Jeff Graham, a former mayor of Watertown and a principal partner in the dogged majority coalition inside the Independence Party of New York, telephoned Cathy Stewart on Thursday, April 27, two days before the party's Senate candidates' forum in Buffalo. Stewart, sometimes affectionately called the "mother hen" of the coalition though she is a slim, youthful-looking 40-year old nurse, is the dominant party leader in New York City. She is also an ally of Lenora Fulani, the Black developmental psychologist and activist who regularly rocks the New York and national establishment with her go-against-the-grain independence and startling political alliances.
Graham was calling Stewart with an update on his latest negotiations with the Senate campaign of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Clinton camp was still debating whether or not to attend and Graham had just gotten off the phone with Assemblyman Michael Bragman, a Syracuse Democrat and formidable party power broker, who was acting as a go-between for the First Lady and the Independence Party.
Graham had several things to report. Clinton would likely attend the forum, but with several provisos. She wanted to know that there was serious openness on the part of the coalition to securing the line for her without a primary against her Republican opponent Rudy Giuliani. She intended to use her appearance to bash Pat Buchanan, a candidate for the Reform Party's presidential nomination. (If Buchanan wins Reform's national primary, it will put him at the top of the ballot of the New York affiliate, Independence. This would create a Buchanan/Clinton ticket in New York if she, in turn, were the IP nominee.) Finally, Bragman assured Graham, Mrs. Clinton would not "go negative" on Lenora Fulani.
The Buffalo forum was staged by a group of party leaders representing a 74% majority of the State Committee (they call themselves the Democracy Coalition), which determines which candidates will ultimately have access to the Independence Party line. The State Committee can nominate several candidates who would then face a primary. Or, it could choose to nominate only one candidate, virtually assuring that there would be no primary and that its designee would be the Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate. The democracy coalition had spun through a revolving door of formally recognized control, as the courts seesawed recently between endorsing the elected party chair Frank MacKay and resurrecting the impeached former chair, Jack Essenberg. MacKay, Graham, Stewart and party founder Laureen Oliver, a Rochester accountant and leader of the Monroe County organization, are key pillars of the democracy coalition.
The Clinton/ Giuliani Shape-Up
Individual leaders of the coalition did not have uniform views on the Clinton-Giuliani contest. They had reached a consensus in favor of a primary scenario in which the membership of the party—now the third largest in the state at 172,000—would make the choice. This approach is wholly uncharacteristic of New York's minor parties, which create candidacies by fiat, based on backroom trades for patronage.
Among the coalition's leaders, however, there were political proclivities. Though he had been "summoned" to the tarmac at East Hampton Airport last fall for a private moment with the President and First Lady, MacKay—officially neutral—was very open to Giuliani. Certainly Giuliani hoped so, as the events of the week before the forum included an invitation to MacKay to meet privately with the Mayor and campaign manager, Bruce Teitlebaum at Gracie Mansion.
Oliver, with a visceral dislike of liberals like the First Lady, was strongly inclined to Giuliani. This in spite of the fact that her friend and sometimes political ally, Rochester millionaire Tom Golisano—who ran for Governor twice at the head of the Independence Party ticket—had played golf with the President during the early and ultimately misguided efforts by the Clintons to grab the line for the First Lady. These efforts were misguided because Golisano actually had little control over the party's choice for U.S. Senate, and his support for Essenberg during the crucial stages of the democracy coalition's bid to reform party rules and supplant Essenberg's tsarist order with decentralized local control, had severely weakened his influence with the regional activists who led the fight for democratization.
Graham, on the other hand, was considering a run for the U.S. Senate himself, which other coalition leaders urged him to pursue. Graham, an articulate spokesman for the party's core agenda for political reform, saw his candidacy—in a primary match up with Clinton and Giuliani—as an opportunity to leverage the political reform agenda and bring pressure to bear on the "majors" to come to terms with the party’s campaign to break the two party monopoly on the state’s political process.
