Cathy Rojas, the socialists candidate for New York City mayor, drew a crowd on Oct. 20 as she stood outside the studio where New York City’s mayoral debates were being held and answered the questions presented to mainstream candidates inside the studio right there on the street.
Why wasn’t Rojas in the studio standing in front of the cameras beside Democratic Party candidate Eric Adams and Republican Party candidate Curtis Silwa? Rojas was barred from participating in the debate on WNBC-TV because she hadn’t raised hundreds of thousands and dollars for her campaign.
Electoral debates in the city of New York are a game of pay-to-play. If a campaign cannot raise hundreds of thousands in funds within a short amount of time they are barred from the conversation, and New Yorkers lose out on hearing about policies they need and deserve. Billionaires and millionaires put forward their candidates, while candidates that represent working-class interests, like Cathy Rojas are effectively silenced.
But that did not stop Rojas, nor her group, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, nor her many unpaid volunteers. Protesters from the Rojas campaign gathered outside the hall. While some picketed, others distributed literature, drawing an audience.
Right there in the street, in a bold and lively manner, Rojas answered the debate questions in real time as they were presented to the big business candidates, as the questions were texted to her from campaign supporters inside. She detailed her socialist platform, which explains realistic ways that this city’s resources can be used to meet the needs of New Yorkers by providing jobs and small business relief, defunding the police, upgrading and protecting NYCHA, fighting for full rights for immigrants, creating truly affordable housing.
Rojas and other speakers asked what the establishment media was afraid of? If socialism was as bad as they claimed, why wouldn’t give Rojas a forum to expose this? Rojas detailed the real reasons she was excluded, reasons that not only disrespected her, but working people as a whole.
“I’m working full-time while campaigning with a team of dedicated volunteers,” She said. Because we didn’t raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, I’m barred from the debates. In a society where money equals power and the media is necessary to get messages out to the most people, a person like me, a worker, isn’t taken seriously unless the ultra-rich support my message. This is outrageous. The working class also deserves to have their side represented in the debates! If the media truly cared about what the nurses, custodians, and line cooks cared about, they would like our side on that debate stage.”
Passerbys stopped to listen and to video Rojas, some staying for the entire program.