Thanks David For Bringing Me Back To DFNYC

A Piece On DFNYC

I am glad at least someone associated with DFNYC is willing to discuss race as a topic. If you go to three DFNYC events, that is like a total of nine hours out of a month. That is not the major part of a month. So I guess it can be hip hop plus DFNYC plus the city plus Nepal plus other stuff. I guess I will keep my options open about showing up for DFNYC events.

David Michaelson

There is Abhi's Research Advocacy meeting in 10 days, and a LinkUp in 17 days. I guess I will keep my options open. I might or might not show.

Oh, and I just found out, there is some kind of a A five-hour Dance-a-thon benefiting GMHC, Also benefiting Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP). Last night I went to Webster Hall, and I could only go on for two hours, maybe a little less than two. Then I kind of just sat and took in the music, for hours.

I mean, I went to the Mixer Thursday evening, and it was great fun. As usual.
  1. The concepts I cultivate at this blog, it is very much work in progress. I feel like I am building a mathematical model. That is the first step. As for the application, I have said it is open source. There is no diktat. It is not like I am going to come up with this grand proposal and hold DFNYC hostage to it.
  2. DFNYC is not a major time commitment.
From: "David Michaelson"
Subject: RE: A Piece On DFNYC
Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2005 09:42:34 -0500

Interesting piece. Race is such a major issue in NYC, and not just white vs. minority. Hatian blacks and "Southern" blacks go at it all the time. Various Hispanic groups don't get along. Etc. DFNYC does a lot better than the average NYC progressive group in reaching out to minorities and minority candidates. But race is a big issue for NYC progressives and one that is not often addressed.

My current poliitical group has been focused quite a bit on good candidates of all races: Norm Seigel, Margarita Lopez-Torres, Freddy Ferrer, Chris Owens, Tish James, Norm Titus and Paul Wooten in particular. Only one white in the crowd. I was kind of proud when I realized that our efforts had focused on so many minorities. Often Democratic groups do not focus on this. That is one of my complaints about Independent Neighborhood Democrats. Their slate tends to be pretty white. Hard to fight the local Dem machine when you show a solid white face.

Chris Owens wrote an excellent piece on race in Brooklyn politics. It was part of a private email discussion among political organizers and was in response to something I wrote. It was not intedned for public circulation but he has given us permission to pass it along if we feel it appropriate. I will point out that several DFNYC organizers were part of this dicussion and were very responsive to Chris' statements. You might be interested in it:

"David is correct, of course. We need a 50-state strategy (and/or ongoing revisions to 50 state strategies) and we certainly need a 5-borough strategy for progressive advancement here in New York City. Staten Island does indeed represent an area where the common economic concerns and common concerns about education, health care and affordable housing provide political pontoons for Democrats that could become real bridges.

However, since we are having an open and honest discussion here, I wish to highlight an important issue that is uncomfortable for many people but which can really impede our ability to move together -- race.

As African Americans (particularly those with Southern origins) decrease in NYC's population, the level and intensity of racial sensitivity and concern regarding political empowerment will increase. This process has already started. Unfortunately, tension between Black and Hispanic political leadership simmers below the surface. (Ferrer's ascendancy is a crucial step in dissipating some of the tension. But, should Ferrer lose, will the 2009 Democratic Primary pit Billy Thompson against Adolfo Carrion and Anthony Weiner?)

And the more conservative cultural influences within the African-American, Caribbean-American and African populations are very powerful. On this front, the ideological tension between these communities and liberal white communities is clear and there has been too little effort on either side to overcome this.

As the Latino population -- as divided as it may be -- increases its political clout there will be exponential increases in the intensity of concerns regarding political empowerment. There will also be significant growing pains regarding practices that traditional "progressives" abhor but may have to endure and/or overlook to sustain coalition-building.

The Asian community's political situation is similar to that of Hispanics. The primary growth areas are Brooklyn and Queens. Empowerment issues are emerging here as well, particularly now that John Liu has provided a tangible role model.

Conservative whites, particularly the orthodox Jewish communities, are increasing in number and, in Brooklyn, the percentage of the voting population. Leaders in these communities are admirable -- actually role models -- in their ability to deliver services and influence the political system.

Progressive whites, and progressives in general, are a floating minority in this demographic soup. We are actually good at getting attention, providing policy leadership, and keeping the New York Times and Village Voice, for example, to the left of the spectrum. But the competing racial empowerment dynamics will create serious issues within the next 20 years.

There will certainly be a Latino and Black candidate in every Mayoral election going forward. And there are those who say that the age of the white Jewish liberal candidate (at the citywide level) is over, for example, and that the profile of successful white candidates going forward will be much more moderate.

Finally, to be that much more real, we must acknowledge the power of money. If there is one force that will regulate the race-based clashes of New York's future, it will be the mutual desire on the part of all community leaders to have "access" to power brokers and to "make money" off of politics. New York City will become more and more like Washington, DC -- more similar to the way in which the Congress is treated by lobbyists and interest groups.

This is the real battle that progressives must confront: racially-charged political struggles addressing public policy influenced by those willing to spend money on the politicians. Racial and ethnic "fiefdoms" will emerge and be bought, sold or pitted against each other by those seeking power and exploiting needs. The Atlantic Yards experience is a harbinger of things to come.

In fairness, there are efforts being made -- including work by the New Democratic Majority and several political clubs in Brooklyn. Ironically, some of the more liberal clubs have been LESS successful at creating a good racial mix in their membership. Why is this? Because our system of political representation includes the creation of political jurisdictions that promote racial segregation. This is a by-product of the Voting Rights Act's application to our state's politics and, frankly, I am not sure how to change this. Again, some things are simple -- like clubs meeting in areas more likely to encourage participation by many who don't normally participate. Sustaining interest, however, is much harder. I know because I have been there.

(Remember, New York remains a very segregated city in so many ways. I often wonder if the truest expression of equality would be when the number of white nannies walking the streets of Brownsville with Black children in strollers equals the number of Black and Hispanic nannies walking the streets of Park Slope with white children. There are few more dramatic statements of where we are and where we need to go than this one.)

We also need to advocate for policy changes that will force political leaders to talk to everyone, rather than segment the populace like radio markets. The use of Instant Runoff Voting in our Citywide and/or Statewide primary elections, for example, would both save money and promote greater unity. Yes, the end result may be more conservative than you or I may want, but we will not be carved up as we are today based upon our political "bloc". The other institutional change is to move our primary elections back to June. This would allow voters real time to consider differences between the parties and diminish the focus on differences between Democratic candidates.

Finally, there must be boroughwide and citywide efforts to transcend the boundaries at the local level and pull people together in a different way. The same hard work and respect needed to bridge the blue state-red state gap is needed between racial and ethnic groups here in New York City. It is my hope to build a political organization, New Brooklyn Leadership, that will move in this direction -- boroughwide with local chapters.

To be continued ...


David Michaelson 1


Anonymous said…
From: "David Michaelson"
To: paramendra
Subject:RE: Thanks David For Bringing Me Back To DFNYC
Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2005 21:32:26 -0500

Glad to help!

David Michaelson