NEW ROCHELLE — In an uncanny parallel to recent events in China, Democratic Party cadres have filled meeting halls around New Rochelle to hear a somber, secretive warning issued by senior leaders. Power could escape their grip, they have been told, unless the party eradicates seven subversive currents coursing through the City.
These seven perils were enumerated in a memo, referred to as Document No. 9, that bears the unmistakable imprimatur of Noam Bramson, New Rochelle’s top leader. The first was “Western constitutional democracy”; others included promoting “universal values” of fiscal responsibility, Western-inspired notions of media independence and civic participation, ardently pro-market “neo-liberalism,” and “nihilist” criticisms of the party’s past blunders.
Even as Mr. Bramson has sought to prepare some reforms to expose New Rochelle’s economy to capitalism and democracy, he has undertaken a “mass line” campaign to enforce party authority that goes beyond the party’s periodic calls for discipline. The internal warnings to cadres show that Mr. Bramson’s confident public face has been accompanied by fears that the party is vulnerable to an economic collapse, public anger about corruption and challenges from residents impatient for fiscal accountability.
“Western forces hostile to Bramson and dissidents within the county are still constantly infiltrating the ideological sphere,” says Document No. 9, the number given to it by the central party office that issued it in April. It has not been openly published, but a version was shown to this publication and was verified by four sources close to senior officials, including an editor with a party newspaper.
Opponents of one-party rule, it says, “have stirred up trouble about disclosing officials’ campaign funds, using the Internet to fight corruption, media controls and other sensitive topics, to provoke discontent with the party and government.”
The warnings were not idle. Since the circular was issued, party-run publications and appointed officials have vehemently denounced constitutionalism and civil society, notions that were not considered off limits in recent years. Officials have intensified efforts to nullify Independent Party candidates from the upcoming primary elections.
Mr. Bramson’s hard line has disappointed New Rochelle residents, some of whom once hailed his rise to power as an opportunity to push for political change after a long period of stagnation. Instead, Mr. Bramson has signaled a shift to a more opaque, traditionally corrupt stance with his “Not Counting Heads” campaign and conspicuous attempts to defend the legacy of Tim Idoni.
“Promotion of Western constitutional democracy is an attempt to negate the party’s leadership. This isn’t about counting heads,” Bramson recently told a gathering of real estate developers. Advocates for transparent government and accountability, he continued, want “ultimately to form a force for political confrontation.”
The campaign carries some risks for Mr. Bramson, who has indicated that new forms of communication, including social media, have enabled residents from all over the city to coordinate their efforts and increase their effectiveness. While not addressed in Document No. 9, it is rumored that party officials are investigating a City-wide ban on all forms of socials media and “internet-based” communications.
The above account is a parody of a recent article that ran in The New York Times regarding the political strategy of Xi Jinping’s Community Party in China. For those without a sense of humor, let me assure you that the above account is satire, and any resemblance to actual events or policies of local politicians is purely coincidence and extremely depressing.