Friday, March 18, 2005

Democrats Need To Start Fighting Locally

Irvington, NY, is a small town of just under 7,500 people a few miles from where I live. It is an upper-income community, where the majority of its citizens are registered Democrats. Indeed, almost 70 percent of the $265,000 contributed by Irvington residents to political candidates in 2004 went to Democrats.

So why then did Erin Malloy, a fine and fully-qualified Democrat, just lose a mayoral election in Irvington by one vote? Yes, you read that right, one vote. Why has Republican Dennis Flood held the mayor's office for over a decade in a town that by almost any measure is a Democratic stronghold?

And why am I discussing this incredibly local race here when the majority of my readers live elsewhere?

Because our local situation is symptomatic of a huge challenge we Democrats face in getting our country back: Our unwillingness to look beyond the political sexiness of a presidential campaign and start fighting in the trenches for every local and regional office.

We face a significant challenge in getting voters to understand that political affiliation does indeed matter on a local level. Republicans, ashamed of the banner they wave, will always preach that party is irrelevant in small-town and regional elections. But we need to heal ourselves before we tackle that one.

Why did Erin and her team toil mostly in isolation, when we have so many Democrats in nearby towns – and some with very big mouths and pens like me – with no elections to contend with who could have pitched in to help her cause? Why were we all not descending on this lovely village on the Hudson River like liberal birds of prey to push a fellow Democrat over the top? And where was the support of the county and regional Democratic machine?

We're not sure what the outcome is going to be in Irvington. A recount will take place and we may even end up with Mayor Malloy when the dust clears. But don't count on it. Republicans are experts – at any political level – in suppressing votes to win close elections and I suspect this will be no different.

Let's not forget that we gain the White House, the House and the Senate back by starting locally and moving up from there. Failure to realize this is why all Democrats in my area (including yours truly) need to share the burden of this painful loss with Erin Malloy.