(Photo Courtesy of PolitickerNY)Something that you may not know about me - in 2008, I became a Vice Chair of the Kings County Republican Committee. (That's me on the far left - of the photo, not the political spectrum!) I am part of the Law Committee in charge of Club Activities. Basically, I deal with district club compliance with the law and would handle any legal issue that would come up, along with the rest of the Law Committee.
I also get to put the "Hon." title in front of my name - something I never do, but it's kind of cool. :-)
You may have heard recently that the Brooklyn GOP made news in voting 36-9 in favor of allowing Mayor Bloomberg to run on the Republican line in the next Mayoral election. Many contributors to blogs felt that the Brooklyn GOP "caved in" to the Mayor. If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's a sampling:
I was one of the 36 that voted "Yes". And I'd be glad to explain my vote.
First, a word about how the vote happened. No, a vote wasn't on the agenda for the meeting. A motion was made from the floor by a district leader whom I will not name. It was seconded, and discussed. After discussion, there was a motion to table the vote. Discussion ensued, and a vote to table followed. That vote failed, and was followed by a vote on the orginal motion which carried.
Now, the short answer for my vote - survival.
I understand the need for principled stances, such as the one that people advocated to make against the Mayor by denying him the GOP line. However, I felt that the REAL issue in this vote wasn't the mayor's line on a ballot, it was the future relevance of the Brooklyn Republican Party - which as of now is teetering by a fraying thread.
Any discussion of future relevance begins with winning the majority back in the NY State Senate.
For those who aren't politically inclined, the start of every decade is a pivotal time in political circles. It means that the local political lines are re-drawn, and new districts are created that will last for 10 years. The party in control of government, specifically the Senate, gets a greater say in re-drawing those lines. If the Senate is controlled by the Democratic party, then the lines will be drawn in their favor - meaning more members of their party will likely be elected. Democratic leadership would like nothing better (and have said as much) than to eradicate any "opposition" voice in government, and they have a real chance in doing now and into the foreseeable future if they maintain the Senate majority.
I believe that democracy only works when you have an opposition voice.
The only way I see to win back the Senate is with the help of Mayor Bloomberg, who has supported Republicans in the Senate in the last Senate election. And even then, it's not a lock, as we had the Mayor's support in the previous Senate elections, and lost the majority. Imagine how many more seats would be lost if the Mayor supported the Democrats.
But here's an even better reason. I further think that if you don't have the Mayor working for you, he's likely to be working against you - think of the alternatives.
If Mayor Bloomberg cannot get the Republican line, he'll still be running. Hell, he can create his own party, get enough signatures to run, and probably still win. But at this point, let's assume the position that he at least runs with or without the GOP ticket, as he's already has a campaign hitting the ground running.
So my opening premise is this: that the two-term incumbent billionaire Mayor runs either with our support or without it. And, in my opinion, he's the odds-on favorite.
Let's say he runs with our support. If he wins, we have an ally who will continue to support us (presumably). If he loses, then he's a private citizen with a lot of money that may be looking to take out his frustrations at losing against those who worked against him, which would be - well, not us. It would most likely be the Democrats and their supporters. Again, we would (presumably) continue to have his support in Senate races as a way for him to settle some scores.
Now, let's say he doesn't receive our support. If he wins, then, we as a party have cut off all communications with a billionaire mayor who will (presumably) be looking for retribution against those who didn't support him. That means, bye-bye Senate support, and most likely, bye-bye Senate majority and any Republican elected officials in Brooklyn for the foreseeable future. Or he loses. In which case, he's an idle billionaire with a grudge against those who help oust him from power, and would (presumably) throw his support against our opposition. Again, bye-bye Senate, bye-bye elected positions, hello to a generation of irrelevance.
Notice I say "presumably" to all of this - it's all my conjecture. But, assuming that my presumptions are true - if you're of the mind that the Republican party is on the brink of losing what little relevance it has for at least a generation (given re-districting looming on the horizon), what side would you rather be on? In my opinion, common sense dictates that you side with the Mayor. Especially given comments like this from Democratic leaders:
“I am expecting an overwhelming victory in Brooklyn on the part of the Democratic Party,” said Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez, the Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman. “With this election, we will come closer to my mission of making Brooklyn a place that is only represented by Democrats,” Mr. Lopez said.
