The Independence Party is Neither

Thanks to the efforts of the great Azi Paybarah at 51st State (WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE READ THIS POOR MAN’S BLOG!!!), we’ve learned that, ostensibly to ensure his party’s ideological purity, Independence Party Chair Frank McKay attempted to question party members concerning their relationship with the egregious anti-Semitic cult leaders “Doctors” Lenora Fulani and Fred Newman, with the goal of dis-enrolling those who failed McKay’s litmus test for being in sympathy with the party’s “principles”.

It's the battle between the party's right to free association versus the individual members' rights to free speech, and as such, kinda inspiring. Rights, even really good ones, sometimes conflict with one another. Individuals do have the right to free speech; political organizations have the right to stand for certain principles, and are allowed to take measures to ensure that they are not taken over by those who are do not share them. Nazis do not have the right to join B’nai Brith. The Supreme Court has ruled on this, specifically saying so in a case where California had forced political parties to allow non-party members to be permitted to vote in their primaries.

Looking at this as a battle between elevated principles is certainly a far more palatable way to view it, than as one between a coalition of freelance lunatics, opportunists and lunatic/opportunists versus a cult of psychotic anti-Semitic scam artists and their fellow travelers (including fast buck artists, and fanatics from every point on the political spectrum except sanity) for control over what is essentially a extortionary protection racket. Hopefully, they'll all fight until they're too exhausted to move, and then go out of business.

The Fulani and non-Fulani wings of the Independence Party are actually remarkably similar. Both wings pretend to be “Cranky Independents”, intent upon fighting the political establishment in the name of term limits, initiative, referendum, recall and other process “reforms”. In reality, all both wings have ever really stood for is sucking up to the powers that be, no matter what their party or ideology, in exchange for cash on the barrelhead and jobs for the boys. Cranky Independents?  Cranky, like a baby crying all the way to the bank. As such, I guess McKay doesn't have a case, because Fulani and company stand for exactly the same things he does.

I’m not talking about chump change either; Fulani-Newman support for Pataki and Bloomberg has yielded State and City financial backing in the millions for their “All-Stars” program, including mortgage financing via tax free municipal bonds, as well as funding for anti-Semitic theatrical productions, and most shockingly, school based “social therapy” programs run according to the Newman philosophy, which combines extreme left wing ideas with wacko psychiatric theories. “Social Therapist” Newman believes that it’s all right to have sex with his patients, and also to assign them therapeutic political work. While, in a political context, Newman’s quotes concerning his view of "professional ethics" are probably among his least offensive comments, the fact that he is being given access to young children shocks the conscience, even if everybody keeps their pants on. And we haven’t even mentioned the large private contributions given or leveraged by the Mayor to the “arts” programs. The Mayor has also appointed Fulani-Newman cultists as members of the City’s Charter Review Commission. By contrast, the non-Fulani types have mostly wet their beaks in obscure state and county level jobs, tucked away where their accumulated efforts have no costs, except to the taxpayers. But, they are also hungry and their recent battles over sacred constitutional principles signal that a new bunch of hogs are queuing up to the trough.

But, neither Fulani affiliated psychotics or McKay affiliated neurotics dominate the ranks of those enrolled in the party. The largest faction of the Independence Party are “the unaware”; specifically those who checked the "Independence" box on their voter registration forms thinking it meant unaffiliated. Fulani/Newman flack Jackie Salit's recently cracked that McKay wanted to dis-enroll all but two of the party's 339,000 enrolled voters.  But, as Salit and McKay both well know, if there were a label next to the "Independence" box on voter registration forms which said "Warning: If What You Really Want To Do Is Not Enroll In Any Party, By No Means Should You Check This Box", then the Party would only have about two enrolled voters. With the exception of  the spirited political blogger, “Cranky Independent”, who enrolled in the party to keep his “hands clean” (trying to maintain "clean hands" by choosing to join the IP, instead of one of the major parties, is like choosing to wash your hands in the toilet because the sink hasn't been cleaned), there are  few, if any, voters who knowingly enrolled in the Independence Party who are neither racists, crackpots or fast buck artists.

The Independence Party is the creation of multi-millionaire egomaniac Thomas Golisano, who decided in 1994 he was our local Ross Perot, and wanted to buy his way to the governorship by creating a cult of no personality. Fulani, Newman and company were recruited by Golisano, the same way he recruits most people, he rented them, not because he agreed with them on anything, but because he wanted their troops and expertise to get on the ballot in 94. Fulani and company had started out as pals of Lyndon LaRouche before deciding LaRouche's US Labor Party wasn’t big enough for two Messiahs and forming their own New Alliance Party (NAP) and a business empire of political consultants, psychotherapy and arts programs, among other enterprises.

The Nappies, with their own in-house counsel, cult member Harry Kresky, a onetime Bloomberg appointee, became experts on ballot access, sometimes filing petitions to run on their own line, and sometimes running in Democratic Primaries. They actually had their own Bronx Councilman, Gilberto Gerena-Valentin, during the late 70s, and the party (political) hopping Espada family held multiple offices during the 90s, but mostly the Nappies lost. Nonetheless, they almost always made the ballot and played crucial roles in aiding politicians like Al Sharpton and Frank Barbaro in ballot-access efforts.

