Murphy: What happened to “Long Island Democrats?”

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“Long Island Democrats” are dying. Democrats will always live on Long Island, but a “Long Island Democrat” is different. More purple than blue, progressive yet pragmatic, we bring balance, whenever needed, to Long Island politics. We are peacemakers standing between parents and school boards over the masking of children. We subscribe to a ‘live and let live’ attitude while distancing ourselves from ideology characterized by the overused and triggering term ‘woke.’

We stand against racism but also stand with our men and women in law enforcement. We believe in keeping what is ours and a legitimately fair chance for all at upward mobility with hard work. Most importantly, when the Island’s Republican majority takes things too far, we mobilize and set things right. And now, we are dying, and it is our fault.

As the George Santos saga rages on, it is easy to point fingers at Republicans for letting this happen but where is the blame for us Democrats, the party tasked with opposing and defeating Santos? The record of opposition research by Santo’s Democratic opponent in 2022, Robert Zimmerman, comes across just as convoluted and improbable as Santos’s backstory. It seems Robert Zimmerman is having troubling figuring out whether he was negligent for not discovering what is now known about Santos or stupid for discovering it and not leveraging it effectively to win or, perhaps, both.

This is one reason “Long Island Democrats” are dying off though there is actually a much deeper problem than Zimmerman’s incompetence. We are dying off because this same ineptitude characterized Zimmerman’s entire candidacy. Even if every Santos fabrication were exposed before election day, it still would not change the fact that, on this Island, a Democratic candidate like Robert Zimmerman could never, and would never, beat him. The Zimmerman campaign was doomed before it began because it, and the idea of him as a candidate, all too easily ignored what being a “Long Island Democrat” means. This is how a ‘blue seat’ won by over eight percentage points goes ‘red’ only two short years later, by championing awful candidates.

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Gone are Tom Suozzi and Laura Curran, replaced by an off-putting roster firmly entrenched in the national Democratic party platform that we “Long Island Democrats” pride ourselves on deviating from. Worse, the most prominent among them transparently represent what we detest most: inauthentic, unrelatable, clearly self-interested, aspiring career politicians.

During the primary cycle, Zimmerman and Josh Lafazan garnered the most attention. Zimmerman, older, wealthy, lacking any charm or charisma, and having been soundly defeated in three prior attempts at public office, defined the terms ‘out of touch’ and ‘unlikeable.’ In contrast, Josh Lafazan, like any young person, has “big ideas” but the central themes seem to involve electing him for one progressively higher office after the next. Unfortunately for him, “Long Island Democrats” demand and respect real life experience, real tangible accomplishments, and real empathy from one of their own.

Much can and will undoubtedly transpire between now and November 2024. Regardless, Democrats face a futile endeavor on the current path. Until the party heals its self-inflicted wounds by fielding candidates that speak to “Long Island Democrats,” NY-03 will bleed red, perhaps indefinitely.

Long Islanders gravitate toward authentic, everyday people and tend to prioritize three straightforward things: safe and clean communities to live in, quality public schools for our children, and a fair chance at improving the quality of our lives if we put in the work. “Long Island Democrats” can do better. Let’s do better.

 

Will Murphy, a Nassau County resident, is an attorney and a full-time faculty member of St. John’s University.

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