By Keen Berger
What will you do as district leader?” hundreds of Villagers asked me at subways and street corners when I campaigned last summer.
“Defeat Bush” was my first answer.
Most people were startled, with a look that asked if I were insane or if they were mistaken about what office I sought.
“Improve life in the Village; I’ve lived here almost 40 years,” I added.
Then there were specifics — the noise of motorcycles, the waterfront, too much traffic, the shock of new, tall towers, the deluge of trash, the need for senior-citizen services, the quality of public education and often the threat of crime from prostitution and drug sales…. I discussed them all. Some people asked about issues far from district leader power, such as whether I support medicalization of marijuana, gun control, women’s right to choose, universal healthcare, the United Nations. Yes to all. And then people voted for me, and here I am, six months in office.
Now to beat Bush, my first promise. Although I am working on community issues, my most public work has been on finding a Democrat to take back the country, saving American and non-American lives and rights.
Specifically, I am organizing a Coalition to Beat Bush. People in the 66th Assembly District, Part A (my constituents) can make the difference between a John Kerry victory or defeat. (Have you seen the bumper sticker, “Bush/Cheney — 4 more wars?” This is the most important election of our lives.)
Of course most Villagers are against Bush. But I am shocked when people say, “Don’t worry, I’ll vote for Kerry.” Voting is not nearly enough.
Each Villager must convince 10 or so family and friends in the 18 swing states to vote for Kerry. Then we must convince strangers in those states. To do that, neighbors need to form “Kerry Clusters” — at least one cluster in each of the 62 election districts of the 66th. A cluster meets with pro-Kerry neighbors, not only to work their block but also to work our nation.
I am a developmental psychologist by profession and passion. I am also a recent widow; my husband, Martin, died last winter. Both those experiences have convinced me that people need to connect with other people. That led to the Kerry Cluster idea: if we find like-minded neighbors, meet with them and use that social dynamic to double our efforts, goodbye Bush.
To get involved, call 212-741-2994. William Stricklin (my former campaign coordinator) will gather names and sort addresses to help people form their cluster, and to channel volunteers to all the organizations that need them — including Citizen Action (sending buses to swing states and doing phone banks), ACT (sending organizers), all the local Democratic clubs (doing voter registration with a vengeance) and the Kerry campaign (organizing house parties).
One final plea I heard from many voters — “Can’t the Village Democrats work together?” All three of us who ran in the district leader race told those voters YES. Cynthia Smith, Lois Rakoff and I agree, as does Arthur Schwartz, my co-district leader. Bush must go; we can push him out. Please call 212-741-2994.
Berger is Democratic district leacer for the 66th Assembly District, Part A.