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 Kuntzman promised hard-hitting questions, but The Local has withdrawn sponsorship of the debate, warning that including more candidates somehow…threatened democracy?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.