OpEd: Democrats Must Fight the “Virus” Of Extremism In Their Party

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Howard Fensterman is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Abrams Fensterman LLP, based in Lake Success

To read national headlines coming out of last month’s elections, you would think Democrats are surging, riding a wave of anti-Trump sentiment and concern about abortion rights. 

Well, not in New York State, and certainly not on Long Island, where Republicans seized firm control in Nassau and Suffolk counties of the chief executive positions in County and Town governments. Republicans even won a city council seat in the Bronx for the first time in 40 years. Unless Democrats reflect on why that happened, we are looking at a seismic shift that could  see Republicans continuing to win more major offices throughout the state in the months and years to come.  

Long Island voters are tired of  many Democratic elected officials –particularly those in the City of New York– turning a blind eye to concerns about crime and the migrant crisis. Bail reform, which strips judges of discretion in far too many criminal matters, was key to Republicans’ seizing congressional seats on Long Island and across New York which gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives in Washington. Those concerns continued to reverberate this year in local races. 

You see it in once-reliable Democratic groups shifting to voting Republican, whether Asian American voters in Queens or the Persian Jewish community in Great Neck. The latter were historically  solidly Democratic  voters ever since settling here after fleeing Iran in 1979. This voting pattern has now changed as the results of the Town Supervisor race in  North Hempstead demonstrate. 

And you see it in the broader Jewish community after the terrorist slaughter of more than 1,400 Israelis by Hamas. While leading Democratic voices have stood strongly with Israel – including  House Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Bronx Congressman Ritchie Torres, and former Congressman Tom Suozzi – the fact is that the anti-Israeli left that has quickly veered into rank anti-Semitism is seen as closer to Democrats. 

And Democrats who think that overturning Roe v Wade will push moderates, especially suburban women, into the Democratic fold are wrong. Most New Yorkers  know that reproductive rights will be safe in New York where even many Republicans are pro-choice. 

The far left leaning of many elected Democratic officials has become a virulent virus that has damaged the brand of the Democratic Party.  While Governor Hochul,  Mayor Eric Adams, and state Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs are moderate Democrats, their voices are drowned out by a radical fringe more driven by ideological purity than appealing to moderates who dominate suburban electorates.

It is time for all moderates to assert themselves, speak more forcefully, and restore balance to local and state politics.