Saikat Chakrabarti

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Saikat Chakrabarti
GreenNewDeal Presser 020719 (3 of 85) (cropped 2).jpg
Born (1986-01-12) January 12, 1986 (age 35)
EducationHarvard University (BA)
OccupationPolitical activist
Known forFormer Chief of staff to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Kamilka Malwatte

Saikat Chakrabarti (born January 12, 1986) is an American political advisor, activist and software engineer. He was formerly the chief of staff to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the U.S. Representative from New York's 14th congressional district representing portions of The Bronx and Queens in New York City.[1]

On August 2, 2019, he left Ocasio-Cortez's office to run New Consensus, a group to promote the Green New Deal.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Chakrabarti was born in 1986 and raised in an Bengali Hindu family in Fort Worth, Texas.[2][3] He attended Harvard University, graduating in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in computer science.[4]

Career[edit]

After college, Chakrabarti worked on Wall Street followed by six years in Silicon Valley at a number of startups. Chakrabarti co-founded a web design company called Mockingbird and served as a founding engineer at the payments processing company Stripe.[5]

Bernie Sanders campaign and Brand New Congress[edit]

In 2015, Chakrabarti joined the early stages of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders's presidential bid.[6][7] Of that decision, Chakrabarti told Rolling Stone, "I wasn't entirely sure he had all the right solutions but I knew he was talking about the right problems."[6]

Chakrabarti became the Sanders campaign's Director of Organizing Technology and was part of the effort that created technology for grassroots supporters to collaborate on organizing events.[8] Together with Sheena Pakanati, he developed a messaging tool called Spoke which is released under the MIT license.[9] The software helped volunteers find other volunteers who lived nearby and helped coordinate "millions" of volunteers to call into battleground states, multiplying the effort of local volunteers and staff.[8] Chakrabarti's technological edge is credited with being "a major component in the success of Sanders' presidential run".[10]

During the Sanders campaign Chakrabarti worked closely with Alexandra Rojas and Corbin Trent to stage campaign events around the country. Charkrabarti told Rolling Stone that he often heard voters express strong concerns about Congress: "people would say, 'How's he going to get anything done? We just saw what Congress did to Obama for the last eight years, they’re gonna do the same thing to Bernie.'" As a result, in the spring of 2016, Chakrabarti (together with Rojas and Trent) co-founded the Brand New Congress political action committee, to recruit 400 new candidates for Congress.[6] Chakrabarti told Rachel Maddow in 2016, the goal was to have unified fundraising of small donors modeled on the Sanders campaign in hopes of politicians who work for their voters rather than spend their time seeking donations.[11] The group received many applications and recruited 12 candidates, of whom only Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a seat in Congress.[12]

Justice Democrats[edit]

In early 2017, after Trump's election, Chakrabarti, Zack Exley, a former fellow Bernie Sanders presidential campaign executive, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks and Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk became co-founders of the Justice Democrats.[13][14] As Chakrabarti, Rojas, and Trent were less involved with Brand New Congress, they became leaders of the Justice Democrats.[6] Chakrabarti, as an executive director of Justice Democrats wrote software to organize in a "distributed fashion".[8] Justice Democrats targeted an entrenched "corporate Democrat" in Joe Crowley. The group recruited Ocasio-Cortez to challenge Joe Crowley and "helped get her campaign off the ground, build an email list and raise $30,000."[15] Activist strategies mobilized by Justice Democrats contributed greatly to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's primary win, according to The Intercept.[16]

"From day one, these volunteers started knocking doors and reaching into their own networks to expand this volunteer army, allowing us to go into election day with over a thousand volunteers willing to mobilize voters. We buttressed door-knocking with a heavy digital, phone calling, and texting strategy that targeted progressive voters in five different languages. Through this, we built a multiracial, progressive coalition of voters who had been hearing our message for a year and were excited to turn out to vote on June 26."[16]

Before U.S. Senator Al Franken resigned, Chakrabarti went on record to push for his resignation and expressed his support for Keith Ellison as his replacement.[17]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez chief of staff[edit]

Chakrabarti was campaign manager for Ocasio-Cortez's unexpected primary victory over 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley, and afterwards became her campaign chair.[18] While her general election victory in the heavily Democratic district was considered a foregone conclusion, Chakrabarti leveraged her newfound high profile to campaign for other progressive candidates across the country.[19] After she won the November 2018 general election, she appointed him as her chief of staff.[20]

In 2019, Chakrabarti was named to the Politico Playbook power list to watch.[20][21][22]

Green New Deal[edit]

Chakrabarti led the Ocasio-Cortez staff and several progressive groups in writing the Green New Deal resolution[23] that was submitted to the House of Representatives by Ocasio-Cortez and to the Senate by Ed Markey February 7, 2019. The New Yorker quoted him as saying, "We spent the weekend learning how to put laws together. We looked up how to write resolutions."[23] The Washington Post quoted him as well:

