The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart Mirsky
Republicans Vanquish Dems! Whither Rockaway?
Now that all of last Fall’s shouting and campaigning are over, and the politicians are sorting through the fallout, one thing is painfully obvious: the Democrats got served with a wake-up call this past November 5th. Throughout the nation, hotly contested races fell to the Republicans in the wake of George W. Bush and his party’s efforts to convince voters that his administration had a vision which addressed America’s needs . . . and that continued Democratic control of a portion of Congress obstructed that vision.
Sure, the Republicans have suffered reversals since then but, at the end of the day, last November’s Republican gains in the House, and their retaking of the Senate (even by the very narrowest of margins), virtually assure Bush that he will have his chance to implement some or all of his vision for the country. Moreover, combined with his recent performance vis a vis the War on Terrorism and the upcoming military confrontation with Iraq, he has gained a patina of legitimacy that many Democrats sought to deny him after his own narrow election in 2000. And so the worm turns.
Does this mean we are in for a Republican majority for the foreseeable future? Hardly. The country is still split down the middle on political philosophy, though the split manifests itself in different areas of the spectrum, depending on the issue. And, while Republicans now have the enviable, if risky, chance of actually putting our money where their mouths are to try to make things better (with only the slimmest of majorities in the Senate), they still face an obstreperous and irritable Democratic caucus that continues to smart over its loss of the prerogatives of power! Moreover, Bush has serious issues to address including homeland defense and a still listing economy. There is also the continuing need for tax reform and to get judges in place. So the Republicans certainly haven’t got a cakewalk ahead of them!
As if to emphasize this, Bush has remained admirably low-key since his political successes last November and has continued to give every indication that he understands that the onus, as well as the opportunity, is now on him. But, plainly, the country has once made a choice. Despite the sense we have in New York City that the only real political option is the Democratic one, we continue to see on the national and state levels (and even in City Hall, if you can still number our current mayor in the Republican camp!), that there are other options if we choose to avail ourselves of them.
So what about Rockaway? Well we’re still decidedly in the Democratic camp, given the recent electoral results and that means we’re still a one-party town. But, if it’s a good thing to have more than one party operating on the national scene, isn’t it also a good thing to have that on the local level? For years, one of the main reasons people flocked to the Democratic Party in the Rockaways has been the perception that the Democrats were the only serious political alternative. Republicans rarely, if ever, won elections out here and they had no organization to speak of on the local level. If you wanted to get things done, it’s always been the Democrats who were positioned to accomplish things.
Of course, there are many who genuinely believe in the Democratic party’s core positions: more government involvement, increased taxation in order to fund that involvement, re-direction of resources from the wealthy to those who are not, unqualified support for work rules that may insulate a workforce from accountability, etc. But many others have gravitated to the Democrats merely because they were perceived as the party with the power. But that leads to arrogance and hubris for the Democratic leadership.
In a democratic society it may also sometimes lead to a shifting of the political plates, as we have just seen on the national level!
With Republicans beginning to demonstrate that they represent a serious and respectable alternative we need to take another look at this party here in our own community. The Republican view, shorn of some of the hardcore nonsense of yesteryear, which reflected an almost atavistic, and to New Yorkers, unattractive social conservatism, has reshaped itself into a philosophy of limiting government by imposing greater accountability (as opposed to the older conservative cry of shrinking government at any cost!) by placing primary emphasis on ensuring effective management. Bush has exemplified this by the seriousness with which he staffed his cabinet and in the professional responses he and his team have provided since the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and afterwards.
What’s needed in Rockaway now is the development of this same, serious alternative regarding local issues. Certainly, it does no one any good to be represented by a monopoly party . . . except, of course, those who control that monopoly! One of the things that brought down the old Soviet Union was the popular realization that Russia was being ruled by a monolithic political dinosaur, more interested in its own longevity and survival, its own retention of the levers of power, than in new ideas . . . . or in being responsive to the needs of its people. The beauty of democracy is that there is room for more than one party. And having more than one is best for the body politic. This has been proved out, in the long run, both for nations and individuals time and again over the century just passed. In fact, you can’t have a real democracy without competition!
In light of this latest demonstration, on the national level, that there is life outside the Democratic Party, isn’t it time Rockaway, too, heeded that song? Isn’t it time for a return to real multi-party democracy at this most local of levels, time for a revitalized Republican camp here on our own small peninsula? And isn’t such competition a good thing for all of us . . . even for Democrats?