Opinion

New York City Democrats should practice what they preach

By Marti Speranza |  

September 8, 2017 |  

City Councilman David Greenfield is one of three Democratic New York elected officials who timed his resignation to prevent a primary election for his replacement. (William Alatriste)

I am a Democrat, and proudly so. I have watched in horror as the current Republican president has shamed our nation repeatedly with his misogyny, his attacks on science and American values and his overt support of bigotry and hate groups. I frequently wonder, when will the decent people in the GOP stand up and publicly denounce Trump for his statements that, as Americans, we should all agree are wrong? I believe, and have publicly stated, that they have a responsibility here, and by failing to speak out they are complicit in these failings. 

But before we judge too harshly, we must also look in the mirror as Democrats. Are we willing to speak out when leaders of our party fail to uphold our values? I believe we need to be vocal if we are going to recapture the hearts and minds of voters in coming elections.

The recent decision by three elected officials – City Councilman David Greenfield, state Sen. Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell – to leave office in such a way that intentionally thwarts democracy and deny the voters a choice, is wrong. We can’t simply say “that’s the law” when each resignation could have easily been timed to allow for a full and open primary that would have allowed the voters a choice. These Democratic elected officials chose otherwise, and so in three heavily Democratic districts, party insiders will choose these positions with no regard for the voters or the process of small-d democracy. 

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In August, the City Council’s Women’s Caucus released a report on the disturbing gender imbalance on the Council, although in fairness, it’s a problem that extends to all levels of government. Yet our party committees still seem to favor men over women when it comes to endorsements, resources and other forms of support. We can (rightfully) criticize the GOP for embracing misogynists and opposing women’s rights; and Democrats, both women and men, reliably vote in support of women’s rights when they get the chance. But our party still needs to do a better job shattering the blue glass ceiling that keeps qualified Democratic women out of elected office. 

Finally, the state Senate’s notorious Independent Democratic Conference, which has kept Republicans in power in that house for years, has recently come under broader criticism from Democrats, locally and nationally. Yet these individuals have reliably found safe harbor from their local party committees, who insulate these senators from any concerted opposition. This needs to stop.

I am not suggesting that the failings of the Democratic party are the equivalent, by any measure, of all that is wrong with the Trump administration. But thwarting democracy, limiting women’s voices and empowering the GOP are real issues where we need to do better as a party. And as individual Democrats, we all need to step up to speak this truth to our party leaders until it is fixed.

Marti Speranza is a Democratic candidate for New York City Council in District 4. Follow her on Twitter @MartiSperanzaNY.

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