A panel of activists discussed the upcoming Baltimore gubernatorial elections at an event titled “Movement Power/Electoral Strategy: What’s at stake for Baltimore in the upcoming governor’s race?” this Wednesday at Red Emma’s. The talk featured journalist Marc Steiner and Associate Professor of Political Science and Africana Studies Lester Spence, as well as five other speakers.
Representatives from six organizations, including CASA in Action and the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), spoke at the event. CASA in Action is an organization that advocates for immigration rights, and ATU is a railway workers’ union.
Steiner and Spence discussed candidate accountability and the importance of organizing Democratic voters to ensure that progressive candidates win in the upcoming gubernatorial elections. Steiner views the Republican Party as a major threat to societal progress and civil rights.
“What we’re facing now is a huge danger to black people in America,” he said. “It’s a danger to our future, our environment, this Earth, our children, our grandchildren, if these people are allowed to hold seats and take control of everything.”
According to Steiner, many progressive voters are apathetic toward politics. To combat this, he called for citizens to organize and put pressure on progressive candidates to continue to uphold the values that got them elected.
Steiner believes that individual votes do make a difference and that the Democratic Party needs to be more organized.
“To say it doesn’t make any difference who votes how, in the Senate or House, is total bullshit. It does make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “We have to think about what our strategy should be.”
Spence discussed voting as a primary method of nonviolent resistance, citing Malcolm X as an example.
“[Nonviolent revolution] requires the sophisticated, tactical use of voting,” he said. “We shouldn’t think about it as something that is deeply emotional or immoral but rather as something that is tactical. Voting can matter.”
Steiner also addressed other ways in which students can be politically engaged. He believes, for example, that the Hopkins student body was responsible for impeding the creation of the University’s proposed private police force earlier this spring.
“Students went to Annapolis,” he said. “They put pressure on political representatives.”
Baltimore county resident Dan Sparaco attended the event in support of gubernatorial candidate Benjamin Jealous. Sparco was interested in hearing the panel’s opinions on Jealous.
“I was curious if there was any traction among people who have written off electoral politics,” he said. “Can they be re-engaged by Ben Jealous, or any candidate, because any candidate who can engage the disengaged can win any race.”
Sparaco believes politicians should reach out to people who do not vote instead of attempting to change the minds of people who are registered to vote for an opposing political party. He feels that party polarization makes it difficult to change these registered voters’ minds.
“It’s a lot harder to convince people who really like Larry Hogan to vote against him than it is to go find the millions of people who don’t vote at all, but who could be convinced to do so under the right circumstances,” he said.
Freshman Benjy Monteagudo also attended the event and believes that Hopkins students should educate themselves about pressuing issues in Baltimore today.
“We’re in our own special world,” he said. “It’s important to learn and educate yourself and participate in whatever way you can.”