"it wasn't originally a climate thing at all... we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing."[24]

Chakrabarti expressed a vision of what Democrats should try to do while Republicans hold power in the Senate and Presidency:

"Don't expect them to back down . . . Another thing to really do over the next two years is to basically show the American people what will be possible if the Democrats win the House, the Senate and the presidency in 2020, and that means putting our best foot forward. It means putting the most ambitious, the boldest, the biggest things we can, and then just build a movement around that."[20][22]

Relating that to the policies Ocasio-Cortez proposes and supports via Twitter, Chakrabarti told Brian Stelter on CNN's "Reliable Sources":

"She's able to do things very quickly because she has a pulse on where the people are."[25]

Amazon HQ2 withdrawal from Queens[edit]

In February 2019, Chakrabarti appeared as a guest on Bloomberg News to clarify Ocasio-Cortez's role in Amazon's decision to pull its planned HQ2 from Long Island City, Queens, saying she objected to the process by which it had received its original deal, but had no specific animus toward the company. He stated that AOC's goal had been to see the local community more involved in discussions, but once community members joined the discussion, Amazon made the decision to withdraw.[26] Chakrabarti elaborated further that Amazon would be welcome to return to the negotiating table under the condition that the company engage adequately with the local communities to be affected by the project.[27]

Immigration reform[edit]

Chakrabarti worked on the part of the Justice Democrats platform which included abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. To the question of whether a different agency should take its place, he replied "everyone has a different idea of what happens after".[28] While working for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, he supported a move to approach the debate by highlighting the economic value of welcoming foreign workers.[29]

In a June 27 tweet, Chakrabarti wrote that the New Democrats and Blue Dog Caucus should be called "the New Southern Democrats" for voting, in his view, to "still enable a racist system".[30] This was in response to Democratic representatives approving an aid package which included funding for southern border enforcement. The House Democratic Caucus Twitter account, managed by Hakeem Jeffries, objected to him referring to Sharice Davids by name in these posts.[31][32]

Resignation as chief of staff[edit]

