There is a concerted campaign underway to push Nina Turner out of Our Revolution
I realize this is a brash and paranoid claim.
I will not claim that the concerns these individuals expressed should not be considered. There are a couple of tangible details that do need to be addressed, which I will also explain.
Let me preface this by saying: no organization, let alone any individual, will always be in the right — Our Revolution included. I was disappointed, for instance, when the national org did not back Sema Hernandez in the Texas primary after multiple local orgs backed her. However, I also saw there was support going around for Beto O’Rourke. Perhaps it was due to split candidate support at the local level that national did not step into the race. It’s hard to say, harder to judge, and we’re all human at the end of the day. Mistakes can and will happen.
As you may have already seen, Politico a few days ago posted a hit piece against Our Revolution and Nina Turner, painting it as in “disarray” and ineffective.
Bernie Sanders' top operatives formed "Our Revolution" after he lost the 2016 primaries to keep his army organized and…www.politico.com
(Date/time article posted: 05/21/2018 05:00 AM EDT)
Of note are issues raised surrounding one Tezlyn Figaro, as well as expressed concerns Our Revolution is not doing enough to address the needs of Latinos.
Members of the national board, meanwhile, have griped privately that Turner has used the group to advance her own causes.
In a conference call two weeks ago, the board’s executive committee overruled Turner’s attempt to install her consultant and friend Tezlyn Figaro as the group’s chief of staff, according to people on the call. Not only had Turner sprung the decision on the board, but Figaro had no experience building a political organization.
Board members flagged Figaro’s frequent appearances on Fox News praising Trump. She has said on the network as recently as the end of April that the president’s critics mostly don’t like that he’s shaking up the system. And last year she said immigrants are “coming into the country and getting benefits that Americans do not get,” and getting away with crimes while African-Americans go to prison.
“It’s a red flag,” said founding board member Catalina Velasquez. “If I know someone is inflammatory, using hate speech at a time when all oppressed people need to come together, it puts me in a very difficult position.”
She said she had complained internally for six months that the group was giving short shrift to getting Latinos involved in it, and to speaking to Latino issues on the Our Revolution Twitter account.
“I felt that Our Revolution was not headed in the direction I felt comfortable with,” Flores said.
Velasquez, a co-vice chair, said she has considered resigning herself.
“It deeply saddens me because I am an undocumented immigrant, and [Figaro’s] comments were very harsh,” Velasquez said.
Within a few hours of this article’s initial posting (9:19 AM), a set of screenshots were tweeted out displaying some of Tezlyn’s troubling anti-immigrant remarks.
It should be noted that none of the disturbing remarks captured are too recent — the “newest” captured was posted in February of 2017. This was several months before Figaro was, supposedly, brought onboard Our Revolution. In that time, it is entirely possible that Figaro learned more about the issue and no longer holds these views.
On the evening of the 21st, Catalina Velasquez (one of the parties featured in the Politico piece) responds to the old screenshots of Figaro.
An isolated event and despicable person with bigoted views does not represent a movement! This is an oversight and we will learn from it and do right by immigrant communities! I will leave the org before this person continues to use our platform to spew hate!
I have seen no evidence to suggest this is taking place, but we’ll come back to Figaro later.
A couple of hours later, Erika Andiola posts to Facebook a very long “account” describing things she “kept to herself” and now had decided to speak on in light of the Politico article.
This includes a laundry list of accusations levied against not only OR leadership in general, but Nina Turner directly. She claims she was fired by Nina for her work in defense of DREAMers (including Erika herself), pressured against work in support of DREAMers leading up to said firing and — worst of all — replaced by someone who harbors views on immigrants contrary to the values of Our Revolution.
Erika also claims to have evidence supporting her claims that she was pushed out for supporting DREAMers. As of now, that evidence has not surfaced.
However, there was an exchange back in February with James Zogby that may shed better light on the situation.
This exchange leads me to suspect Erika’s firing was not over supporting DREAMers, per se, but the result of a disagreement on tactics within the organization.
