Brooklyn’s minority voters have a history of puzzling votes: no doubt. You can go back to the days of Shirley Chisholm, Vander Beatty and Waldaba Stewart, to find some strange results recorded. There were times when you could only scratch your head and wonder what the motivations were, when voters elected certain folks (some repeatedly). And as time went by one hoped that minority voters in Brooklyn would evolve into rational-actor voter-models: demonstrating a higher level of critical-scrutiny for wannabee electeds. One hoped that the vetting process would be rigorous and extensive, and that the standards would be set real high for office-applicants. One hoped that qualified, educated, competent, capable, intelligent candidates would emerge to lead some of these districts sorely in need of dynamic leadership. Leaders who could articulate their way out of a phone booth; who could think creatively while they chew gum and walk straight. People of integrity. People with impeccable character traits and with very little or no “personal baggage”. People that can be examples for our hungry minority youth: too many of whom are grappling with the “missing-father syndrome”. People who could go to high places and make the case for better government-action more beneficial to the needy. People who could build coalitions and minimize isolation and alienation. People who could aspire, inspire and perspire, not disappoint and corruptly conspire. Alas, it seems as though one can only dream for the day when minority voters in Brooklyn would make better choices and be consistent in their reasoning: but we dream on; nonetheless.
Look, I am not saying that minority voters in the Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island don’t make mistakes too (I am sure they do since we all aren’t perfect people), but there is a consistency to Brooklyn’s minority-voters that’s unmistakable. Minority voters here grumble about Congress, Albany and City Hall but re-elect their representatives at around a ninety-nine point nine per cent clip. And they have been enslaved by the democrats and ignored by the republicans. Why do you think some blacks and Hispanics are voting for Charles Barron for governor of New York?
Minority voters complain about corruption but re-elect those facing umpteen indictments. They complain about dishonesty but re-elect those caught on video-tapes doing dirt. This year -one where voter anger at all three branches of government is sky high- minority voters in last week’s Brooklyn’s primary elections, returned their incumbents at around a three to one clip: check the vote-average (75 percent to 25 percent) relative to outcomes. Not one incumbent was defeated. They all won by very wide margins.
Some of those re-elected, have been caught double-dipping: taking pension checks and salaries at the same time. Others have been sitting in the same seats since Adam and Eve were babies: with little to show in terms of legislative or policy-formation accomplishments. Others have behaved despicably while in office and others are known to be corrupt. In fact, most Brooklyn incumbents representing areas where minorities predominate, were returned unopposed. Now what does all this say to the young people living in areas where colored folk make up the vast majority of the residents?
In areas of Brooklyn where Caribbean-American immigrants predominate, voting patterns reflect limited participation from that group, in the primary elections. Back in the Caribbean there are no primaries; only general elections at either local or national levels. Many caribs wait to vote in the November elections, without understanding that by then the race is usually over: given the wining clip for democrats over the past fifty years. Caribbean-American leaders (especially those of that ilk, who have been fortunate to get elected to public office), have failed to organize this vote as a bloc. This is another factor affecting Brooklyn’s low and puzzling turnout. In similar areas in the Bronx and Quent there appear to be more mature voting patterns amongst Caribbean-Americans. Why?
You would think that these hard economic times would make it imperative for voters to elect quality leaders to the corridors of power; since all over the country people are willing to (at least) try out new folks in public office; but not in Brooklyn. And this leads to the question: are minority voters in Brooklyn really thinking things through? Or does this have something to do with the fact that the education delivery-system operating in Brooklyn’s minority areas, have been failing us for decades? And are we now reaping the bad fruit from these failures via the results from voters who refuse to do the hard work in political participation: (a) actively participate in the civics of their community; (b) scrutinize the competing candidates well; (c) be informed as to the issues, visions, campaigns, personalities and characters involved; and (d) think things through before they vote?
At most Brooklyn polling sites, minority union-members come to vote clutching palm cards in their hand like they were holding gold coins. These cards are the ones mailed out by union officials instructing them as to who to vote for. There is a blind allegiance to unions now. Too many members have abdicated their responsibility to think for themselves: they let union officials make this decision. A few years ago one elderly female member of a union asked a political candidate this question: if I vote for you and not the candidate my union supports in this race, will the officials know? And would I be punished?
I am willing to put the candidate who told me this story, under oath at any city, state or federal hearing/investigation on contemporary voting patterns and such. I even suspect that intimidation patterns can be discerned if a tough investigation was to take place, in regards to unions and their involvement in elections. We all know that they use members in various electioneering activities, giving an unfair advantage to those they support when compared to opponents. It gets even worse when near all the major unions gang up and support one candidate in a crowded race: ask previous opponents of council-members Darlene Mealy (05) and Jumannee Williams (09) about that.
Last primary day, I was doing some pro-bono work for Wellington Sharpe running against Senator Kevin Parker in Brooklyn. A good friend of mine -who is quite astute with political analysis- told me that it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kevin Parker get re-elected: after all, voters overwhelmingly re-elected Assemblywoman Diane Gordon (2006), even after she was seen on many video-tapes shaking down a developer. They also re-elected Clarence Norman in 2004 by a 79 percent to 21 percent margin: this when he had somewhere around an eighteen count indictment against him.
We then quickly went through Brooklyn trying to dig up those who were elected though indicted, smeared, compromised, convicted or tainted. For example, Marty Markowitz (convicted/took a plea deal), Roger Greene (convicted/took a plea deal) and Howard Babbush. With all the years of aspersions cast on the Vito Lopez social service network/empire he hasn’t had a primary challenge in about 20 years. The last person who tried to challenge him was Anthony Miranda and he was knocked of the ballot in a court fight a few years ago.
Beyond those aforementioned, there were others. Many aspersions were openly cast on Carl Andrews and he was elected to the state senate. Furthermore, both black members of the House of Representatives (from Brooklyn) had issues the voters ignored. It is alleged that Ed Towns was once caught pocketing supposed campaign contributions, while Yvette Clarke lied about graduating from college and prospered in good jobs where she presumably used her non-credentials as an entre. I am sure you could find some similar stories on the predominantly-white sides of Brooklyn, but I am sure you readers can catch my drift. What standards are being used here, when it comes to electing and re-electing public officials? Can anyone tell?
At the end of the night Kevin Parker won 78 percent to 22 percent. It was a shellacking. This is the very man whose behavior in office is nothing short of ludicrous; even his fellow-electeds have said this. Since being elected to office eight years ago, Parker has even indulged himself in criminal behavior. And yet many unions came in to deliver and save his ass, by sending money, equipment, machinery, election-paraphernalia and aggressive troops.
Look; you don’t improve society by continuously surrendering the moral high ground when it comes to elections and selections. In Parker’s race, seven of every eight registered voters stayed home. Overall, less than five percent of the total population in this district voted. I know that political science theory has suggested non-voting as being “functional”, but one surely has to wonder about the state of our democracy when you digest these disappointing turnout-numbers.
Stay tuned-in folks.
The author is an educator and political activist.