Obscure Politics

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that-kind-of-liberal Rachel LavineObscure politics of State Committee members are little known to most people but do they count?  In a recent article published by The Villager , Rachel Lavine offered some good examples.  Here’s an excerpt, or click on the link to read the full article.

What does it mean to be the New York Democratic State Committeewoman for the 66th Assembly District, a long title for a political position whose duties are obscure to most voters? It entails two principal duties.

The first is voting for candidates for statewide office at the New York State Democratic Convention; this allows them to bypass the onerous (and expensive) process of collecting the required number of signatures of registered Democratic voters, county by county, throughout the state.

The second duty, equally dear to the hearts of policy wonks like myself, is the drafting, promulgating and passing of resolutions by the 360-member body of the Democratic State Committee. These resolutions help to shape the State Democratic Committee position on current political issues, as well as serve to educate and lobby Democrat leadership, on a range of current concerns, such as fracking.

As the State Committeewoman for the New York 66th A.D., I am fortunate in having a particularly important vote, because in the State Committee not all votes are created equal. Those of us who represent heavily Democratic districts such as ours have the “weight” of our vote correlated to the number of Democratic voters who cast ballots during the most recent gubernatorial election. Since our Assembly District has one of the state’s highest Democratic turnouts, I, thanks to my fellow voters, have one of the “heaviest” votes — equal to or greater in weight than the combined vote of some Upstate counties! Which means that when Democratic candidates for statewide office are seeking to obtain the required minimum of 25 percent of the total State Committee vote, they actively seek the votes of State Committee members such as myself.

I am particularly proud of my role as the major force in getting the State Committee to support, after many years of opposition, first domestic partnership, and then same-sex marriage, many years prior to Governor Cuomo’s historic advocacy of marriage equality and the passage of that important legislation.

My most recent political work has been in opposition to hydrofracking. I have twice drafted resolutions, which I put forward at two separate Democratic State Committee meetings, demanding that there be a ban on hydrofracking in New York. Both resolutions garnered substantial support from the State Committee membership, from both Upstate and Downstate. The first time the resolution was killed in the Executive Committee, based on a voice vote, despite calls for a roll-call vote. As a result, the second time I brought in members of the Sierra Club and of Upstate communities who have been adversely affected by fracking; they explained what the environmental consequences would be, and rebutted some of the economic arguments made about fracking — in particular, the argument that fracking is good for economically stagnant or depressed areas….read more at

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On Being That Kind of Liberal…Rachel Lavine

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That Kind of Liberal

Eleanor Roosevelt Biography by Blanche Weisen Cooke

Yet another political blog?!  Why, you might ask.

The answer is that I could not find any other voices that fully speak from my perspective as a pragmatic liberal, a lesbian mother and wife, longtime grassroots Democratic party, and feminist and environmental activist.  So following the advice of a revered political leader, I decided to be the change that I seek.

The name of this blog is derived from speeches given in New York by two eminent liberals. Franklin D. Roosevelt first described himself as “that kind of liberal” during a speech to the New York State Democratic Convention in 1936:

The true conservative seeks to protect the system of private property and free enterprise by correcting such injustices and inequalities as arise from it. The most serious threat to our institutions comes from those who refuse to face the need for change. Liberalism becomes the protection for the far-sighted conservative ... In the words of the great essayist, “The voice of great events is proclaiming to us. Reform if you would preserve.” I am that kind of conservative because I am that kind of liberal.

And John F. Kennedy later defined what a “Liberal” was and was not, while proudly claiming that identity when accepting the 1960 Presidential Nomination of the New York State Liberal Party:

If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But, if by a “Liberal,” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties – someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say that I’m a “Liberal.”

FDR  – and Eleanor Roosevelt – and JFK were all that kind of liberal. They answered the voice of great events. They made bold structural change. They understood the mechanics of real power. They saw the lives and needs of middle class Americans and the poor, of political minorities and the socially disenfranchised. They had a clear understanding of the individual propensity for self-interest and self-deception, as well as the human capacity to transcend the smallness of the self and to support a social good that benefits more than oneself.

And yes, sometimes they over-valued the end game, redefined as necessary what was in fact only politically strategic, stalled and temporized when they should have acted and demanded. Sometimes what they saw as absolute political limitations were only self-imposed ones. They were imperfect, sometimes egregiously wrong but they tried: that kind of liberal.

The focus of this blog is mostly local and specific, and enumerates my own immediate – and varied – interests: New York City and State politics, LGBT rights and community, boys and schools, Israel and the calumny of pink washing, food and environmental politics, feminism and parenting, the need for radically fairer economic and social structures. Sometimes the blog will stray and wander, grazing other, lighter subjects. Like myself, this blog is evolving.

I hope that this blog will become a place where people can engage in thoughtful and challenging conversation. I welcome discussion and debate. I respect – and often admire – the passion animating deeply held opinions, and support robust dissent or disagreement. However, I reserve the unilateral right to remove posts that I find offensive or obnoxious for any reason. Name calling and mean spiritedness debilitate good conversation, and usually mask a weak or incoherent argument.

Thank you.

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