An Essay By
Political Strategist Michael Derek Roberts
The Kings County Democratic Committee, the county’s Democratic Party managing and organizing apparatus, has a general membership of approximately 3,000 people. Every two years, in the September primary – including this one just past on September 13 – each Assembly District elects both a male and female District Leader or known by the official title – Member of the State Democratic Committee. Together, all these District Leaders make up the executive committee of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
However, the real situation is that the general membership of the Brooklyn Democratic Party is filled with people who are unaware they are party officials or who have little or no interest in serving the Party. Its is this shadow membership that has turned off many people and in recent times spawned a crop of political insurgents bent on reforming this old, entrenched “crony democracy” at the retail level that only perpetuates an endless cycle of the party “picking its voters” instead of the other way around.
This very hodgepodge situation allows the leadership of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, such as it is, to exploit this created ambivalence by ostensibly holding County Committee meetings in hard to reach locations, inaccessible by public transportation, and then telling members that they can skip the meeting if they give the County Chair (leader) their proxy votes.
There’s where things get really corrupt, undemocratic and outright rigged. By collecting proxies from uninterested or unaware members, the Democratic Party’s leadership gets the votes it needs to maintain full and total control over the direction and agenda of the Party. It gives that leadership the numbers it needs to stop any reform efforts and to deny progressive grassroots Democrats a voice or say in the selection of the Democratic nominees for State Supreme Court or to fill a legislative vacancy. The upshot is that support by the so-called “county” is akin to a rubber stamp of approval and a shoo in in the Democratic Primary. With Brooklyn overwhelmingly Democratic and deep blue the candidate that gets the party’s nod – for a judgeship, state senate, state assembly or City Council is as good as a done deal.
The party apparatus is in control of the entire primary voting system and progress and can bring out thousands of “volunteers” to make sure that it favored candidates get elected. It can also engage in “cleansing operations” at the petition level to tie up adversarial opponents in court with all kinds of challenges that gobble up limited financial resources as it tries to “knock you off the ballot.”
All of that said when Frank Seddio took over as Chair of the Kings County Democratic Party, he agreed to adopt incremental reforms. And admittedly, while there have been some gingerly baby steps towards improvement; Brooklyn still has a long way to go.
Indeed, one way toward genuine reform and internal democratization of the Brooklyn Democratic Party is end the unjust and undemocratic rigged system of proxy abuse. No individual, w be it the County Chairperson, a District Leader, or a general member, should be allowed to hold more proxies than the number of County Committee members serving in their Assembly district. That is just plain crazy and undemocratic.
Today, there are over 1 million registered – not necessarily voting – Democrats in Brooklyn. If the Kings County Democratic Party is at all serious about meaningful and deep-going reform and makes the processes more democratic in nature, then community outreach is the way to go to build its ranks. Simultaneously, in order to make sure that a diverse and inclusive party ensues, the meeting schedule must take into considerations the time availability of members, where they live and how the meeting locations will affect attendance.
Brooklyn’s (and New York) Democratic Party must come into the 21st century and join its counterparts all over America where local Democratic Parties are vibrant, progressive and active. They meet regularly, have subcommittees with important party-building responsibilities, and develop and promote a people-centric political platform. It’s a shame that Brooklyn with the largest local Democratic Party in the country lags way behind in these modern, 21st century reforms and approaches.
So instead of being national democratic leaders Brooklyn has not even started to play catch up. That’s a real shame because the pool of smart, dedicated and articulate potential members are there for the asking. But don’t ask young people to join a party that has not reached out to them, does not have a Youth Arm and is comprised of an aging and out-of-touch base and leadership. The party must also embrace technology and examine what exactly it needs to make it become a dynamic political party that is not eating its young.
The ball is still in the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s membership that MUST demand meaningful reform and changes. People looking in from the outside can exert only so much pressure and clamor for change. It’s ultimately, up to the rank and file membership to take the party in a new and exciting direction driven by innovative change and an eye to the future. 2020 is around the corner and New York may have a presidential candidate but with over 1 million registered Democrats in the county Brooklyn can be a potent political force to reckon with – if the party steps to the plate and hit the ball out of the park.