By Steve Spanolios
In the last 18 months, I immersed myself in a lot of things, one of which was understanding state politics.
The first thing I discovered as a resident of Astoria is that my representative — Jose Peralta — was a member of the Independent Democratic Caucus (“IDC”).
I did my due diligence on the IDC. I inhaled articles that both complimented and criticized the IDC. I asked some people who work in and with Albany about the impact and significance of the IDC.
As a lifelong Democrat, the more I read, the angrier I got. I understood the political argument that joining IDC allowed these members to caucus with Republicans and gain benefits for themselves and their respective communities. The concept that being a valuable member of a group allowed them to get funds for schools and environmental studies in their communities. But I was also not privy as to what this really was: a grab for power.
In all the justifications for why they abandoned their progressive campaign promises and absent from those altruistic descriptions were the direct individual benefits these eight members of the IDC obtained by betraying their party and to a certain extent the people who voted for them.
Also, apparently not part of the analysis was whether staying loyal to their party and the general beliefs of the Democratic Party would have somehow precluded them from getting those same benefits in their communities. It seems like the only thing that was mutually exclusive was the ability to sit on various committees that in turn gave the IDC members what they sought in actuality – influence and power.
The thing stands out to me in 2018 is that I no longer have the patience for politicians who rely on our cynicism in order to personally benefit themselves. The idea that you can run on a certain platform and then compromise your beliefs in the name of practicality no longer works in this political environment, even for a pragmatist like me.
And that is why when I saw women like Jessica Ramos and Alessandra Biaggi taking on two members of the IDC (including Senator Peralta), I was pleased. I quickly donated to both and added my name as a potential volunteer. Smart women who have worked in government and are more than qualified to hold these positions is what we need in our communities and government. People who will understand that you can be practical without sacrificing your moral compass.
I write this now for all those politicians and all those members of the media who are trying to grasp how things will play in 2018. The message from all these marches, protests and general activism is that time for compromising your ideology for personal benefit as a civil servant is over.
At least here in New York City, the people you align yourself with matters more than the words justifying why you stand with them. Even a pragmatist like me has lost patience with you, and I won’t let my cynicism cause me to turn away from this.
My anger is just a small part of what is coming in the next couple of years. If there is one thing we can learn from what occupies the White House, it is that the ransom you received for power and influence cannot be justified because it came at the cost of what a politician should value the most- their integrity. I believe Ms. Ramos and Ms. Biaggi are the reckonings for the IDC and the politics that helped create it.