On August 2, 2019, Representative Ocasio-Cortez announced that Saikat Chakrabarti "has decided to leave the office to work with New Consensus to further develop plans for a Green New Deal."[30] That same day in an interview with The Intercept Chakrabarti said he would be starting work with New Consensus, an organization dedicated to the Green New Deal, the Congresswoman’s "ambitious climate, economic, and racial justice agenda."[33] A subsequent article in The New York Times suggested a connection between this departure and Ocasio-Cortez's adoption of a more moderate strategy for working with conservative colleagues.[34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Schwartz, Nikki; Levine, Jon (August 2, 2019). "AOC loses top staffers following controversies". New York Post. Archived from the original on May 18, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  2. ^ Bhargavi Kulkarni (December 16, 2018). "Saikat Chakrabarti: The techie behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez". India Abroad. Archived from the original on March 5, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  3. ^ Ananya Dasgupta (January 18, 2019). "Meet Saikat Chakrabarti, the Bengali-American chief of staff of the feisty New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez". TheBengalStory. Archived from the original on March 8, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  4. ^ SEAS News Briefs (January 9, 2019). "Chakrabarti named to Politico Playbook Power List". Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Archived from the original on April 18, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  5. ^ Adam Shaw (March 6, 2019). "The 'tech millionaire' behind the socialist: Chief of staff who boosted AOC made riches in Silicon Valley". Fox News. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d Stuart, Tessa (November 21, 2018). "Can Justice Democrats Pull Off a Progressive Coup in Congress?". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on March 10, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019. The three leaders of Justice Democrats — Chakrabarti, Alexandra Rojas and Corbin Trent — met back in 2015, when the only thing they had in common was the fact that they each dropped everything they were doing and went to work for Sanders not long after he declared his candidacy. "I wasn't entirely sure he had all the right solutions but I knew he was talking about the right problems," Chakrabarti tells Rolling Stone.
  7. ^ Darren Samuelsohn (February 18, 2016). "Bernie's Army of Coders: Inside the DIY volunteer tech movement helping drive the insurgent campaign". Politico. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2019. If viral videos, data analytics, Twitter and meet-up pages were the big breakthroughs of past presidential elections, 2016 could very well go down as the year of the app.
  8. ^ a b c Kozub, Stephen (May 8, 2017). "Meet the tech-savvy activists trying to take over the Democratic Party". The Verge. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved March 13, 2019. As the director of Organizing Technology for the Sanders campaign, Chakrabarti worked alongside Justice Democrats co-founder Zach Exley and communications director Corbin Trent to create software to organize grassroots support.
  9. ^ "Why the Shadow Inc. app failed". Jacobin. February 6, 2020. Archived from the original on April 12, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  10. ^ Sidney Johnson (February 28, 2017). "Meet Saikat Chakrabarti, The Fort Worth Native Who's Helping To Launch The Justice Democrats, A New Bernie Sanders-Inspired Wing Of The Political Left". Central Track. Archived from the original on March 31, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  11. ^ Rachel Maddow interview (May 18, 2016). "New progressive political group modeled after Sanders campaign". MSNBC. Archived from the original on March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  12. ^ Ben Judah. "The Millennial Left Is Tired of Waiting". Archived from the original on October 11, 2019. Retrieved January 13, 2020.
  13. ^ Grigoryan, Nune; Suetzl, Wolfgang (2019). "Hybridized political participation". In Atkinson, Joshua D.; Kenix, Linda (eds.). Alternative Media Meets Mainstream Politics: Activist Nation Rising. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 190. ISBN 9781498584357. Archived from the original on October 13, 2020. Retrieved September 16, 2020.
  14. ^ John Eggerton (January 23, 2017). "Ex-Sanders Officials Launch Justice Democrats". Multichannel News. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  15. ^ Daniel Malloy (May 23, 2018). "This Berniecrat Aims to Unseat a Queens Power Broker". Ozy. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Zaid Jilani, Ryan Grim (July 1, 2018). "Data Suggest That Gentrifying Neighborhoods Powered Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Victory". The Intercept. Archived from the original on February 14, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  17. ^ Richardson, Valerie (November 18, 2017). "Progressives call for replacing Al Franken with Keith Ellison as support for resignation builds". The Washington Times. Archived from the original on September 6, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  18. ^ "LinkedIn Profile". Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  19. ^ Groves, Stephen (July 17, 2018). "Ocasio-Cortez stumps for insurgent Democrats in the midwest". Associated Press. Archived from the original on October 27, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  20. ^ a b c "Saikat Chakrabarti". POLITICO. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  21. ^ Nandita Singh (January 8, 2019). "Alongside Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, this Indian-origin man is out to change US politics". ThePrint. Archived from the original on August 5, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  22. ^ a b Siby Herald (December 22, 2018). "Saikat Chakrabarti, Chief of Staff to newly elected Congresswoman is among Politico's "Power List" of people". India Herald. Archived from the original on August 5, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  23. ^ a b Benjamin Wallace-Wells (January 17, 2019). "How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Allies Supplanted the Obama Generation". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on March 18, 2019. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  24. ^ David Montgomery (July 10, 2019). "AOC's Chief of Change". Washington Post. Archived from the original on August 31, 2019. Retrieved July 14, 2019. 'The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,' he said, 'is it wasn't originally a climate thing at all.' Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. 'Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?' Chakrabarti continued. 'Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.'
  25. ^ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff speaks out Archived 2019-03-12 at the Wayback Machine, video of interview with Brian Stelter on CNN's Reliable Sources
  26. ^ Hamilton, Isobel Asher (March 6, 2019). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not against wooing Amazon back to New York, but she says the firm must listen to locals". Business Insider. Archived from the original on March 15, 2019. Retrieved March 17, 2019. The deal was sprung on the community without any input and there's a real cost whenever tech companies come in without community input. Rents go up, people get evicted, there's an actual human cost," he said...Chakrabarti emphasised that it was Amazon who chose to leave the negotiating table once community voices were brought in. When asked whether he'd welcome Amazon back to the negotiating table, Chakrabarti said: "We'd welcome having a process, yes... but I don't know where the talks are at this stage.
  27. ^ Interview with Emily Chang on Bloomberg Technology (March 4, 2019). "Ocasio-Cortez Not Ruling Out Amazon Coming Back to NY, Aide Says". Bloomberg News. Archived from the original on March 10, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  28. ^ Godfrey, Elaine (July 11, 2018). "What 'abolish ICE' actually means". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on June 17, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  29. ^ Relman, Eliza (January 9, 2019). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slams Trump's border wall after his address to the nation". Business Insider. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  30. ^ a b Thebault, Reis; DeBonis, Mike (August 2, 2019). "Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff will resign to join group working on Green New Deal". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  31. ^ Golshan, Tara (July 13, 2019). "The ongoing feud between House Democratic leadership and progressives, explained". Vox. Archived from the original on August 4, 2019. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  32. ^ Lafond, Nicole (July 13, 2019). "House Democrats' Twitter Account Pounces On AOC's Chief Of Staff". Talking Points Memo. Archived from the original on August 9, 2019. Retrieved August 9, 2019.
  33. ^ Lacy, Akela (August 2, 2019). "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Chief of Staff and Communications Director Will Depart Her Office". The Intercept. Archived from the original on February 4, 2020. Retrieved February 4, 2020.
  34. ^ Edmondson, Catie (September 18, 2019). "How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez learned to play by Washington's rules". New York Times. Archived from the original on April 18, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.