Finally, there were the Stewart and Fulani forces in New York City. As the left/liberal wing of the coalition, with a substantial base in the city's Black communities, they were Hillary's most natural allies for the nomination, and Giuliani's most natural opponents. But a history of roadblocks constructed by some liberal Democrats to an alliance with the Independence Party, had raised the stakes for a Clinton/Fulani partnership.
The Messinger Mess
Some background. In 1997, when Essenberg attempted to maneuver the IP line for Giuliani's reelection bid, Fulani blocked the plan by announcing that she would run for the IP nomination for Mayor and force Giuliani into a primary. Properly insecure about his ability to best Fulani in the city inside her own party, Giuliani withdrew.
That year , Fulani and Stewart were trying to persuade the leading Democrat in the race, Ruth Messinger, to seek the IP line. Fulani used Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel and former Dinkins administration deputy mayor Bill Lynch, both influential in the city and state Democratic Party, as intermediaries. Messinger, like Fulani and Stewart, came out of the 1960's and 1970's left. But Messinger turned hysterically anti-Fulani (as did much of the left) when she herself entered mainstream Democratic Party politics and encountered Fulani's independent New Alliance Party, which ran candidates in Democratic primaries who polemicized against the corruption of the Democratic Party while recruiting into the local third party. The NAP went on to merge with the post-Perot organizing of a populist independent party, including Golisano's first bid for Governor in 1994, which established the Independence Party as a legally recognized ballot status party in New York.
By the 1997 mayoral race, the party stood to offer Messinger a much-needed boost. In a city with a 5-to-1 Democrat to Republican registration, GOP’er Giuliani had won Gracie Mansion by building ties to the Liberal party, traditionally a Democratic Party coalition partner, and by asserting his independence inside his own party, an image he continued to cultivate by endorsing Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994. In spite of Coumo's loss, Giuliani's reputation as a non-sectarian grew. Messinger needed a way to counter that image and the IP line was the obvious instrument.
In spite of Fulani's offer and in spite of Rangel and Lynch's concerted efforts to convince Messinger, she ultimately rejected the line, complete with an impotent campaign to "expose" Fulani and her own primary opponent, Al Sharpton, as "anti-Semites." Naturally, after Sharpton polled enough votes to appear to have forced a runoff she instantly backpedaled, calling the difference in their views mere "disagreements." This firmly established that the charge of anti-Semitism against Black leaders, so easily bandied about by white politicians, is also easily recast when needed. Messinger never retracted her accusations against Fulani.
Dems Split on IP
While the Messinger circles rejected the IP line, Public Advocate Mark Green actively pursued it for his reelection bid. Less sectarian than Messinger (more "Green" than Maoist) and though facing a Giuliani-sponsored opponent who was a conservative Brooklyn Jew, Green had a better sense of the future importance of the Democratic/Independence connection. Giuliani would be term limited out in 2001 and Green intended to move up. Aware that the traditional Democratic/Liberal Party coalition had faltered and that he needed crossover appeal to independents, he pursued Stewart avidly. He polled more votes on the Independence line (41,000) than Giuliani polled on the Liberal line (32,000) and became the highest vote-getter in the municipal race. He saw the clear value of the Independence connection.
Green was not alone in this recognition. Other Democratic Party elected officials around the state had noted the IP's eclipse of the Liberal and Conservative Party in 1998. The Independence line had already provided the margin of victory in several hotly contested races including for Democratic State Senator Vincent Gentile in Brooklyn. It had also added 109,000 votes to Charles Schumers's successful campaign to unseat Republican Senator Alphonse D'Amato.
State Senator Marty Connor, the Minority Leader in the Albany legislature, was acutely aware of this realignment. In October of 1999, he asked Democratic Party State Chairwoman Judith Hope to sit down with Stewart for a preliminary discussion about Hillary Clinton's proposed run for the U.S. Senate.
