Games Democrats Play #423: Everything is Secondary to the Primary

When I introduce friends to my work in Green politics, they often wonder why it has been tough for Greens to make gains against the two parties when our platform is so close to what people desperately want to see in government. This week provides a great example.

The Fort Greene Association here in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn was going to co-sponsor a June 4th debate between congressional candidates Hakeem Jeffries and Charles Barron. Jeffries and Barron are seeking the Democratic Party nomination which, in the conventional wisdom of Brooklyn politics, will essentially decide the election.

The corporate-funded Jeffries is the front-runner, but he and Barron both are challenged by the internationally renowned eco-activist Colin “aka No Impact Man” Beavan, who has secured the Green Party ballot line and will appear on the general election ballot. Beavan’s campaign convinced the Fort Greene folks that it was in the interest of democracy that all of the candidates for Congressional District 8, including Beavan and the presumptive Republican nominee, participate in the debate.

The good people of Fort Greene agreed, but Jeffries immediately bailed on the debate, saying opening the doors to other parties might “confuse” his prospective voters since these candidates were not participating in the Democratic Party’s primary. Nice estimation of your constituents’ intelligence, Jeffries.

But there’s more! See, the co-sponsor of this “great debate” was none other than the New York Times’ own “The Local” blog, helmed by longtime BK hack Gersh Kuntzman. Kuntzman promised hard-hitting questions, but The Local has withdrawn sponsorship of the debate, warning that including more candidates somehow…threatened democracy?

And herein lies the lesson: In a one-party, machine town like Brooklyn, Democrats and their cronies in the media use the primary as an excuse to exclude alternative choices. When a Green (or anyone else, really) tries to participate, they’re told to wait out the primary .

But after the primary season is over, the Democrat can just stonewall until the election because the press assumes the Dem will win anyway. The press, neighborhood associations, civic groups…they just accept it as a foregone conclusion and move on to other things.

See the bait-and-switch? That’s why Beavan wanted in on this debate and that’s why FGA widened participation. Jeffries’ campaign says they will address other candidates after the primary, but…will they? And why should voters have to wait until after some magic date to hear what other candidates have to say? This isn’t like the presidential campaign, where the partisan primaries started last year.

It’s also noteworthy that Jeffries, himself, is technically a third party candidate since he has secured the Working Families Party endorsement.

Now keep in mind, Greens face these kinds of shenanigans every year in local campaigns across the country. This is what we go through just to get in the door, fighting against political bigotry that has nothing to do with what voters want, or who is the best candidate. No party should be able to coast to the finish line at the voters’ expense.

4 thoughts on “Games Democrats Play #423: Everything is Secondary to the Primary

  1. Ursula

    Nice post Michael. I had kind of been wondering about the “big deal,” why wouldn’t Colin just wait till after the primary? But it makes sense, given the D-machine in Brooklyn, that he would want to make sure that voters know he’s out there. Almost makes me want to move to BK just to work on his campaign.

    Also, party-hacks probably shouldn’t be allowed to write about local politics for the NYTimes. Or work for the BOE.

  2. Michael ONeil Post author

    Thanks. Gersh isn’t a party hack, but a press hack. His pedigree is the NY Post and Brooklyn Paper.

  3. Paolo Cremidis

    why dont you just debate him after the primary, instead of complaining how primaries work. The green party has primaries you dont let democrats debate in those. Plus the general election isnt until November, so you have that time to be in the debate.

  4. Michael ONeil Post author


    You might want to try a new web browser, because the one you have seems to have not shown you the last four paragraphs of the post where I explain the Post-Primary-Stonewalling-Bait-and-Switchâ„¢. Or perhaps your display is broken, or a small animal is blocking your view.

    I can’t think of a 501c3, not-for-profit organization that has ever hosted a Green-Party-only debate. The only “Greens-only” debates I’ve heard of, like the one we just did at our state convention for president, are hosted by the party itself.

    I have no problem with Democratic clubs and organizations throwing their own debates for their own primary process. But a neighborhood association? That’s just playing games.

    The underlying problem, of course, is the machine politics and cronyism that drive Democrat dominance thoughout most of NYC, of which the debates are only one aspect.

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