Storobin-R Wins Haredi-saturated 27th State Assembly District
In another shocking and disheartening defeat for Democrats in Brooklyn, it now seems all but certain that their Democratic nominee for State senator to replace Senator Kruger (who resigned due to corruption charges) has lost to David Storobin, a 33 year old upstart republican from Brighton Beach.
What an embarrassing defeat!
The race was fiercely contested despite it being over a “lame-duck” office, as NYT would have it, since regular elections would follow after a mere nine months. The presumption probably was that whoever wins this special election will coast into office as the incumbent in the upcoming election.
But how is this even a contest? New Yorkers, including the Haredi sector in Brooklyn traditionally vote Democratic due to the advantage in social welfare entitlements espoused by the Democratic platform. So the question everyone is asking is: how did a Russian-born 33 year old ingenue get to unseat a senior, hardened Democratic statesman?
In part the answer lies with the overall American disenchantment with the Democratic political leadership in Washington. For al the rhetoric, charisma and goodwill that President Obama brought to the table in 2008, he has little to show for in terms of concrete achievements. Benefits resulting from the Health Care Affordability Act of 2009 have yet to set in, if ever they will. The Economy is in the tank and will flatline there for the foreseeable future. And Obama’s lackluster support for Israel vs. Iran in the Nuclear Crisis isn’t earning him any accolades among the haredi population in Brooklyn.
For those who followed the Storobin-Fidler race closely, an explanation to Fidler’s enigmatic defeat may be sought in his support for gay rights. Activists in the Brooklyn Haredi community recently gathered about two dozen Rabbinic signatures denouncing Fidler for his support of a state senate bill that would grant full recognition of gay marriage.
However, those who have studied haredi politics more closely know that money is a far more decisive factor in haredi politics than state religious ideology. This is amply attested to in Israeli politics, where the the UTJ (United Torah Judaism) haredi party regularly lurches from the sociopolitical and economic right to the left and back, with an eye to supporting whichever coalition promises them the most in financial spoils. Likewise in America, Democratic support for the haredi population, both on an institutional and individual level are deeply acknowledged and appreciated, ever since the Johnson administration recognized the Hasidim as a minority for the purposes of affirmative action programs.
It thus seems that the haredi betrayal of their Democratic allies isn’t primarily driven by the latter’s support for gay rights, which has no bearing on the haredi values and culture at all. Rather, it is primarily a grassroots populist movement among SOME in the haredi sector who are tired of the hoary, predictable, bureaucratic and inept Democratic political machine in New York with a union-pandering, wasteful and bloated government that can’t even clear the snow when needed or run MTA buses on a proper schedule.
The new generation of Haredim (third and forth generation Holocause survivors) do not care about gay rights per se. As is traditional in contemporary Haredi culture, only a Rabbi has the clout to endorse or reject a political candidate, and a Rabbi will naturally only do so on religious grounds. Thus it is really the younger-generation askanim (activists) who are drafting the policy and pulling the strings. Once they settle on a candidate, they coach their Rabbis on how to pitch their choice in a religious framework, so as to assure the allegiance of the apolitical but deeply religious masses.
This is a testament to both how inept and untrustworthy the Democratic political establishment has become, and how audacious and versatile the haredi sector is in the political realm (though they exhibit a marked lack of such character in the religious sphere).
It is a wake-up call to the Democratic establishment: arise from your slumber and do something to lead the people vigorously in reform and attentiveness to moral duty, not follow procedures sheepishly while avoiding controversy.