. Jabari Brisport and Phara Souffrant-Forrest won majority-black precincts in their districts in 2020, as did Michael Hollingsworth in 2021.
Red Queens. An analysis of how socialist candidates have performed in Queens from 2016-2021. Precinct-level data shows how the left has developed a real base among the multi-racial working class in the World’s Borough.
Queens is More Diverse Than Ever and More Republican Than 20 Years Ago. An analysis showing that massive swings toward Trump in Hispanic and Asian neighborhoods in Queens fueled the best performance by a GOP presidential candidate here since 2004.
New York Democrats Keep Losing Ground with Hispanic and Asian Voters. An analysis showing Hispanic and Asian areas of Queens continued to move rightward in 2021, suggesting that the trends observed in the 2020 presidential election may persist for some time and start trickling down-ballot.
III. Unapologetic class-first analysis.
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen some of my gentle, well-intentioned critiques of identity politics - plus the baseless outrage and cancelation attempts they routinely generate. Everybody’s a critic! But not everyone relies on the immortal science of dialectical materialism as their critical lens, so luckily much of this criticism can be dismissed out of hand. Here are a few of my efforts to promote a greater emphasis on class in left-wing politics, plus other thought crimes:
These Billionaires are Bankrolling the Booming Anti-Racism Racket. A look into how right-wing financiers and top GOP donors are behind a network of woke consultancies promoting CRT quakery in public schools - a phenomenon with its roots in the charter school industry.
How to Win Comrades and Influence People. A taxonomy of the best and worst ways to package socialist politics for a mass audience. The left’s goal must be The Cool Zone: radical policy, normie presentation.
Women Believing Badly. Through the saga of Scott Stringer, this piece debunks the self-mythology of the NGO mafia that they speak for anyone other than their insular clique. A mountain of polling data shows that women and people of color are far less likely than men and whites to believe unsubstantiated allegations of misconduct.
How the DeVos Family Made Grand Rapids Woke. Another look at the intersection between the anti-racism industrial complex and the charter school industry, through the lens of the DeVos family paying pro-charter consultants $350,000 to implement CRT-infused diversity training in their hometown public school district.