Sunday, December 30, 2018

Oh God! A Speaker From Brooklyn?


Manny and Hakeem

The way Brooklyn was divided up into congressional districts when I was growing up was different back then. I mostly grew up on East 16th street and Avenue P, the exact border (depending on which side of the street you lived) between what is now Yvette Clarke's 9th district and Dan Donovan's/Max Rose's 11th district and then in Atlantic Towers in Sheepshead Bay, where, today Hakeen Jeffries 8th district meets Yvette Clarke's 9th. Back in the day, it was all Manny Celler's district. Celler's was a legendary figure who, when he died in 1981 (age 92-- born in 1888), the NY Times called "one of the most influential New Yorkers who ever served in the House." He served during the administrations of 7 presidents starting with Warren G. Harding. Over the course of his 50 years in Congress his district was numbered and renumbered NY-10, NY-15, NY-11, NY-10 again and finally, NY-16. But it was always, basically, the most Jewish and most liberal part of Brooklyn.

His first blockbuster move in the House-- in 1924-- was to lead the opposition to an ugly xenophobic immigration bill proposed by Rep. Albert Johnson (R-WA) and Senator David Reed (R-PA) that sought to severely limit the number of Jews, Italians, Greeks, Poles, Russians, Czechs, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Serbians, Ukrainians, Muslims, Japanese, Koreans and Chinese immigrants and to deport large numbers who were already in the U.S. Despite Celler's strenuous efforts, H.R. 7995 passed the House, 323-71, and was signed by Calvin Coolidge on May 24, 1924. It wasn't until 1952 and 1965 that these restricts were eased. During World War II, Celler led the fight to force FDR to relax the restricts on refugees fleeing the Nazi Holocaust.

In 1950 Celler was the lead House sponsor of Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver's bill to strengthen anti-trust legislation and protect consumers from monopolies. At the same time, he was one of the only members of Congress willing to take on McCarthyism. "Deliberately and calculatedly, McCarthyism has set before itself the task of undermining the faith of the people in their Government," he thundered at the 1952 Democratic National Convention. "It has undertaken to sow suspicion everywhere, to set friend against friend and brother against brother. It deals in coercion and in intimidation, tying the hands of citizens and officials with the fear of the smear attack."

As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 1949 to 1973 (except for a brief break in 1952 when the GOP controlled the House for 2 years), Celler was involved in drafting and passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1965, he proposed the 25th Amendment, which might help us get rid of Trump. 50 years in Congress... a stunning record of accomplishment and no talk of any advancement beyond that.

I want to compare that to someone who sits in part of his seat now, 48 year old Hakeem Jeffries, basically an unaccomplished political hack and self-promoter who lost his first race after accusing his opponent, Assemblyman Roger Green, of being a Muslim. Six years later, in 2006, Green retired and Jeffries grabbed the seat. In 2012 he decided to take on corrupt Congressman Edolphus Towns but Towns announced his retirement instead and Jeffries beat a more progressive city councilman, Charles Barron, in the primary-- spreading around talking points that he was the "Barack Obama of Brooklyn" and that Barron was anti-Semitic and would not protect Israel. Jeffries was heavily supported by Wall Street banksters, hedge fund managers and charter school interests, refused to debate and went on to win the seat. [So far Jeffries has taken $982,984 from the financial sector. 48.71% of his campaign cash comes from PACs and only 1.28% from small individual contributors.]

He's generally considered a Wall Street Democrat and an AIPAC Democrat and he successfully got himself labeled a "rising star." On November 28 he celebrated the dubious distinction of defeating-- with the help of conservative Democrats-- Barbara Lee to become Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, following in the footsteps on another corrupt Wall Street shill, Joe Crowley, widely touted as the "next Speaker" until Alexandria Ocasio defeated him in a primary earlier this year. And now he's spreading the word that he's the "next Speaker." Politico, of course, bit-- hook, line and sinker: ‘What Obama had, he has that’: Jeffries’ stock rises as Pelosi successor. Heather Caygle, Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan reported that Juan Vargas (New Dem-CA), one of the most corrupt and conservative Democrats in Congress and a Jeffries backer, crowed after Jeffries beat Barbara Lee that "What Obama had, he has that. I call it lightning in a bottle. I do think he’s somebody that could, with a few breaks, become our speaker and also our president. He has that talent." Vargas-- who was considered the worst member of the California legislature when state Dems backed his congressional bid to get him out of Sacramento-- wouldn't recognize talent if it bit him in the ass.
More than a few Democrats see Jeffries’ youth and Brooklyn swagger-- he’s been known to quote rapper Biggie Smalls on the House floor-- as the antidote for a caucus long ruled by a pack of old-school septuagenarians. But the speakership is far from guaranteed.

With Nancy Pelosi’s grip on the gavel likely secure for at least the next two years, Jeffries, 48, would first have to elbow aside others on a leadership team that’s suddenly brimming with young upstarts. He also must navigate some of the same land mines that tripped up his fellow New Yorker, outgoing Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley.

Crowley, too, was often whispered about as the heir apparent to Pelosi’s throne. That is, until he was ousted in a primary upset by Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in June. And now Ocasio-Cortez reportedly has Jeffries in her cross hairs, as she and some of her liberal allies consider trying to take him out in 2020.
Caygle, Bade and Bresnahan laughably construct a future race for Speaker as one being between conservative "rising stars" Ben Ray Luján (NM), crediting him with winning the 2018 midterms, Blue Dog Cheri Bustos, a Rahm Emanuel protégé, who has never accomplished anything and progressives Katherine Clark (MA) and David Cicilline (RI), a good voter but, unfortunately, a bit of a stiff, who may have trouble holding onto his seat after Rhode Island loses one of its two House seats in 2022.
“In terms of whether or not I am as progressive as Barbara Lee, I plead guilty as charged,” Jeffries said. “Neither are 434 members of the United States House of Representatives.”

