By Arthur Z. Schwartz
The Village Independent Democrats (VID) was born, nearly 60 years ago, out of a revolt against machine politics and the lack of democracy in the Democratic Party. One of their earliest moves was to run a fellow named Ed Koch against then-District Leader Carmine DeSapio for Democratic District Leader, a successful move which reshaped Democratic Party politics in Manhattan.
Over the years, the VID got smaller and smaller, and became a cliquish club which was hard to break into. I was kicked out in 1999 and never allowed back in because I supported Christine Quinn for City Council and they didn’t. The VID perhaps reached its low point when it refused to support Bernie Sanders for president.
But, last year, the VID elected a new, young president, Eric Coler, with no ties to the past baloney. Unfortunately, he learned fast, and has pointed the VID even more in the direction of the type of politics which it historically eschewed. Here is what happened:
When you go to vote in the September 12th primary, there will be two slates of candidates running to represent our Assembly District at the September State Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Convention. One is a hand-picked group, chosen by the leaders of the three downtown clubs. I am not on that list because I make independent choices about the judges I support. I am on another slate, headed by West Village resident Barbara Reuther. The powers that be in Village politics are furious. How dare I challenge their right to hand pick judges! In early July, just as all candidates (including me) were filing their petitions, Coler made a proposal to the VID and my home club, the Village Reform Democrats (VRDC), that the VRDC not file the petitions they had gathered for me. The VID would then challenge whatever signatures I did file. Then they would convene a meeting of the County Committee and make Coler the District Leader. On July 11th, the VID Executive Board votes on this proposal were: four yes’s, four no’s, and two abstentions.
In the end, I had enough signatures with the VRDC’s help, and Eric Coler was stopped by a tie vote in his own Board. But if Coler was a true reformer, and the VID was a reform club, the way to take me on would have been to run Eric Coler against me.
Thank goodness that the Sanders campaign has spawned the New York Progressive Action Network, and its local chapter, Progressive Action of Lower Manhattan. “Reform” politics is dead, but progressive politics isn’t.
Arthur Z. Schwartz is the Male Democratic District Leader for Greenwich Village.