Friday, August 26, 2011

Those Who Forget History... NY-9 Edition

In searching out news to highlight on the ol' blog, I ran across a piece on NY-9 written by Henry Stern, former NYC Parks Commissioner and President of New York Civic. In what is part-nspiration, part-plagiarism, I decided to take a look back at the history of the representation in what is now NY-9 to see what we can learn about today's NY-9:

(By the way, the area wasn't always NY-9, I know. Basically, I'm following Mr. Stern's lead, seeing as how he's been around long enough to have experienced most of this first-hand.)

Meet Emanuel Celler - Democratic Congressman who served in office from 1923-1972.

Wait, is that a typo? It's not? Holy crap, that's a long time! He had to have won TWENTY FIVE elections! Not to mention survive at least 4 re-districtings!

In fact he's was the longest serving member of either house of Congress in NY's history. Celler's seniority ultimately landed him the Chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. Celler was smack dab in the middle of a lot of history. As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee from 1949 to 1973 (except for a break from when the Republicans controlled the House), Celler was involved in drafting and passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Voting Rights Act. He was even a target of McCathyism!

In January 1965, Celler proposed in the House of Representatives the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. That's some clout right there, I don't care what side of the aisle you're on.

His longest fight was against isolationist immigration policies, which culminated in the passage the Hart-Celler Act, which eliminated national origins as a consideration for immigration, where he butted heads with FDR over expediting immigration processes for Holocause victims.

He was beaten in a primary by... Liz Holtzman? Really? A legislator who had been around THAT long taken down in a primary? What's that about?

The feminist movement apparently did old gent in. But geez.. a 50-year incumbent?

But back to Holtzman. She too was on the House Judiciary Committee, and had the pleasure of sitting on the Nixon impeachment hearings. She was also a member of the House Budget Committee and chaired the House Immigration Subcommittee. In 1978 she secured an extension of the deadline for state legislatures to ratify the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution. She also passed legislation to expel more Nazi war criminals who had immigrated to the United States, establishing the U.S. DOJ Office of Special Investigations to investigate and bring legal action to denaturalize or deport them. It didn't materialize into any real action, as the INS had kept a list of suspects but had not pursued them.

Anyways, Holtzman ended up vacating her seat during her failed bid for Senate. That paved the way for...

Chuck Schumer. Oh boy. I think we all know about him. Then came "the Weiner" - and I think we know MORE than we wanted to about him!

So what have we learned? Here's the big thing I've taken away from this little historical jaunt. Yes, the area has a long history of Democratic rule. But beyond that, the area doesn't take to change in a big way - even within the Democratic ranks. Fifty. Year. Incumbent.

It tookthe rise of feminism and ERA and the women's movement to bring about change. In other words, something BIG had to be happening for the area for change to be realized.

That's what makes what Bob Turner is in the process of doing so much more impressive - and it's also indicative of how significant these times are and how important the issues in the economy and the job market really are. The people sense that this is one of those moments in history where change is needed.

And that change is Bob Turner.

1 comment:

  1. the distict didn't change that much Emanuel Celler (assuming he didn't change his positions on things) most likely would win big today if he ran head to head with Weprin or if he ran head to head with Turner.

    The only thing that changed was the fact the democrats have gone completely off the wall ever since Celler lost the primary