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May 28, 2005 3:50 am


Lenora Fulani's World



New York politics is peculiar in a number of ways, but no more so than in the breadth of alternative parties. Some--such as the American Labor Party in the 1930s and the Conservative Party since the 1970s--have exercised a decisive impact on the state's ideological climate. (The Conservatives even elected a senator on their ticket, James Buckley in 1970). Others, such as the Right to Life Party on the right and the Working Families Party on the left, embody single-issue politics. And the Green Party, as elsewhere, always threatens to siphon voters on the liberal fringe away from Dem nominees.

Most NY third parties, however, exist not to run candidates of their own but to cross-endorse nominees running on either the Democratic or Republican ticket. In exchange, the third parties receive patronage. The best example of this pattern: the Liberal Party. The party's regular endorsement of liberal Republicans like Jacob Javits allowed Democratic voters to cast ballots for Javits without voting GOP. By the 1980s, the Liberals were little more than a patronage machine, as their leader, Raymond Harding, traded endorsements for various favors. The Liberal line was crucial for Rudy Giuliani in his 1993 mayoral victory, but corruption scandals, the growth of the Working Families Party, and the increasing sense that the Liberals stood for nothing cost the party its automatic line after a poor showing in 2004.

Today's Times has a feature on the most dangerous of these third parties to come along in some time, the Independence Party. The party dates from the early 1990s, when it was used as a vehicle by Tom Golisano, New York's version of Ross Perot, to twice run for governor; and, indeed, Perot himself ran on the Independence line in New York in 1996. In the last few years, however, the Independence Party has been taken over by a pair of far-left extremists, Lenora Fulani and Fred Newman, who have a disturbing pattern to offer anti-Semitic statements. Fulani, for instance, has written that Jews"had to sell their souls to acquire Israel and are required to do the dirtiest work of capitalism" and had to"function as mass murderers of people of color" to keep it.

The Times reports that the Independence Party is prepared to endorse the reelection of Mike Bloomberg (all of the major Democratic candidates had also courted the endorsement). Bloomberg has repudiated Fulani's comments, but added,"You know, [if] you walk away from every party where one person in it said something that you violently disagree with, you wouldn't be a member of the Democratic Party, you wouldn't be a member of the Republican Party, you wouldn't be a member of any party." Quite true. But in this case, we're talking about a leader of the party, and the statements aren't regarding a dispute over, say, alternate-side parking. Bloomberg should disavow the endorsement as long as Fulani is in a position of Independence leadership.

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Leo Edward Casey - 5/28/2005

The notion that the Working Families Party is a one issue party is preposterous. It was created precisely for the purpose of establishing a left liberal counterweight to the Conservatives, given the complete degeneration of the [now departed] Liberals into a patronage machine. It has been remarkably successful at that goal.

And one would think that intellectual honesty would compel one to admit that the endorsements of the Independence Party have gone, and quite consistently so, to the Republicans and the candidates of the right. Instead, we have this rather disingenuous attempt to suggest that the Democratic candidates for mayor are seeking the nomination, when several have openly condemned Fulani and Bloomberg for seeking her support, and the portrayal of Fulani's anti-Semitic sect as "left wing. The last time this sect was "left wing," Ed Koch was getting ready to run for mayor.

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