Why in the world would any Republican want to help out Lopez's agenda to destroy democracy in Brooklyn? One-party representation is what we all should be fighting against first and foremost!
A vote for Bloomberg is a step away from Lopez's un-American position.
Now add this to the argument - name one well-known NY Republican who can run a viable campaign, let alone win. John Catsimatidis (another Dem-turned Republican) was the only one I could think of, but he's been hedging his bets based on the Mayor's actions. Other names have been thrown around since the vote (Tom Ognibene is one), but here's the thing - no one else has been out there campaigning! Everyone is in wait-and-see mode. In my opinion, you can't start a campaign at this point, raise any significant money and/or expect it to be credible. In my opinion, standing still is the same as moving backwards - a waste of time. Democrats have been campaigning for months, if not a full year. This, to me, leaves the real danger of a BLANK Republican line in the race for MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY. Not only would that be embarrassing, it would be the party's death knell.
Again, Lopez would LOVE that!
One counter-argument I heard was all about how the Mayor has burned the GOP before, has used us to get to where he wanted to go, and the like. All of which I understand and, for the most part, agree with. But, now is not the time for principle. We're in the fight for our political lives in Brooklyn. Now is the time to strengthen this party for the long haul as fast as we can. Building grassroots support - a method you all know I'm fond of given my Brigham Park initiative - will not happen fast enough in the time we need to get ready for a Senate dogfight.
We have to grow NOW - and quickly. Siding with the Mayor gives us the only chance I see that we currently have for the boost we need to put our growth on the fast-track - so our message and principles can reach a greater audience.
Now the cynics will say that I'm talking about patronage - and you'd be right. Patronage is a dirty word in politics, but it's a necessary evil. Everyone has patrons in one sense or antoher,(artists, non-profits, etc.) or their ideas don't reach a significant audience to make an impact. How do you think the Democrats grow their party? They use their power, and their money, to garner support whether it's through jobs or contributions or whatever. The Brooklyn GOP has no such money or power to throw around, and virtually no influence. You have to start somewhere. And what better patron to have than a billionaire Mayor - especially when you're facing a fight for survival?
There was also the "What's the Rush?" argument. I voted "no " on waiting. I felt that nothing would dramatically change by waiting 30 days or more. Leaders lead. They don't stick their heads in the sand and let events dictate their actions - they let their actions dictate events.
Here's another reason to get out there early - let's say the US Federal Courts or the Dept. of Justice but the kibosh on the term limits extension. Unlikely, but it may happen. Now, Bloomberg can't run, we're open to support a "real" Republican, and we have Bloomberg to thank for giving us a base to build on for other "real" Republicans.
Yet another counter-argument - the Mayor's policies are un-Republican. I totally agree. I abhor his position on Term Limits, and I feel that his tax policies are hurting the city. But remember, my vote isn't about an endorsement of Bloomberg's policy - it's for party survival. It's about what I think is best for the Brooklyn GOP. Where's the alternative? A Democratic candidate? A Johnny-Come-Lately Republican with no credible chance of putting forth a successful campaign?
The final counter-argument I heard was "How can you trust the Mayor?" To this I say, you're right, I can't. I agree that he has burned the party on many occasions. I'd rather be optimistic and think that we can forge a working relationship with the Mayor in the future. But I ask again, what's the alternative? I say again, you have to start somehwere. This is an easier leap of faith than waiting for another "white knight" to kickstart the party financially. In effect, he's the lesser of all evils.
Notice that I don't speak in absolutes, only likelihoods. I have no crystal ball. But as an Executive Board member, I have to think of what path is most likely to help our party, especially in this pivotal time. I think my vote represents the best choice.
I'll say to all of you what I said at the end of the vote - this was the most fun political debate I had in some time. All views were represented and respected. And make no mistake, there were as many Bloomberg-lovers as there were Bloomberg-haters at the meeting. Yet, no one was put down. It was a beautiful thing to be a part of, and I am energized to get down to work. In the end, the votes came down as we all know. While my heart may have been with the principled opposition, my head was thinking of the party's survival so we can, hopefully, build a foundation so those principles can reach a wide audience.
I look forward to talking about this further with anyone who wants to comment. I'd especially like to hear what alternative ideas others would've suggested.