Golisano lost the 94 election, but his party, helped by its appealing name, achieved enough votes to earn a line on the ballot. A line on the ballot gives a party the ability to qualify candidates with minimal efforts, and with a name like “Independence”, this meant the ability to attract confused voters, thereby attracting the attention and generosity of the political establishment. As such, control of the party became a valuable commodity. In 1995, the party’s membership was besieged by perennial candidates like Upper Manhattan’s Harry Fotopolous, independent movements like the Greens, fast buck operators and flakes. But when you lie down with a bigoted cult, you end up with them controlling your party. The well organized and disciplined Nappies, working together with fast buck opportunist allies who saw a chance at a piece of the pie (McKay among them), eventually achieved control.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on the Fulaniites. Their money-lust was, and is, insatiable, but ultimately they were undone because of their adherence to principle. Despite their left wing, and sometimes racialist-based,  rhetoric, it’s hard to discern a unifying philosophical thread in  a bunch that flails between Ross Perot, Al Sharpton, Pat Buchanan, the Natural Law Party and Ralph Nader (although nativism and hostility to Israel seem a common theme), but a few minutes watching Newman speak tells you he isn’t making it up as he’s going along; there really is a scary underlying worldview. Plus, what, but true belief in one’s principles, could keep these folks from shutting up about the Jews?

While I agree that an extortion operation fraudulently run (there is a history of running folks for party positions who didn’t know they were candidates) by freelance kooks and/or opportunists is preferable to one run by an anti-Semitic cult, I'm not sure a McKay victory would really be an occasion for dancing in the streets. McKay is not an anti-Semite; he's a whore, and, up until recently, the anti-Semite’s useful idiot, whose whoring and useful idiocy enabled and empowered anti-Semites. Whether this makes him better than them is a matter of opinion; it can be argued that it makes him worse. But, in the end, it is a distinction without a difference, for the proper way to treat both types is exactly the same. BOYCOTT AND DESTROY. To be fair, there are others in the Independence Party who are neither anti-Semitic or whores for those who are (although often they are still whores). Several other groups joined the party so that they could control the ballot line and sell it to the highest bidder, and they've always resented Fulani for cutting in on their action. Still others, the types of people who stand on the corner raving about radio waves and the Trilateral Commission, have ideological axes to grind. So while they might deserve to be called extortionists (or extortionist wannabes) and lunatics, they don't deserve to be branded as bigots. In a party controlled by reprehensible scum, they are not reprehensible scum. But that’s not really saying much.

The fact is that McKay could not be bothered to clean house until it became clear that his once valuable ability to sell his line to the highest bidder was going to be considerable less profitable if the line was tainted. Moreover, 2006 was a Gubernatorial year, and unless the Party achieved 50,000 votes, it would lose its automatic ballot status and essentially go out of existence. If, as seemed likely, every major party candidate rejected the ballot line, McKay’s charmed existence as a power broker would be yesterday’s news. Hence, the purge, which involves both court challenges and fights at the ballot box; one primary for party leadership features Newman v. Bernard Goetz, which at least gives enrolled members of  the Party the choice they deserve. In fact, the Newman-Goetz race nicely sums up my view of the IP’s factional wars: “Shoot ‘em all and let God sort it out”.

McKay’s efforts worked; just as it looked as if this boil on the butt of the state’s body politic was going to be lanced, off to the rescue came Eliot Spitzer and the State’s Democratic leadership, including Hillary and Alan Hevesi, to ensure Frank McKay and his motley crew another four years running their scummy little protection racket. There is no excuse for this; the fact that the current IP leadership is not anti-Semitic is not sufficient reason to provide them with a line on the ballot. Not everyone should be given control over their own ballot line merely because they are free of bigotry. Bruce Ratner isn't an anti-Semite, but that doesn't mean he's entitled to his own line on the ballot (oops; he already has one!).

In a truly emblematic illustration of how the Albany bi-partisan ruling establishment really works, this all inures to the benefit of the Republicans. By taking their line, Spitzer enables the Independence Party to survive; but, Spitzer, Hilary and Hevesi also enable Joe Bruno to survive. This year, facing a potential blow-out of monumental proportions, Joe Bruno and company were worried that not even the reliable incompetence of David Paterson and friends could save them from the unhappy accident of voters starting at Spitzer and voting straight down the line. But there now exists a ballot line where a voter can cast their votes for Spitzer, Hillary and Hevesi, and then continue down the line and be able to support every single solitary Senate Republican whose existence might be threatened by a Democratic landslide, as well as every Senate Republican candidate who has even a theoretical chance of taking a Democratic seat. This year, the Independence Party has become Joe Bruno’s trump card; a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican State Senate Campaign Committee (RSSCC), essentially run out of the RSSCC offices, providing Republicans with life jackets to save them from the likely Democratic tsunami. As a bonus, The IP’s even endorsed Jeannine Pirro, the one statewide Republican candidate with an outside shot of victory. The McKay faction of the IP should really change its name to the “Three Men in a Room Party", and Eliot Spitzer should really modify his slogan to “On day one nothing changes”.

By taking the Independence nod, Hilary and Spitzer help these political head lice to keep Joe Bruno in continued power; and by enabling the Independence Party’s continued existence, they prolong this infamita into the forseeable political future.