Today, campaigns for office are sometimes more about political games and attacks rather than the actual positions of the candidates.
If you are a Republican, you are lumped in with every position of President Trump and a racist. If you are a Democrat, you are a card-carrying member of the socialist party. And if a party or individual supports your candidacy, you are accountable for every single one of their words. How sad.
We got an example of this unfortunate new normal in political campaigns here in Brooklyn last week, where this columnist was cast as the star of the show.
One of the Democratic candidates in Brooklyn’s 22nd Senate District, Ross Barkan, attacked me as “anti-immigrant” to score some political points.
Some background is needed to understand Barkan’s script. The Brooklyn Reform Party, of which I am chairman, voted to give a Wilson-Pakula authorization to both Republican state Sen. Marty Golden and Barkan’s Democratic primary opponent, Andrew Gounardes. If both would have accepted this authorization it would have resulted in a Reform Party primary between the two in September. However, Golden declined this authorization, while Gounardes accepted.
While all other parties only allow their members to vote in their primaries, the Reform party also permits “blank” voters to participate. These are individuals who decide not to enroll with any political party. Significantly, there are more blank voters in the 22nd Senate District (37,736) than Republicans (32,853). These blank voters, who never participated in a primary, would have had a voice in selecting a party nominee for the first time.
One has to assume Golden did not like his chances with this huge swath of independent voters in a primary against Gounardes. This is ominous for the incumbent because this second largest group of voters in the district will play a critical role in determining the next state senator.
Now, the details of Barkan’s play. Because I was a Republican and a strong supporter of legal immigration, he accused me of being “anti-immigrant.” Therefore Mr. Gounardes, according to Barkan, should distance himself from my party, and alienate the more than 37,000 blank voters in the senate district, as Golden did. However, by accepting the support of a party, it should be understood to mean the candidate agrees with its core platform, not all of the purported personal positions of its leaders.
The Reform Party platform is committed to ending political corruption and special interest control of government. The party supports Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and anyone from any party based on their commitment to these core positions.
Barkan’s gambit was an attempt to create sensational stories to swing some members of his party to his side for the primary.
We should all embrace and support legal immigration. To promote illegal immigration is an insult to all of these great new Americans and Brookynites.
In the late 1990s, I began managing baseball teams with the 68th Precinct Youth Council, and many of my players were the sons of recent immigrants. In addition, I served in leadership positions with many other local civic groups over the past two decades.
Come to think of it, I never saw or heard of Barkan being engaged in any civic organization in our community. He just seems to make up for his lack of recognition by slinging mud to make waves.
If we played along with Barkan’s game, one could say that since he accepted the endorsement of Democratic District leader Ari Kagan, he assumes all of his positions as well. This includes Kagan leading protests against markings to remember homosexual victims of the Holocaust at Sheepshead Bay’s Holocaust Memorial Park.
Should Barkan repudiate and distance himself from Kagan? Holding a candidate accountable for every word and action of others just because they endorsed them or share the same party affiliation is a slippery slope.
The Democratic primary race between Ross Barkan and Andrew Gounardes, and any election, should be based on the issues and the policy platforms of the actual candidates.
Bob Capano is the Chairman of the Brooklyn Reform Party and has been an adjunct professor of political science for more than 15 years.