A red-baiting campaign unfolded this week against Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, presumably because she is the strongest contender for Speaker.
Attacks are always launched against a frontrunner. But what is not emerging are fair questions about her record. Instead, her patriotism is being attacked because she visited Bolivia and met with Democratically-elected Latin American leader Evo Morales and has stood for the Pledge of Allegiance instead of always saying every line. The complaints here came from a Queens councilwoman and unnamed sources.
We live in a free country and supporting those freedoms of expression is core to this nation. Many of us come from countries where we know what it was like to have our voices gagged. But that’s not the real issue here. The Kar Rovesque hatchet job being attempted here is to project Mark Viverito as an outsider and unAmerican. We have seen this happen before with candidates, especially black and brown leaders.
In this case, that insinuation is ironic because Mark-Viverito has been the biggest proponent of participatory budgeting. What couldn’t be more democratic and American than allowing people, not politicians, to dictate how their money is spent?
While Mark-Viverito’s competitors for the Speaker’s race were lining the pockets of their colleagues with financial donations, she was effectively facilitating that people in her district would have a say in how public money was spent. And they did and do. Now, this is becoming a trend locally.
Council members elect the Speaker. But political party bosses have traditional steered the naming and might be threatened by the rising strength of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, of which Mark Viverito is a member.
Latino leaders, professionals and workers have always been lectured about the “meritocracy” in place and earning and waiting for their place at the table. Yet, even when we surpass the highest bars, those in power try to change the rules or undermine our efforts.
From Queens to the Bronx, Latinos in this City are nearly 30 percent of the population. We are present in organizing and voting numbers that could easily be activated should political bosses try to get in the way of the aspirations of this community. We have our eyes closely on the race for Speaker and on who stands in the way of a fair process.