When Democracy Works – Part 1

In today’s divisive climate — in the world of Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and Tiffany Cabán — it is hard to defend being registered as a Democrat. Your WhatsApp groups and social media feeds are filled with clips of the latest progressive nonsense uttered by high-profile Democrats, and it’s easy to turn around and register as a Republican just to prove a point.

But what point does it prove when you silence your own voice? What point are you making when you give away your own power and let others control your future? Like it or not, New York City is becoming the most liberal city in the world, and the Democrats have significant influence. You can hate it. You can tweet about it. You can scream and yell on your group chats. But you know what you can’t do if you’re registered as a Republican? You can’t vote in critical Democratic primaries, where moderate voices matter.

You and I can be equally disgusted by the rhetoric spewed by some in the Democratic Party. But to inspire change, you’ve got to stay and fight. Don’t leave the party in the clutches of AOC, Rashida Tlaib and their ilk. The overwhelming majority of New York City elected officials are Democrats. Winning a Democratic primary in this city all but guarantees you the seat for which you are running. But when frum Jews sit out these primaries, we are voluntarily handing the power over to the most progressive voices. For example: The recent Queens DA Democratic primary election pitted a progressive and inexperienced radical —Cabán — against a moderate and responsible candidate —Katz. After court battles and recounts, Katz won the race by fewer than 50 votes. Next time, we will not be so lucky.

Even now, Democrats on whom we used to be able to rely are afraid to speak out; they don’t want to become the target of the next progressive socialist. As of this writing, Senator Schumer has refused to publicly condemn Ilhan Omar’s and Rashida Tlaib’s recently declared support for BDS, their vitriolic hatred of Israel and their outright anti-Semitism. Is it because he agrees with them? Most definitely not! But they are positioning themselves as the future of the party, and during elections they generate massive turnout numbers.

During one of the first Democratic presidential debates, a question was asked of the candidates: “Raise your hand if, as president, you would re-enter the Iran deal.” All but one candidate raised their hands proudly. That scared me and it should scare you.

Trust me — I work in City Hall every day, surrounded by loud voices, each trying to be more progressive than the next. I’ve learned how to pick my battles, to find common ground when possible (for example: fighting anti-Semitism, advocating for kosher and halal school lunches), and when to stand up against the tide (for example: Israel, yeshivah independence). As a Democrat, I’m able to be “in the room where it’s happening,” and that means I still have some influence.

But as the number of moderate voices in City Hall shrinks, so will our perceived voting power.

Unless frum Jews enroll in the Democratic Party en masse, we can kiss our political influence goodbye. And what does that mean? It means that candidates for public office will no longer seek out our votes by pledging their support for Israel, for religious freedom, for preserving yeshivos’ right to independence, and for funding our critical community-based organizations.

Help us keep New York City as a city for all people, not just for those who shout the loudest.

Register as a Democrat.

Vote in primaries.

Help to elect moderates.

Raise your voice when it truly matters.

Time is running out.