The meeting was largely exploratory. Connor wanted Stewart to brief Hope on the party’s history, the battle with Essenberg for local control, and the Messinger debacle two years earlier. Stewart walked Hope through the chronology, including the "anti-Semitism" card that had been played as a justification for Messinger’s refusal to abandon her own party’s traditional racialistic tactics in favor of building new alliances. Hope remarked that Mrs. Clinton had some problems of her own with Jewish voters which would have to be addressed at some point during the campaign. Stewart indicated an interest in pursuing the discussions about IP support for Mrs. Clinton and the possibility of a meeting with Fulani herself at some point down the road. Hope was agreeable, though non-committal.
For his part, Connor was intent upon pursuing the relationship. He was aware that other than the Stewart/Fulani forces and Golisano—who was reportedly trying to horse trade with the Monroe County Democratic Party Chair for a County Executive position for himself—the party had substantial ties to the Republican Party. Connor hoped that he could shepherd a process that would increase Hillary’s chances of getting the Independence line and set up a long term partnership that would give the Democrats greater access to the state’s growing bloc of independent voters—now well over two million.
Stewart was more than agreeable. But she had a condition. A healthy future for the DP/IP relationship—from her vantage point—rested upon the Democrats recasting their relationship to Fulani. The "anti-Semitism card"—known to virtually every Democratic Party elected official in the state as a ploy—would have to be returned to the deck. Fulani’s integrity as an independent Black leader would have to be acknowledged.
IP Enters the Senate Fray
In early March, the democracy coalition—on the heels of a State Committee meeting at which Essenberg was formally removed as state chairman by a 97% majority and Frank MacKay elected to take his place—began discussing its plans for the Senate race. Overtures from Erie County Democrats on Mrs. Clinton’s behalf sparked a decision by the coalition to have the Erie County Independence Party host a candidates’ forum to which all line seekers would be invited. This included a number of lesser known independents—Jeff Beller, Abe Hirschfeld and Thomas Loughlin.
From this point on the exploratory discussions, feelers, and back channeling accelerated. Giuliani and Clinton had to decide if they were going to seek the line and how they were going to relate to the different blocs in the party. Given party leaders’ consensus in favor of a primary, the candidates would also have to decide their primary strategy.
Giuliani, through campaign manager Bruce Teitlebaum, grabbed the bull by the horns. Yes, the mayor was interested in the line. Yes, he would welcome a September primary with Mrs. Clinton. The Buffalo forum was penciled onto his calendar.
Teitlebaum had good reasons for his aggressive stance. The mayor’s image was decidedly more independent than the First Lady’s and thus, he was more of a "natural fit" with the passionately anti-partisan Independence base. Second, private polling numbers were showing Giuliani ahead of Clinton in a primary match up. Third, he knew that the only way that Clinton could overcome her weakness with the IP base and be viable in a primary was to ally with the party’s left wing—Fulani and Stewart—and rely on them to mobilize their base and boost the First Lady’s independent credentials inside IP. Fourth, he knew that Hillary was weak with Jewish voters, particularly since her embrace of Sula Arafat, and that her advisors were looking for ways to bump her numbers up. She was, according to some sources, polling in the low 30’s among Jewish New Yorkers and her staff wanted her in the high 40’s --the spot Schumer was, going into the race with D’Amato. Fifth, he figured that her weakness with Jews would make her wary of going to Fulani because someone—no doubt Teitlebaum included himself on the short list—could use it against her.
The Primary is Primary
In all, Teitlebaum perceived that the issue to force was the issue of the primary. If the Clinton forces saw that Giuliani was willing and unafraid to face her in a head to head match up in September, it might force her out of the running altogether or force her into a move with Fulani, which Giuliani could then exploit. The primary scenario, Teitlebaum figured, was Hillary’s worst nightmare.
Some of Hillary’s advisors thought that it was, too. Hillary was doing her own private polling. The numbers were showing Giuliani beating Hillary among independent voters. Giuliani was gleefully stressing his willingness to primary. His commitment to appear in Buffalo was solidifying. The Clinton camp was mired in internal debate.
