Two Clubs, One Party

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We know that many of you feel what’s happening lately in the party in Brooklyn hasn’t been a good thing.  We could not agree more.

Over the past couple of weeks, you have probably seen the tremendous coverage over the latest development in Brooklyn Republican politics, where Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton has unilaterally sponsored a misleading “re-launch” of the so-called “OFFICIAL Brooklyn Young Republicans.” Unfortunately, we know that this move was designed to cause confusion and damage to our organization, the original Brooklyn Young Republican Club established in 1880, while instilling further divisions within our party so Mr. Eaton may feel more secure in his chairmanship.

In fact, Brooklyn Young Republican Club officers and board members attended the “Inaugural YR Meeting” of Eaton’s Young Republicans to ensure attendees were not confused about the existence, authenticity and purpose of the original Brooklyn Young Republican Club, due to the misleading advertisements that went out from Mr. Eaton’s small band of operatives.

And what we witnessed at this function would be demoralizing for any Republican.

Most of the attendees were official party leaders, consisting mostly of district leaders who have held their positions for decades and other executive committee members, as well as a couple of the establishment’s newcomers and their friends, who have received backing of the current leadership largely in the name of advancing other internal conflicts.

I spoke with a few of the party operatives and leaders who attended the function, and, although I won’t name them publicly, they confided to me their trepidation about the Mr. Eaton’s maneuver.  One proclaimed, “I know one day we’ll all be united again as a party.”  Another commented to me, “I’m not sure that this [starting up a rival club]  is going to work out well for us as a party.”

However, there was one brief encounter that deeply disturbed me as a Republican.  Now, while there are certainly people in the party leadership whose involvement is based on a different premise than many of the Brooklyn YRs, I make it a point always to remember that, even if we disagree, we are fellow Republicans nevertheless.  So in that spirit, I greeted the entirely familiar faces that attended Eaton’s Young Republican meeting.

And then I approached the Vice President of Eaton’s organization, Eugene Pevzner, to introduce myself, since I had seen him at a previous function but had not formally met him.  While extending my hand in the course of introducing myself, he brusquely rejected the amicable gesture as though I had personally committed an offense against him.  Mind you, this is the first encounter we actually had.  This reaction even stunned one of the onlookers, who has been a county operative for years.

I mention this not to say anything personally in particular of Mr. Pevzner but to indicate which perspective each side has of these recent developments.  For Mr. Eaton and the county establishment, it is a battle for absolute control of the party in every respect.  Vilifying and undermining fellow Republicans is absolutely essential in this plan because one cannot afford to have anyone believe that anyone whom the establishment dislikes could ever be a political ally.  I can only imagine what has been said to Mr. Pevzner to provoke a reaction like that in so short a time.

Meanwhile, we have always believed that our job as the Brooklyn Young Republican Club is to build the party from the ground up with as many young, civic-minded activists as Brooklyn can offer–especially where Republicans do not have the foundation they need for success.   That has been our history since 1880, and we certainly have no plans on abandoning this pursuit of reform and Republican principles.  Control is not an issue for us because, in a county of nearly 3 million people, political success is born out of compromise and cooperation on common ground, not by trying to pull everyone’s strings to produce one person’s version of an acceptable outcome.

That’s why, in the course of events over the past few years, Brooklyn Young Republican Club members have been actively encouraged to interact with the county establishment, including Mr. Eaton, in the course of our efforts assisting candidates and training Young Republicans to be the leaders of our party today.  While we certainly have had frank discussions about the many incidents that have occurred, there has never been a need to forbid contact or communication with the leadership.  People always came to their own conclusions, based on what they experienced personally and what they hoped their personal payoffs to be from their involvement, and they chose accordingly from there.

And yet, despite the attempts over the years by many individuals in the party to get Mr. Eaton to sit down and have his preoccupations assuaged through dialogue and compromise, Mr. Eaton has always rejected the olive branch and chosen instead the “us or them” approach, which has led the party down this destructive path.

It is my feeling, however, that fellow Republicans who have not been very involved within the party do not really understand how we have gotten to this point.  The story of my political experiences as well as that of others has not really been told in full.  For many of you who have been watching these latest events unfold, this all may seem perplexing if not completely foreign.  However, these developments have been years in the making, and the Republican voters of Brooklyn–especially the Young Republicans who are in the process of inheriting the party itself–have a right to know.

That’s why I am going to start a series of posts entitled, “Finding the Republican Party in Brooklyn,” recounting the incidents and personal experiences that have not only led the party down this path, but also to offer young people like Mr. Pevzner a better idea of what they might be getting into and what they could expect down the line unless the many Young Republicans of Brooklyn take care to protect and defend the integrity, independence, and grassroots instincts of the Brooklyn Republican Party.

Jonathan J. Judge is President of the Brooklyn Young Republican Club.

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