Independence Party leader Fulani argues for Carrion
[Comment: NYC Mayor’s Race 2013]
Now that the mayoral race has taken shape, it’s time to take a harder look at the candidates, the choices, and the politics built into this race.
I am a supporter of Adolfo Carrion, the Independence Party’s mayoral candidate. He is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, he’s something else altogether and that is a good thing. Unless we can create a new way of doing things politically, we will not be able to touch the problems that New Yorkers face, let alone solve them.
The Democratic Party and its nominee, Bill de Blasio, have put themselves forward as that new and “beautiful” thing. At the unity rally on Tuesday where Bill Thompson folded his campaign even though the votes had not been fully counted, de Blasio said, “There is nothing more beautiful than Democratic unity.”
I have to admit, I was taken aback by this pronouncement. There are so many things on this earth more beautiful than that. When poor Black kids who have been struggling to achieve in the classroom and in life manage to get the support they need to learn to read, that is a beautiful thing. When a life is saved by a first responder, that is a beautiful thing. When a child is born, or people fall in love, these are beautiful things. When violence is averted because people in the neighborhood had the skills needed to step back from the edge, that is a beautiful thing. (By the way, I include President Obama’s recent moves in Syria as an example.)
You get my point here. I have met Bill de Blasio. We’ve seen each other in the streets for years. He has visited my youth programs, the All Stars Project, and we’ve discussed the importance of afterschool and youth development. He cares about these things and I respect that. But my problem with Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign is that it is based on the idea that what we should care about most of all is the Democratic Party. This is something that every New Yorker, but particularly the communities of color, need to be very concerned about.
Putting your political party above all else is no way to run a city. It leads to bad decisions. It invariably leads to the poor being left behind. The Democrats always take care of their organized constituencies at the expense of the poor and unrepresented.
I was struck by several other things at the unity press conference. Bill Thompson expressed his outrage at the failure of the Board of Elections to have counted all the votes, one week after the election. He said, “This electoral process has to be improved, there has to be fundamental reform.” Of course, he’s right, there does have to be fundamental election reform. I’ve fought for that for decades, prompting bitter opposition from Democrats, including Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson.
When you think about it, the results of the Democratic primary were deeply influenced by flaws, faults, even fixes by election bureaucrats. When the CFB withheld matching funds from John Liu, they substituted themselves for the voters and destroyed Liu’s campaign. When the Board of Elections couldn’t manage to count the votes on Primary Day, the door was left open to party bigwigs muscling Thompson out of the race, which they promptly did. In neither case did the voters get to decide.
Rev. Al Sharpton played a part in the Democratic Muscle Machine, tamping down any potential anger or frustration in the Black community at Thompson being sidelined. He made an appeal to moving beyond “identity politics” by pointing out that half of Black voters had cast ballots for de Blasio rather than Thompson. Of course, I completely support Sharpton’s call to move beyond identity politics. I’ve been telling the Black community that for years. However, let’s not forget that when I organized 47 percent of Black voters to abandon the Democratic Party in 2005 and vote for the independent Mike Bloomberg, no Democrat gave any grand speech about moving beyond identity politics; no Democrat called me up and said, “Dr. Fulani, thank you for moving us to a new place!”
It was Governor Cuomo, though, who provided the grand finale to the Democratic unity rally. Having spent close to two terms repressing any semblance of Black and Latino empowerment in the state legislature, Cuomo arrived on the scene to tell New Yorkers that the suffering is over because we can now put a progressive in City Hall. What is Cuomo’s progressive agenda? Improving public education, passing sensible gun laws, having an open immigration policy, and making the city the capital of commerce and diversity.
For the record, that was Mike Bloomberg’s agenda. However, because the Democrats are poised to retake City Hall, the past must be rewritten to fit their script. The main thing that distinguishes Mike Bloomberg’s agenda from Cuomo’s “progressive agenda” is that Bloomberg fought alongside me (not always comfortably!) for the electoral reform that Bill Thompson, in his farewell address, finally said we desperately need. Bloomberg wasn’t a perfect mayor. But he sure as hell was an independent one.
At the risk of being branded a radical (actually there is no risk because it’s already happened and it’s true) let me remind us of the cautionary words of Malcolm X. He said to us, “You put the Democrats first and the Democrats put you last.” In this election, more than any other in my lifetime, we need to take those words to heart.
Adolfo Carrion, a former public school teacher, from humble beginnings, rose through the ranks of the Democratic Party to serve on the City Council, as Bronx Borough President and in the Obama White House. For his entire career, poverty, the lack of opportunity and the need to create economic and social development that benefits everyone have been his life’s mission.
He was considered a model Democrat, a pro-growth, anti-poverty activist, a man of color, the son of a man of the cloth. Everyone believed he would go far. Last year the Democrats offered him the comptroller position in this year’s election, having heard rumblings he might want to run for mayor. It wasn’t his turn, they said. (Sound familiar?) He turned it down.
Adolfo Carrion didn’t want to wait. He believed, based on his experience, that far from being the embodiment of progressivism, the Democratic Party had become its greatest obstacle. And so, he became an independent. He came to the Independence Party, to me, to ask for our support. He said to us that we must have a new progressive coalition in New York City and I want to help lead it. We said yes.
For the next seven weeks, you will hear a lot from the Republican Joe Lhota. Many say that Lhota is a capable person. But the New York City Republican Party is dead as a doornail. Its vision is non-existent. It barely exists. It is no threat.
The Democratic Party’s de Blasio will ask you to celebrate the return of progressivism to City Hall. Don’t be fooled. Progressivism is something born in the streets, not in the centers of power.
There is a new progressivism being built in New York today. It is visionary, it is nonpartisan, it is inclusionary, it is multi-racial, it is Independent. Its mayoral candidate is Adolfo Carrion.
Give him your vote on November 5th.