Bill Lynch, the failed arbiter of the Messinger deal, called Fulani at Rangel’s request for a meeting. They met. Fulani filled him in on what was happening in IP, who was in control of the party, and what the Senate candidate selection process would look like. He queried her on her endorsement of Buchanan’s presidential bid. He indicated that he thought the Clinton camp was in too low a gear with respect to Independence and countered the newspaper reports that Clinton would skip the Buffalo forum. It’s not decided yet, he told her.
That week, Bragman and Stewart had their first conversation. Bragman asked MacKay to open contact for him with both Stewart and Oliver and Stewart reached Bragman the next day. Bragman asked Stewart her opinion on how important it was for Clinton to attend the forum. "It’s mandatory," Stewart told him. How was Stewart thinking about the Clinton candidacy? She and her people were open to it. She and Fulani wanted an opportunity to speak directly with Mrs. Clinton. That could be arranged at some point, Bragman indicated. What about the primary? he inquired. Are you and your people in a position to prevent one? Stewart said that she wasn’t in a position to do anything until there was a clear statement from the Clinton campaign that it wanted her and Fulani’s support. If that were put on the table, then she would be in a position to talk to the rest of the coalition about a no-primary scenario. Absent an explicit overture asking for her support from the Clinton camp, she could do nothing. Bragman countered that Stewart had no option. There’s no way you’d go with Giuliani, he said. Stewart reminded him that Fulani had endorsed Pat Buchanan. They agreed to remain in contact. Bragman asked her to keep him informed of any new developments. Stewart agreed.
When State Supreme Court Judge Bernard Malone suddenly returned a decision in one of the multiple lawsuits between the majority coalition and Essenberg—72 hours before the forum --which invalidated the removal proceeding against Essenberg and formally restored him to the chairmanship while allowing the local control rules to stand, one politician told MacKay that as far as he was concerned, the decision meant nothing. Essenberg is toast, the insider said.
In the next conversation between Bragman and Stewart the Assemblyman asked for a meeting where the two of them could discuss the Clinton candidacy in person, but seemed to have nothing further to offer from the Clinton camp, other than restating their interest in avoiding a primary. Bragman gave Stewart his assurance that there would be no Fulani-bashing at the forum, if the First Lady attended. Stewart asked if Bragman could arrange a 10-minute private meeting between herself, Fulani, and the First Lady prior to the forum. Bragman declined. Not possible, he said.
The next day came Giuliani’s bombshell announcement of prostate cancer. The media frenzy was relentless. Would he run? Would he cancel campaign appearances? Who would get in if he got out? There would be no final decision for several weeks. Yes, he would curtail his campaign schedule, and yes, he was still making the trip to Buffalo.
Graham, who had been speaking with Bragman, reached Stewart with the latest details from the Clinton camp. Clinton is likely coming, he said. She’s still looking for a no-primary pledge. She’s going to bash Buchanan. She’s not going negative on Fulani. On Friday, MacKay reached Stewart to confirm that Clinton would attend. Graham would abort his own candidacy. Instead, he would get a seven-minute speaking slot from which to project the party’s pro-reform agenda and its commitment to being fully independent, unlike the politically mortgaged minor parties. Then he would introduce the First Lady. The Clinton camp prefers a middle-of-the-roader to spearhead their effort inside the party, Graham told Stewart. "Fine," she replied. "Let’s see what happens."
Funny Things Happen on the Way
to the Forum
On the flight up to Buffalo, Teitlebaum later told Stewart, Giuliani’s team was nervous. What if Fulani comes after you? The mayor was calm. I can handle it, he told his staff.
But Fulani had no intention of "coming after" Giuliani. Her question to the mayor, which received almost as much press attention and comment as did the coming altercation with Hillary, was about whether the mayor saw the Independence Party as a potential vehicle to reach out to the African American community. "I hadn’t thought of it that way. The answer is yes," he told her in front of a stunned audience. "I haven’t been able to communicate my message to the African-American community as well as I should. Maybe it’s my own inadequacies." He warmly shook her hand after the question and answer session. The Independence Party audience was pleased with his performance.
