Is The Bronx A Political Graveyard?


Writing in the Sunday NY Daily News, NYU professor Mitchell Moss opined that the heavily black and Latino Bronx “is destined to become a political graveyard” because it no longer provides the opportunities for coalition-building across races. Professor Moss based his conclusion on recent census data showing that the Bronx is less than 10% non-Hispanic white.

At first, I began to get angry at Moss. It bad enough, I thought, that the Bronx tops all of the leading indicators for health morbidity, mortality, unemployment and social dysfunction. (Days later, the Population Health Institute declared the Bronx as New York’s “sickest county.”) And now, the Bronx would be the place where citywide political ambitions die. Fie!

Immediately, I posted this reply:

Has anyone ever called predominantly white counties or towns, political graveyards? It was a multi-racial and multi-ethnic coalition political coalition that deposed the Rivera political regime in 2008. It didn’t take a Bloomberg imposed “no fly” zone for that effort to succeed. Professor Moss insulted the efforts of Assemblymembers Dinowitz, Benedetto, Diaz, Heastie, Greene, and Benjamin to create an inclusive political culture. If he believes that Bronx elected officials do not possess the requisite qualities for citywide office, he should say so. Otherwise, Professor Moss has earned a well-deserved Bronx cheer.

Upon further reflection, I realized that Mitchell Moss has 20-20 hindsight. The last Bronx elected official to break into the big-time was former borough president Eliot Abrams who was twice elected State Attorney General. Since his ascension beyond the Bronx, no other elected official has met with success beyond the Grand Concourse — and the white population has steadily decreased.

Former Borough President and US Representative Herman Badillo failed in his only mayoral bid. Likewise, Fernando Ferrer went down to defeat against Michael Bloomberg.

Former Assemblyman, county leader and now über-lobbyist Roberto Ramirez finished dead last in a primary for public advocate in 1997. In 2005, I visited all five boroughs before withdrawing from my announced run for public advocate. Adolfo Carríon abandoned his putative campaign for city comptroller for a stint in the Obama White House.

Ruben Diaz, Jr., the current Bronx Borough President, harbors an unbridled ambition to occupy the West wing at City Hall. He certainly crumpled Moss’ piece and tossed it into the nearest trash ash can. He told City Hall newspaper that he has “been able to bring in the folks in Riverdale, the Jewish community, the Italians.” Unlike his unsuccessful predecessors, Diaz vows to win “the support of the leadership in Riverdale.”

So far, Mitchell Moss has proved to be the equal of Johnny Carson’s alter ego, “The Great Karnak.” Will the future be kinder to the political aspirations of Bronx elected officials or will Professor Moss’ assertion prevail?

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, FoxNews.com LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email MBenjamin9@optimum.net.
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