And while I understand Zogby’s side of the argument towards pragmatism, it is not that simple. Erika’s very life depends on a stronger opposition to Trump’s agenda than Democrats are offering. The organization should not, in my opinion, distance itself so greatly from holding Democrats to account — and I feel there is room for that without diverting from the primary mission of getting progressives into power who will resolve the matter.
However, there is a stark difference between honest disagreement on tactics, and insinuating that Nina Turner might secretly agree with Tezlyn’s troubling past views towards immigrants.
A few days or weeks later (can’t remember) I come across screenshots and videos of Tezlyn Figaro, who was hired by SNT [Senator Nina Turner] right after I left, calling people like me ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS, calling for Trump’s wall, backing Trump’s Muslim Ban,etc. (photos in the comments) I became sick to my stomach and could not stop crying all night.
Erika’s post concludes, in part:
Tezlyn Figaro needs to be fired immediately and Senator Turner needs to address the very serious, legitimate concerns that her decisions have raised.
This was followed by a Facebook post from Catalina Velasquez that is no longer public. It was at this address:
This post shared Erika’s, corroborated it and the original Politico piece, levied its own very long essay of concerns, featured a similar set of accusations, and similarly targeted Nina Turner in the midst of its remarks (though I regrettably do not have a copy of this set of remarks to better highlight specifics).
For her part, Tezlyn Figaro has issued an apology.
Nina and Our Revolution have also put forward a statement regarding these concerns.
Tellingly, it denotes the following:
“I understand that we all have room to grow and evolve, and while we encourage growth, I am committed to maintaining a work environment that is safe and supportive for all.“
If Tezlyn has, in fact, grown since her troubling rhetoric in early 2017, then I stand with Nina in allowing for her “rehabilitation.” We have to be willing to forgive.
I do NOT want to see a repeat of what happened to Justice Democrats leadership — when smear merchants unearthed old, contemptible blog posts one of the founders had made, espousing views he no longer believed. That founder, Cenk Uyger, was forced to step down, with no opportunity to demonstrate he had “rehabilitated.” Kyle Kulinski, the other founder, resigned in protest of this action.
It is my fear that the establishment are attempting to coax a similar outcome in the leadership of Our Revolution — weakening the organization during the critical 2018 primary season — and, more pointedly, to damage the reputation of Nina Turner, a leader who unapologetically supports efforts outside the Democratic Party as well as inside of it.
At this stage, I cannot say for certain whether the individuals who suddenly felt the need to “speak out” as the result of a hit piece are “in on” this effort. Their content seems rather coordinated; however, in addition to other remarks and posts, Catalina posted this the same morning the story broke — to much consternation from Twitter’s ever-present, establishment-defending troll army, I might add.
Occam’s Razor suggests, to me, that these concerned parties are honest actors who the establishment are attempting to exploit for their own ends. Evidence, time, and willingness to speak clearly and earnestly with independent journalists (rather than the “Politicos” of the world) on their concerns will help to determine this.
All of this being said, I believe — as I do with concerns about “Russians” trying to “sow discord” — that the solution is not simply to proclaim another party is attempting to sow chaos while ignoring the underlying issues that such actors can exploit. To that end, I believe Tezlyn should demonstrate — not simply with words, but deeds — a commitment to helping the cause of those who feel rightly aggrieved by her past remarks. If Tezlyn is to stay in the organization, she needs to be able to make amends with them.
If, on the other hand, Tezlyn has, in all honesty, not grown on this issue, and will not make amends with the immigrant and DREAMer community, then in my opinion, there is no alternative recourse than for Tezlyn to immediately and unequivocally resign.
I also feel that as Our Revolution continues to develop, more transparency and cooperation is needed in all levels in the organization. While it makes sense to maintain a local/state/national type of structure, it is my view that a better way to maintain trust — especially among diverse leadership — would be to work less like a pyramid and more like a cooperative in the first place. And it should be much easier for these groups to communicate and coordinate with each other, so as to avoid mishaps, missed messages, and butting heads.
As for Nina Turner, I have a message for the establishment who seek to tear her down:
You can’t have her.