As Giuliani was departing from the airport in Buffalo, Mrs. Clinton was arriving. Graham gave his pre-arranged introduction and the First Lady, clad in pink and pearls, took the stage. It was only a matter of minutes before the assembled IP members began to react. Her exhortation that the party maintain its mainstream principles and reject the "extremism … of the right and the left" went over like a lead balloon. Who does she think she is? listeners muttered. Her proclamation that she wouldn’t accept the line if Buchanan was at the top of the ticket was equally badly received.
Ironically, Buchanan has not been altogether popular within the New York party. The prospect of his becoming the party’s nominee was a source of dismay to many. But Clinton’s aggressive and arrogant intervention into the affairs of a party not her own did not play well. If anything, Buchanan’s support was enhanced—even if temporarily—by Hillary’s attack.
It wasn’t until Hillary left the stage and entered the press room that her strategy became fully apparent. She had decided she could neither win nor prevent a primary. The only option left was a full-scale attack on the party to make it so politically radioactive that Giuliani couldn’t touch it. Yes, it was Fulani who was the left extremist trying to "hijack" the party, Clinton told the press. Yes, it was Fulani who was the anti-Semite.
The room was in an uproar. The press, huddled together in a single swarm, moved back to find Fulani in the main room. It’s a slanderous attack, Fulani told reporters. By next day’s Sunday morning talk shows, the spin cycle was in full gear. George Stephanopolous, Bill Clinton’s press secretary turned political commentator and bon vivant, who had been at the Buffalo forum whispering comments in Fulani’s ear, pronounced Hillary’s anti-Fulani play a "Sister Souljah" on This Week with Sam and Cokie. Fulani advisor Fred Newman later commented that it was far more likely that Hillary would be Fulani’s "Sister Souljah"—her poster child for the coarse duplicity of Democratic Party politics.
The Spin War
The reaction to the Clinton play—and to Fulani’s response—inside the Democratic Party was tortured. Fulani called a press conference on Monday where she charged that, "We don't appreciate a carpetbagger from Arkansas coming to New York and telling us who is and isn't an acceptable Black leader."
She had spoken to Sharpton the night before, who offered to put out a statement criticizing Mrs. Clinton’s remarks. You know more Jews that she does, Sharpton wryly commented. His take was that the old guard inside the Democratic Party was flexing its muscle, the same old guard that had come after him. In his statement released the next day and featured later in the week in the Amsterdam News, Sharpton said, "I’ve known Lenora Fulani for many years and she is a fighter for civil liberty, community empowerment and the dissolution of economic injustice in our community. Lenora is a bridge builder, a coalition builder. And while we may not agree on everything, specifically her support of Patrick Buchanan and his conservative and traditionalist perspectives, it is erroneous and insensitive to associate her with negative politics. Though I share Mrs. Clinton’s views on Buchanan – and find it strange that Mayor Giuliani, who attacks legitimate civil rights leaders, has no problem running on a slate with Buchanan – I do not share Mrs. Clinton’s reported views that Fulani is an anti-Semite or a bigot in any form."
The Black Democrats were in their usual bind. By the time of Fulani’s press conference—early Monday afternoon—the Clinton campaign had muscled support statements from David Dinkins, Carl McCall, Floyd Flake, Annette Robinson, Archie Spigner, and one lone Jew, Ken Fisher. A Clinton staffer passed out copies of their statements to reporters arriving for Fulani the press conference.
Fulani and Dinkins had just seen each other two weeks earlier at an event at Columbia University. There they had embraced and laughingly conversed about how she was giving local Black Democrats a hard time. But when the First Lady calls, Black Democrats generally listen.
Virtually no one took State Controller Carl McCall’s remarks seriously. He supported the First Lady’s accusation by criticizing Fulani’s endorsement of real estate developer Abe Hirschfeld over McCall in the 1998 Independence Party primary for Controller. "It seems odd to present as evidence of anti-Semitism the fact that I endorsed a Jewish candidate over a Black candidate in an IP primary," Fulani told the Amsterdam News.
