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New York Post

 

How the WFP dooms NYC democrats

October 01, 2009

By Steven Malanga

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Tuesday’s “victories” for the Working Families Party were hollow ones, as are most WFP wins these days.

The WFP -- an alliance of public-sector unions and social-service advocates, co-founded by ACORN chief Bertha Lewis -- has taken control of the city’s Democratic Party from within. But in the process it has driven the Democrats so far to the left that the one prize that matters in New York City, the mayoralty, is further out of reach than ever.

With its organizing savvy, the WFP was able to pull off Democratic-primary victories for its candidates for public advocate and comptroller, who will surely go on to win the general election next month. But until Democrats can find their own voice again -- that is, the voice of middle-class working New Yorkers -- their party will continue to be an outsider looking in on City Hall, despite the party’s 5-to-1 advantage in voter registrations.

Make no mistake about it, what matters in defining New York is the mayor’s office. Across the city, you see the stamp of the last two mayors, who have ruled for the past 16 years. From the NYPD’s policing strategies to the curriculum and direction of the public schools to tax and budget policies, it’s City Hall that matters.

The City Charter gives the mayor wide powers, including the power to appoint commissioners who run the machinery of government every day.

By contrast, the comptroller is essentially an auditor with little policy-making clout, while the public advocate’s job is so ill-defined and powerless that it might as well be called “the public appendix.”

City Council members, meanwhile, spend their days on constituent services or in committee meetings, only occasionally wielding power against the mayor. It would be hard to find things the council’s done in recent years that have any influence on the lives of New Yorkers remotely commensurate with the everyday impact of the mayor and his team.

Yet the Democrats have failed miserably in four straight mayoral races, and are now failing in a fifth -- and for good reason. The WFP is great at winning races nobody cares about for positions that are essentially patronage jobs. But, in the process, it blocks the rise of moderate candidates who might appeal to a broader electorate -- as did city Democrats of old, from Ed Koch (who consistently referred to himself as a “liberal with sanity”) to Hugh Carey, the Brooklyn Dem who as governor helped save the city from bankruptcy.

Consider the party’s more recent candidates for mayor -- from Ruth Messinger, who once infamously warned that closing the city’s adult video stores might hurt tourism, to ex-Naderite Mark Green to Freddy Ferrer, whose mayoral platform seemed to revolve around taxing everything that moved in Gotham.

After these candidates’ humiliating losses, the party’s bench is so thin that this year’s hopeful, Comptroller Bill Thompson, is a virtual unknown to many New Yorkers and has so far run what’s best described as a stealth campaign.

Even against an incumbent who seems vulnerable thanks to “Bloomberg fatigue” among some voters, Thompson’s prospects are so slim that President Obama has declined to campaign for him unless he can make a better showing.

Despite their huge advantage in voter registrations, Democrats will continue to field such unimpressive candidates until they throw off the yoke of the WFP -- which effectively aborts the careers of those who might have a broader appeal.

Thus David Yassky, a promising candidate for comptroller, got overwhelmed Tuesday by WFP-backed John Liu -- who immediately becomes a top contender to represent the party in future mayoral elections, even though his comptroller campaign was remarkable in the degree to which he ignored the fiscal realities and tough choices facing New York.

It will continue to be this way until New York’s Democratic Party rediscovers its lost soul.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/how_the_wfp_dooms_nyc_democrats_0VCFMWdvgEb8iE8OIpKAKN

 

 
 
 

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