The Yassky Exception
Since I'm already reasonably well-established on the shitlist of the Yassky campaign and its supporters â€“ after a description as a 'neo-bohemian aristocrat', which does sound more polished than 'faggot', that seems a valid conclusion â€“ well, why not go all out. And yes, I do support Chris Owens, but that's if anything secondary to my thinking on the 11th district contest. Nor do I belong to the angry anti-development subculture; I happen to think Yassky negotiated a reasonably adequate public benefit on the Williamsburg waterfront. I'd also prefer not to join the inevitable chorus of derision that by custom greets higher ambitions on the part of members of the City Council. He's a decent legislator, if not quite the Solon that he paints himself as.
But the fact is that Yassky's campaign is an utter fucking disgrace.
The basic game plan is this: the district contains a black majority of 61%, which is likely to vote for a black candidate. With several such candidates, all you have to do to win is pick up enough of the 39% of voters who are not black to come out ahead in a five-way primary. It's fair to say that this negates the intent of the Voting Rights Act, the letter and spirit of which created the 11th Congressional district.
Utter. Fucking. Disgrace.
I've asked the councilman myself what he thinks of the Voting Rights Act, and whether it should be renewed. His response was an enthusiastic Yes. You see, the VRA ensures "that communities of color get good representation" â€“ which is a ludicrously misleading and self-serving distortion. By this logic, the VRA is race-neutral, a novel interpretation, to be kind. It's also, for any Democrat, a stunningly shameful and debased statement. We gave up the solid South and locked ourselves out of power for a generation precisely because we believe otherwise.
David Yassky presents us as Democrats with a unique and unforeseen challenge, and it is important, for our sake, that we understand the nature of that challenge. We are being asked to elevate the incandescent ambition of one man over a central piece of our legacy; that is what the councilman's amoral calculus of power demands of us. Welcome to the Yassky Exception.
The Yassky Exception posits that the councilman is such an exceptional legislator that his presence in Congress is almost a gift to a district containing not a soul with his dazzling qualities. So clearly does Congress require his presence that it means nothing if African-American representation in that body is lessened. We are being asked to be color-blind at the expense of communities of color.
The Yassky Exception requires us to embrace a campaign whose only chance for success lies in pitting Jew against Gentile, black against white, a minority of district voters against the majority, in a country where the district majority in turn is a minority, the interests of which we claim to hold dear.
The Yassky Exception negates the idea that we stand for bringing a community together, of ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table. That bedrock Democratic value of joining together for the greater good? Say goodbye to all that, as his campaign expressly exploits and exacerbates divisions within the district with a flood of hard dollars.
The Yassky Exception expects you to believe that ethnicity is not a proper factor for black voters to consider, but that a ridiculously pandering mailer â€“ "a nurse in every Yeshiva" - to Hassidim is just business as usual.
The Yassky Exception wants you to be fashionably blasÃ© about the worth of the black experience in America; that experience need not be heard in Congress, certainly not when benevolent white men have so much to offer. After all, why should an ongoing history of black disenfranchisement stand in the way of such exalted dreams as animate the white councilman, whose supporters openly mock what they call "pigment politics"?
The Yassky Exception should be at the back of your mind when you hear that Congress is debating the re-authorization of the Voting Rights Act. Why even bother, with this calculating mockery being made of it? Is the VRA negotiable, or is that all oh-so-last-year pigment politics?
If Yassky â€“ and I still don't think it will happen - prevails in this primary, the black population of the district will have every right to feel screwed by a Democratic Party and an establishment that let it happen. African-Americans are an integral part of the Democratic coalition because we actually believe that our One America is not and cannot be monochromatic. I'm not willing to toss all that into the gaping maw that is the heedless ambition of one man aiming to exalt himself. The Yassky Exception is not worth its price tag.