As protests continue against the growing Independent Democratic Conference, the group of breakaway Democrats in the state senate who are currently in a power-sharing agreement with Republicans, the IDC founder Jeffrey Klein has a decent idea what's fueling the rage against recent defections. Racism, and nothing else.
In an interview with the Albany Times Union, Klein claimed that criticism of State Senators Jesse Hamilton, Marisol Alcantara and Jose Peralta, all of whom jumped to the IDC this year, was "obnoxious" and "racist."
"All of a sudden now they’re being attacked, that (it’s being alleged that) somehow now the decision was financially motivated, because of child support payments or everything else? That’s obnoxious — and yes, that is racist," Klein told the paper. Still, as the Times Union helpfully pointed out, the IDC for the majority of its existence was all white, and the conference is at odds with a party led by a black woman, in the form of Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.
“The reality is we have a group of rogue Democrats who are empowering Trump Republicans, and blocking me from becoming the first woman and first African-American woman Senate President or co-President,” Stewart-Cousins told the paper, while also calling the allegations of racism "dangerous and offensive."
This isn't the first time that charges of racism have been levied in defense of the IDC. When Marisol Alcantara came under fire after she won a primary while pledging to conference with the IDC, consultant Lis Smith tweeted that her critics were "white progressives" trying to silence "new Americans." Alcantara herself suggested to the Village Voice that non-white politicians were more likely than their white colleagues to be "demonized" and accused of looking out for themselves when they "make decisions based on helping their constituents."
In addition, Jose Peralta's spokesman Juan Soto said that chatter about a primary challenger for Peralta was racially charged. "In Queens, when it comes to Latinos, this is the type of sugar cane plantation style politics that the Queens political machine will resort to keep dissent quiet," he told Politico.
Peralta has also blamed "outside agitators" for the chaotic scene at the town hall this month, in which he tried to explain why he joined the IDC, a meeting that drew hundreds of attendees both inside and outside of the standing room only event.
— Matthew Hamilton (@matt_hamilton10) February 6, 2017
The outside agitators/paid protesters line was also picked up by Jesse Hamilton. In an interview this week with DNAinfo about his decision to join the IDC, Hamilton said "it seems kind of disingenuous and strange that all of a sudden there is this backlash. Maybe some other group or someone else is putting them up to it." However, Hamilton wouldn't elaborate on who the other group or "someone else" is, nor would he commit to ever returning to the mainline Democratic fold.
As for how the IDC/GOP coalition is actually going, on the same day that Peralta tweeted he was co-sponsoring a bill to designate New York a sanctuary state, Senate president and GOP conference leader John Flanagan told reporters that the Assembly bill passed on the matter would not come to a floor vote. However, IDC members might possibly be able to claim a small victory in the future if they can get Senate Republicans to accept a version of Governor Cuomo's free tuition plan that extends to state residents regardless of their immigration status, which appears to be the conference's plan to get the state senate to finally pass a backdoor version of the DREAM Act.