But...how much of the rancor is based in fact? It's worth asking, in an era of claims of fake news and hyper criticism, whether one must really use such invective when discussing the candidates vying for office in this make-or-break year.
|pic by Rachel Holliday Smith (sniff...|
Stopped by your State Senator's office on Bedford and Montgomery yesterday. It's a telling location for his office, actually. While his heavily gerrymandered district includes parts of Park Slope, Gowanus, Prospect Heights and even Brooklyn Chinatown, his base is right across from two crucial neighborhood assets - Medgar Evers College and the Ebbets Field apartments. Each time I'm in that area I'm struck by just how important this "South Crown Heights" enclave is right now to the still mostly black residents of Central Brooklyn. MEC was created 50 years ago to address education inequity, and provide a backbone for a neighborhood blighted by neglect and poverty from the late '60s thru today. It's a proud symbol of perseverance and a reminder of the importance of college itself to less-advantaged youth.
And those apartments! After the devastating loss of the Dodgers, and the neighborhood became predominantly African American, decent working class housing was in short supply. Ebbets (apartments, not projects!) became a needed alternative to the slummy buildings that have since been re-habbed and rediscovered, with one-bedrooms fetching $2500 a month.
I write all this to set the stage. I know you know it, but Jesse isn't just YOUR representative; to some he's a godsend. He's in many ways a product of this neighborhood, living through the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the weddings and funerals and school closings. Sure he's ambitious and an astute and persuasive lawyer, a politician through and through. But he is proud of his community, its schools, the progress on guns and crime, a longtime crusader for criminal justice reform. He went to Albany having inherited Eric Adams old seat (I say inherited because despite a strong challenger to the seat in Rubain Dorancy, it was Eric's machine that really helped put him over the top). I find it important to start any conversations of Hamilton's hits and strikes from there. I've seen him in action since long before he took this particular position, and he's put in his time and he holds close to his heart the strength of his convictions and confidence in his abilities to provide services and move progressive causes towards the finish line. He's no one's idea of a conservative.
But. Yes, but. He made an "interesting," bold, and some would say reckless choice a couple years ago that has inflamed passions and set him on a course towards what will surely be a bitter primary fight against a relative unknown named Zellnor Myrie - or "Z" to his friends. Z has raised a bunch of money already, due in part to that choice that Hamilton made, during, it must be noted, a more optimistic political climate in the shadow of the great Barack Obama. And what odd and terrible thing did Jesse do that's preordained this epic clash of wills?
He joined the Independent Democratic Conference. The IDC. And you'll be hearing LOTS and LOTS about the IDC in the coming months. Depending on whom you ask, overnight, Hamilton became either:
1) A pro-Trump turncoat enabling the state and country's regressive policies
2) A pragmatic realist who recognizes the only way to get bills passed and money allocated in a polarized world is to figure out how to work with the enemy
And before I dig into more of the criticisms of Jesse's decision to go IDC, and whether a few racist emails really amount to an unfair racist attack on Hamilton by whole groups like the Working Families Party, or whether his cries of racism are actually a political tactic to deflect the anti-IDC crowd, you gotta know the real answer to a central question. And that is...
Did Jesse joining the IDC, on balance, keep the Democrats from long-championed legislation and state leadership? The Q can find no evidence of that. The math just wasn't there for the Democrats to gain control, and so each bill and issue gets hammered out the same way as ever...vote by vote, regardless of party.
So I asked Jesse - why not just go back to the Democrats, say it was a worthy experiment, and be done with it? I tell you truthfully that the IDC is feeling the heat, and should Democrats win a clear majority this fall, they're likely to go back to the fold and elect Democratic leadership, probably the first female African-American leader of the Senate. But the Repubs were going to control the chamber anyway up til now, especially since Brooklynite Simcha Felder has basically become a Republican. Never met Simcha. But I imagine his politics drifted right, and many conservative Jews fall on that side of the spectrum. In fact, his electorate might demand it of him.
So is Jesse a total turncoat? No. Are the WFP and Indivisible and the majority of education advocates racist just for attacking his methods? No. And in fact, Jesse's latest tirade against "fringe" groups like WFP is NOT helping. WFP is hardly fringe, and Jesse unwisely tried to stage a counter-rally last weekend instead of merely letting the anti-IDC do their thing. Sometimes you gotta sit one out, and maybe it's cuz he's relatively new, but I don't think his political instincts are too keen here. Were I working for him, I'd have told him that now is not the time to inflame passions further. Stay calm. Remain sure of yourself. Explain your positions. Take the heat like a...like someone who can take the heat.
Instead, it's going to get butt-ugly folks. The Q only hopes that you look at these candidates closely for what they believe and how they interact with EVERYone. This fight over the true meaning of Democrat?
It's for the birds, y'all. But sometimes birds tear each other to shreds.