In researching my three part series on the race for the Democratic nomination in the 11th Congressional District, I came across a remarkable document which bears discussion. It is a “10-point reform plan” for the Kings County Democratic Party written by Congressional candidate Chris Owens. The plan is interesting not so much for what it says about Owens (nothing not already suspected), as for what it says about “reformers”. In undertaking an uphill and not unmerited battle for reform of the Kings County Democratic Party, would-be reformers are well advised to first do two things: 1) Get Your Facts Straight, and 2) Get Your Goals Straight. The Owens document fails on both counts.
In an election like the 11th CD Congressional race, where so little separates the candidates on most issues, perhaps it’s time to looks at the candidates’ characters. Unfortunately, there is no better topic to bring one back to a discussion of the issues.
Chris Owens must have the most unique campaign for Congress ever conducted in New York’s sorry, sleazy political history. In a certain sense he’s selling himself as the cross-racial unifier, the only candidate with appeal across both sides of the color-line, but it’s a peculiar appeal indeed. To white audiences he essentially says “this is an historically black seat which a white candidate has no moral right to hold, so vote for me, because I’m the one black candidate who shares your values” (this may only be a Brownstone phenomena, as white guilt does not play a big role in the politics of Midwood). To black audiences he essentially says “the whites are trying to steal our seat, which is part of our birthright, I’m the best guy to stop them, because I’m the only one who can get white votes.”
I find the Sun indispensable for its lack of respect for the conventional wisdom, and its willingness to poke into areas the other dailies chose to ignore. But every once in a while they get a “talking points” memo from the RNC, and turn over their news pages to the “Vast Right Wing Conspiracy”. Today’s page one featured a headline “Democrats Plan Race-Based Campaign Against Black Candidate in Maryland”. The article features excerpts from confidential memos from the Maryland Democratic Party and the DSCC which purport to outline this pernicious strategy. How do the Dems plan to discredit black Republican Michael Steele? “Connecting Steele to National Republicans, especially on issues such as Medicare Reform and Social Security privatization, can turn Steele into a typical Republican in the eyes of voters, as opposed to an African American candidate”.
As both readers of my blog know, I recently concluded that only two candidates for Congress in the 11th CD, David Yassky and Christopher Owens, met the minimum standards to be fit for service, but while I found Yassky more promising, I was reluctant to support him because he is a white candidate in a black majority district. I sort of feel ashamed about this, but my reluctance to support him is a pragmatic judgment, not a moral one.
Yassky's whiteness is going to hang from him like a target and every two years he is going to face another racial crusade. This presents several problems. The first is that it does little for community comity. The ugliness of this race has already been damaging to community relations in Brooklyn, and will become more so as the primary approaches. This animosity is fueled by other candidates (especially Chris Owens), free lance community opportunists, and parasitical institutions of the Fifth Estate like Ed Weintrob’s repulsive collection of Brooklyn Paper rags.
"PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER CALLS WESTERN AID CUTOFF "BLACKMAIL" – New York Times, April 9, 2006 (page 11)
Guys, cutting off the aid isn’t "blackmail". Giving the aid in the first place was a "bribe".
The race for Congress in the 11th Congressional District works best when viewed as a morality play, allowing the audience to comfortably weigh their own competing values against one another, while pondering their irreconcilability. At the end of such a play, one can walk out satisfied that one has exercised their intellect, and then one can discuss it for hours on end over a double latte or a crisp white pinot, without ever actually feeling obligated to convert one’s conclusions into an actual course of action.
The race for Congress in the 11th CD works worst when viewed as an actual election, because once the curtain falls, one is obligated to actually vote for one of the candidates.
To complain about scandals in Albany is like griping about someone farting while you're walking through an open sewer. Acts of actual illegality are the exception rather than the rule, and are usually the function of laziness and inattentiveness to paperwork. Far more significant are the acts which are moral outrages, but perfectly legal. And, finally there is the press, too jaded or dumb or lazy to pay attention, and nearly always getting it wrong. The stupidity often festers until it becomes the conventional wisdom, so that even those who know better decide that it’s the west and you print the legend. The stupidest Albany legend is the one repeated by Ed Koch, time and again, while everyone nods their head at it’s sage wisdom: “Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver was responsible for killing the commuter tax in 1999, and he did so to help the Senate Democrats win a special election”. WRONG!!!
(Part Three in an Occasional Series on the Race in New York’s 10th Congressional District)
Re-reading my two prior posts (See, Curse You Chuck Barron and Edolphus Towns And The Limits Of Pork) anticipating the nauseating battle between Ed Towns and Charles Barron, it occurred to me that this might be that rare contested race that did not involve mudslinging. I mean, why would these guys need to lie about each other when the truth will suffice?
Rarely do I harbor thoughts of divine intervention, but after spending over two hours composing, refining and polishing a study of the failings of Congressman Edolphus “ET” Towns, only to have it disappear in a matter of seconds due to my computer illiteracy, I am now almost convinced that there is a God, and that God firmly supports Ed Towns as the lesser of the evils in the 10th Congressional District. So, before I try again, let me make this offering to the force Reform Jews refer to as “Our Parent, Our Ruler”: "Ed Towns is the political equivalent of indigestion; Charles Barron is a heart attack. Supporting Charles Barron as a cure for the ills of Ed Towns is like curing a hangnail by amputating your foot." That offering being done, I will now proceed.
Domestic Partner was in an uproar. “Gatemouth should write about immigration. It’s the biggest issue in the country! And it’s a moral issue.”
Not surprisingly, Domestic Partner has both a heart of gold, and a card of green. Domestic Partner’s Domestic Helper has the former, but lacks the latter. For now, this bothers Domestic Partner far more than the prospect of Domestic Helper’s prices accelerating should she become legal; and, the question of actually paying for Domestic Helper’s Social Security appears to have not yet acquired a moral dimension.
I demurred. Gatemouth, the character I play in print, is an agent provacatuer. He wants to make people angry, as many as possible from all sides. Immigration may be the hottest issue in the country, but in New York, Kennedy-McCain is the closest one can get to a matter of political consensus. Gatemouth does not write columns in favor of the prevailing consensus. What’s the point?