Harlem Congressman Rangel, credited with having persuaded Hillary to enter the race, is of a stature well beyond the muscle of the Clintons. But he was, nonetheless, forced to conclude a separate peace. A week after the Buffalo forum, Rangel appeared before the Manhattan County Independence Party screening committee, which makes recommendations to the county organization on candidate endorsements. Rangel told the committee that given his involvement in the U.S. Senate and Presidential races, if Hillary Clinton and Al Gore were not cross endorsed by the Independence Party, then he could not run with IP support. However, he told Stewart, he came to the screening out of respect for the Independence Party and for Fulani.
In the two days after the Buffalo forum, the press continued the melee. The New York Post’s Eric Fettmann, generally a harsh critic of liberal Democrats, praised Clinton’s ploy and griped about Giuliani’s friendly exchange with Fulani: "Rudy Giuliani admitting to his ‘own inadequacies’? Are we hearing right? But as welcome and refreshing a confession of fallibility as that was, why make it to—of all people—Lenora Fulani?"
Dems Caught in the Crossfire
Daily News political analyst Joel Siegel headlined his article, "Hil Looks Left For a Fight Now That Rudy’s Ill." Fulani called syndicated columnist and CNN Crossfire host, Bob Novak --who had broken the story about her first meeting with Pat Buchanan—to tell him the details of what had happened at the forum. Novak took his astonishment onto the air that night, where Democratic State Chairwoman Judith Hope and McCain campaign advisor Mike Murphy were the show’s guests.
NOVAK: Now, Miss Hope, I have been covering politics one way or another for very close to 50 years, believe it or not, I’m so young looking it is hard to believe that, but I have never, yet, heard of somebody going into a party saying: I would like your nomination for the Senate, but I don’t – but I’m going to dictate the conditions under which I will take it only if you name somebody as – as somebody else as the presidential front-runner. Can you give me a precedent for that in American history?
HOPE: I didn’t hear her use the word dictate, Bob. She took a principled stand, she went to the party because there is, apparently, still some disagreement among the Independence Party leaders about whether or not Pat Buchanan is an appropriate candidate for them to put at the top of their ticket, particularly give his very divisive, and frequent anti-Semitic remarks. He is promoted, as we know, by Lenora Fulani, who has in fact on the record made a number of very divisive and inflammatory anti-Semitic remarks.
Hillary Clinton took a principled position. There may be a price to pay, but it was the right thing to do, and I’m very proud of her for doing it. And I think that Giuliani should do the same thing. I think he should take the same position, and I’m dismayed that he is seeking the nomination with these people in control of the party.
NOVAK: I don’t think you quite answered my question, but you confirmed the fact that she won’t take the nomination, if Buchanan is on the top of the ticket.
HOPE: That is correct.
NOVAK: Let’s just listen to something else she said in connection with Lenora Fulani.
RODHAM CLINTON: If, however, this party allows itself, to become defined by the anti-Semitism, extremism, prejudice, and intolerance of a few shrill voices of both the right and the left, you will do yourselves and our state a great disservice.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
NOVAK: Now, Lenora Fulani says she has been slandered, that she is not anti-Semitic, she defies anybody to define her as anti-Semitic.
HOPE: Her comments are part of the public record, they are discoverable, I have read them myself. I have been dismayed by them. There are many thoughtful, responsible leaders in the Independence Party who are also alarmed that Ms. Fulani has apparently gained such an influential position here. She seems to promote Pat Buchanan because there is a good deal of money involved in his candidacy for the party, and it is very alarming that these third parties can become under the influence of individuals who have another agenda very contrary to the interests of New Yorkers.
NOVAK: The Reverend Al Sharpton has taken Mrs. Clinton to task for criticizing Lenora Fulani. Are you going to take off against Al Sharpton that he is anti-Semitic?