Jeffries pointed to his voting record to push back on the notion that he’s a moderate in any sense of the word: “My record, based on what outside groups have determined to be the case, places me squarely within the top 25 most progressive members of the United States Congress. The record speaks for itself.”

Jeffries has supporters at the ready to fight for him. After Politico reported that Ocasio-Cortez and leaders of the progressive Justice Democrats were toying with the idea of supporting a primary challenger to Jeffries, multiple lawmakers came to his defense.

“[S]he’s helping stir enthusiasm for the domestic agenda that’s really been blocked for years by Republican leadership, but the reality is these are the same policies that my best friend Congressman Jeffries has been a leader on for years,” Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana said of Ocasio-Cortez. “She has been rightly calling for people to give her a chance, not to prejudge her leadership and potential. I hope that she gives the same courtesy to Congressman Jeffries.”

Added New York Rep. Kathleen Rice [another corrupt Wall Street New Dem]: “This whole concept of ‘if you do not subscribe to the 15 principles of the Justice Democrats, you’re not a Democrat,’ it flies in the face of what I think is the best thing about the Democratic Party, which is we are truly a big tent party.”

Jeffries’ allies also argue that just because he’s an effective legislator doesn’t mean he’s not a true-blue progressive. Jeffries has had seven bills passed in a GOP-controlled House, four enacted into law. That record, they say, shows he knows how to get things done.

...Jeffries credits House Democrats’ romp to winning 40 new seats on election night to a strategy he, Bustos and Cicilline crafted as co-chairs of House Democrats’ communications arm: ignoring Trump and adopting a tunnel-vision focus on pocketbook issues, including protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions and hammering the GOP’s “tax scam.”

Throughout the campaign cycle, the trio reminded lawmakers on a weekly basis to stay on message, even printing little note cards displaying their talking points to reinforce that strategy.

“Now this so-called tax cut is more unpopular than tax increases that have been enacted by the United States Congress!” Jeffries boasted. “We lost the legislative battle. We won the messaging war.”

But it’s more than just a having a simple message. Jeffries says Democrats have to avoid getting in the mud with Trump when he goads them.

“Trump is Trump, but you have to make a strategic decision. Are you going to take the bait or not?” he said. “Don’t take the bait. Don’t take the bait.”

One person unlikely to stand in Jeffries’ way if he ultimately goes for the speaker’s gavel? Clyburn, currently the highest ranking African-American in Congress and a veteran politician who had previously toyed with the idea of running for speaker himself.

“I think that Hakeem Jeffries has everything it takes to be the speaker of the House,” Clyburn said. “I look forward to being around, if not inside the Congress, hopefully from the clubhouse at the Santee Cooper Golf Course when he takes his next step up.”
Jeffries is an avid self-promoter and, basically a follower of the crowd... not a leader. So, of course, don't be surprised that he hasn't signed onto the Green New Deal. I'd be surprised if he even understands what it is, although when most Democrats back it, he will too. There have been 54 House speakers since the office was created in 1789. Two were New Yorkers-- John Taylor (Albany) in 1820 and again in 1825 and Theodore Pomeroy (Syracuse) in 1869-- and none have ever been from Brooklyn, not even the great Manny Celler.

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At 6:36 AM, Anonymous ap215 said...

I'm from Brooklyn i lived in Downtown Brooklyn in my early days went to school at Sheepshead Bay years ago Hakeem is not a likable guy he's a corporatist & no doubt he'll be in Nancy Pelosi's corporate coattails he should definitely be primaried.

At 6:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the piece as just more proof that the democrap PARTY of today is worthless, feckless, corrupt and irredeemable.

The history lesson, in order to view the distinction between then and now, is valuable.

But the bottom line is this: The democraps are never going to be useful to the nation as a whole. Corporations love them. That should be all you need to know.

In another time, the Whigs were the party that were of no use. They were replaced in fairly short order by the republicans (when it was the party of Lincoln).

Yet our sheepdogs still insist that you cannot just stop supporting worthless, feckless, corrupt and irredeemable democraps because there is nothing to replace them.

Fucking MAKE something to replace them. goddamn idiots.

At 6:51 AM, Anonymous Silversalty said...

Recently I tweeted about the first time I saw a presidential motorcade, with streets (Ocean Pkwy) completely blocked. I thought it was LBJ coming to Brooklyn for Cellar's funeral. This was probably about '64. Guess I was 'exaggerating' Cellar's death. Maybe an important political strategy? I can't remember why I relate it to Cellar.

Oh well.

At 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to nitpick, but, Celler served during NINE presidential administrations as I count it, not seven: Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon. Remarkable.

Celler also did his best to push Rooosevelt to allow Jews to immigrate from Europe to America to escape the Holocaust. While he would be just as upset as I am that Israel is not honoring the idealist principles on which it was founded, I am not sure he would approve the way you turn "AIPAC Democrat" into an insult. Even though I am J Street Democrat.

Anti-Zionism -- which can only be construed as advocating an end to the Jewish state, is exactly and completely equal to anti Semitism. Since the site has avowedly become anti-Zionist, it has become anti-Semitic, racist, and disgusting.

Attack Likud and the right wingers who fund it (like Adelson) all you want to, I'm fine with that. But saying anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, is like saying that states rights or strict voter ID, are not racism aimed at African Americans. The cant you spew is that obvious.


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