The New York State Young Democrats May Be Kind of Tone-Deaf

TammanyRing.jpg
Keep the change.
For the past four weeks, we've been bringing you news of the Occupy Wall Street protests roiling Lower Manhattan, as the self-identified 99 percent transform their tales of struggle and deprivation into demands for systemic change.

Maybe it's just because we have those voices fresh in our ears, but something about today's press release from the New York State Young Democrats sounded a jarring and discordant note:

NYSYDKeepTheChange.jpg

We can see what they're trying to do there -- their guy, Obama, was elected with slogans about change. They want to keep him, and his change. So, sure, "keep the change." But tone is a tricky thing. "Dear Americans, 17 percent of whom are unemployed or underemployed, keep the change!" Potentially awkward.

Perhaps it's no surprise that the times that the Young Democrats haven't noticed the tonal shift emanating from Zuccotti Park. NYSYD's young party loyalists and the anarchist agitators who got Occupy Wall Street off the ground probably didn't sit at the same lunch table in school. But even leaving aside the "Keep the Change" slogan -- high-handed in the best of times, betraying a let-them-eat-cake obliviousness now -- that still leaves us to deal with the Young Democrat's unfortunate choice of venue.

The youngsters are gathering at Tammany Hall. Tammany Hall the events space named after the New York original, which for more than a century was synonymous with a deeply corrupt political machine the Democratic Party used to run this city.

Two-for-two, Young Democrats! Boss Tweed says "Keep the change!"

In fairness, this event was probably planned well before Occupy Wall Street put such a fine point on questions of change and how much we get to keep. Also, it sounds like a very nice event actually, "bestowing the first ever Downstate Young Democrats' Change Awards on three honorees for specific accomplishment they have made for progressive causes: Staten Island Assemblyman Matthew Titone for his efforts to bring Marriage Equality to New York, Majora Carter for her work on eco-development in the Bronx and Comptroller John Liu for his exposure and unraveling of the CityTime scandal."

Also, come on: These are not even fully mature Democrats. They are Young Democrats! Cut them some slack already.

[npinto@villagevoice.com] [@macfathom]

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Juan Carlos P.E.
Juan Carlos P.E.

I think you're missing the point of what 99% means. We're in this together Nick. Don't try to splinter people who are already on the same side.

yben
yben

Mr. Pinto, I would appreciate it if you would approve the comment I wrote last night, I took some of my Friday night to do it. I know, it's Saturday and it's my fault - had I known that it would require moderation I would have copied all the text for re-posting elsewhere as well but now you are in sole possession of the copy. Thank you.

Benjamin YeeDownstate Vice PresidentNew York State Young Democrats

visitor
visitor

In the past, I've submitted a couple of comments that required approval (because they included links — now I "disguise" any links I include) and they never were approved. It makes me suspect that the job of approving comments that need approval hasn't been assigned to anyone.

yben
yben

It just got approved! I did ask through a few channels, though, including email and Twitter.

Kim
Kim

Mr. Pinto, I want to tell you some things that you may not know.  In the past 2 years, the Young Democrats have:

1. knocked on doors for Tony Avella in Queens, who later won his seat against his anti-choice opponent and went on to cast a critical vote in favor of marriage equality.2. volunteered for Planned Parenthood, Achilles International and the Bowery Mission3. raised over $1200 for the Yorkville Common Pantry4. protested good government opponents like Marty Golden and Pedro Espada (a 'Democrat')5. elected over 70 young people to positions within the Democratic County Committee6. partnered with the Living Wage campaign

I have a lot of respect for the protesters on Wall Street, but just because what we do doesn't always make the news or attract celebrities, doesn't mean that we aren't fighting everyday for the 99%.  I invite you to come check out what we do before calling us "tone deaf."  And one more thing: yes, we are very aware of what Tammany Hall was, that's the point.  Just because we're Democrats doesn't mean lack a sense of humor.  Maybe you'd see that if you actually got to know us.

Sincerely,Kim MoscaritoloSecretary of the Manhattan Young Democrats

yben
yben

Haha, that's a pretty scathing article. I'll try and make one thing clear here: I'm down in Zuccoti Park giving my free time to help run a table with some friends registering voters and getting petitions signed for fair taxation and against hydrofracking. You probably think you're significantly more in tune with the vibe down there than we are; but you're not. I've been talking to people at OWS constantly; about why these issues are important, about what we can do to change things - both inside and outside the system - hell, I've even managed to convince a few non-voters to drop the schtick and make use the most obvious tool in the Change maker's arsenal.

Keep the Change isn't about Obama. I find it's difficult for people who are entrenched in politics (or have written about it for too long) to understand, but Obama's "Change" wasn't about overhauling Washington overnight, or giving us a left of center Government, it was about Changing the fact that people, especially young people, didn't care about politics. Were you involved in politics before Obama? I was in only the lightest sense of the word, and so many of the people I work with organizing now weren't involved in the least bit. The energy I feel down at Zuccoti Park is almost exactly what I felt on the campaign. A sense of people actually waking up to take a look at the world around and them and saying "this is bullsh**t"; I'm gonna find some way to get involved."

That's how I felt when someone contacted me out of the blue and asked to help redesign the website I set up for our OWS group: www.occupywallstreetkit.com. On that site we're compiling all of the flyers, petitions, leaflets, information sheets, signs and posters we can get our hands on to make it easy for people get online, get what they need and get down to an occupy. This guy saw it and just wanted to find some way to, in his words, "do his part". That's exactly how I felt during Obama. That's how almost everyone I knew felt. I get it, Obama has left a lot of people hungry for more. Hope and Change have been constrained by an existing system in a way that people didn't anticipate - but that feeling persists and Occupy Wallstreet is it's next expression.

So sure, Keep the Change was a title coined in 2009, but it still means something. It's not the change most people thought it was; it's better. It's a change for the young people who gave up sitting on the sidelines in 2008 to DO something. It's means don't give up, fight apathy, stay involved. Get down to OWS, fight for what you believe in and yeah, get involved in Democratic politics - it's only what you make of it and, if you reserve you judgements until AFTER attending our party, I'm sure you'll see the Young Democrats, at least, are making something great.

It's Friday at 10pm and I'm responding to your blog article because I care. I got involved in 2008 to make a difference and I'm keeping that change. And maybe you missed it, this year it's Keep the Change II: The Change Strikes Back.

If anyone's got questions about what the Young Dems have done here's a link to our newsletter posted online: http://scr.bi/ruUkdn

If you have questions for me I'm @yben on Twitter and you can email me at ben@nysyd:twitter .net.

Finally, if you're so moved; here's the event: https://secure.actblue.com/pag.... Feel free to check us out on Monday at the ironically named, fantastically cool Tammany Hall. Nick, I hope to see you there and that you'll be blown away.

Benjamin YeeDownstate Vice PresidentNew York State Young Democrats

Nick Sacco
Nick Sacco

I guess this is what passes for investigative reporting at the Voice now that they have laid off Wayne Barrett.  

visitor
visitor

"Keep the Change" is also the title of the song Hank Williams, Jr. wrote, recorded and released last week in response to the controversy over his analogy that included Hitler.

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