HOPE: Many New Yorkers have come today to applaud her position. Reverend Floyd Flake of Queens, one of the most highly regarded African Americans in New York State, Carl McCall a highly esteemed controller – state controller, former Mayor David Dinkins, many people who didn’t have the courage to do what she did are greatly encouraged that she did have the courage.
MURPHY: You know, this is grandstanding for cheap applause. That is all this is. Hillary Clinton has had a long time to attack Fulani or any other nutty extremist. She is not going to lay a glove on Sharpton. This is purely a totally insincere cynical maneuvering for some cheap applause, beating up a party nobody cares about with no support.
HOPE: Would you advise Rudy Giuliani to take the line of an anti-Semitic party?
Local Dems in Despair
Grandstanding was the issue. Stewart reached Connor the day after Fulani’s press conference and Hope’s second round attack on Independence. This is not a good situation, he told Stewart. Connor had not been in the loop for the final game plan. They decided on a course, he told her. The knew they couldn’t win a primary. They figured they could force Rudy out. Connor was dismayed. His efforts at laying the groundwork for a healthy Democratic/Independence partnership had been blown to bits by the Clinton cabal.
Where had the decision to "go negative" come from? Some insiders believe it came from advisor and former White House Chief of Staff Harold Ickes. Others say it came from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a rival of Bragman. Still others say it was campaign manager Bill DeBlasio who made the final call. A few suspect the green light came from the First Husband. Whatever its source, the modus operandi is unmistakable. Reach out with your left hand and sucker punch with your right. Associated Press put it this way: "Hillary Clinton’s condemnation of Fulani and Buchanan as anti-Semitic could appeal to Jewish voters."
As for IP’s democracy coalition, its leaders regrouped the morning after the forum, vowing to continue on the path to a primary. At a postmortem press conference a week later, Laureen Oliver raked the First Lady over the coals. "If the First Lady was so concerned about the future character of this party, where was she when Jack Essenberg was trampling on the democratic rights of the members of this party? Where was the First Lady when Mr. Essenberg went to court to suppress a 75% majority of the State Committee from enacting local control, exercising their party's rules and their statutory right to remove him? Where was the First Lady when Mr. Essenberg was aiding and abetting Donald Trump in Mr. Trump's efforts to "hijack" the party? Many of us in our party might not like Pat Buchanan. But at the very least, he is running for President. Donald Trump and Jack Essenberg tried to take control of a slate of New York delegates to the Reform Party's national convention, even though Trump isn't a presidential candidate."
Graham remained stung by the Clinton’s camp betrayal, telling reporters that Hillary’s chances of getting the Independence line without a primary were "nil." MacKay joined Fulani and Stewart at a fundraiser for the Manhattan County Independence Party, attended by over one hundred downstate members and several elected officials including Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Republican State Senator Roy Goodman. Several days later MacKay got a series of feeler calls from Democratic Party leaders trying to determine if the relationship was destroyed. And the game goes on.
One Democratic Party insider summed up the episode to Fulani. What do they think, he said. Every Black person is an anti-Semite? Another Democratic staffer to an elected official told Stewart with an air of troubled resignation—we don’t want to see Ickes and the Clinton crowd take over the Democratic Party. But you can’t mess with the Clintons. They’re too tough.
When America’s first President left office he told the American people that the country had to govern itself and that he would not be King. George Washington also offered a warning to the American people—Beware of political parties, he said. They will corrupt our democracy.
They have. What’s more Hillary Clinton has been going around the state as if she is the Queen, the sovereign of all she sees. At a minimum the First Lady could have listened to her Imperial predecessor, Nancy Reagan. If "Queen" Hillary doesn’t want to associate with certain people, like independents, she doesn’t have to. Only don’t come to their house and insult them. Just say no.
** ** **
Jackie Salit is freelance journalist and political director of the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, a New York City based think tank for independent politics. She is currently writing a book called Reforming America. She can be reached at 212-803-1886 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Return to Independence Party of New York home page.