Queens County Richard A. Brown, a lifetime Democrat, cruised to victory a few days ago in a farcical election in which he had the support of almost every major party. It is an election that is typical of so many in the United States: Few people came, preferring not to waste their time with an idiotic vote, whose outcome had been pre-determined by political big shots. Indeed, almost all political party leaders here lined up behind Brown.

Even more bizarre, “Democrat” Brown—who was given the Republican and Conservative party lines—received a fair number of his votes from the latter two parties. Those are the ones he has supposedly opposed as a Democrat over a political career of some 40 years. There was also no one running on the Liberal party line and even the minor parties didn’t bother with this nonsense.

“Who did I vote for? Well I voted for Brown. He was the only one on the ballot,” said one of my neighbors.

Pro Wrestling and Pols

This was a phony election. It was one with about as much credibility as pro-wrestling or late night tube ads promising you can eat all you want and still lose weight. The “election” should disgust people of all political views. Yet winner Richard Brown—-who received about 45,000 votes in a county of close to two million residents—-was taking bows as though everything was normal.

“I thank the residents of Queens County for their vote of confidence in electing me as their District Attorney for a seventh consecutive term,” Brown wrote.

Well, not exactly.

If “a vote of confidence” means getting the support of the majority of the registered voters, or even a plurality, then this was no vote of confidence. That’s because maybe about five percent of the voters turned out, held their noses or endlessly guffawed, then cast their ballots. (I was in the latter category since I voted for comedian Lou Costello).

The Ruling Party Forever?

Still, there are lots of members of the Queens County Democratic party—the infamous party organization that has controlled this county for decades—who made sure to vote (Brown’s biggest vote still came from the Democrats. I wonder how Brown, a man without any personal blemishes, feels about the ruling political party that calls the shots here now and, I suppose, forever. Certainly as long as it can get away with elections like these).

This is the group that has given us sleazy chieftains such as Donald Manes, Alan Hevesi and Matty Troy. They were part of an endless group of political pickpockets that proves that Manhattan’s fabled Tammany Hall wasn’t the only political machine that could steal your silverware while expecting you to say thank you. I’m sure the party organization voted as though their jobs depended on it.

Then, there were the rest of us, people not associated with pols, people just trying to make a living so we can pay these outrageous taxes. The latter drive countless elderly New Yorkers to retire elsewhere. I actually voted for Lou Costello for district attorney.

But “unofficial election night returns” from our notoriously egregious New York City Board of Elections didn’t count my write-in vote. Brown, who has been district attorney here since 1991, was unaffected by the low voter turnout. Indeed, he didn’t even mention it as he was taking bows on Tuesday night.

“Through the years,” Brown wrote, “I have been able, together with a dedicated and talented staff, to help prevent crime and to build stronger and safer communities. Nothing has been quite as rewarding to me as knowing that I have been able to make a difference.”

No Need to Worry About These Elections

And also be rewarded with the backing of many incongruous political parties who helped ensure that many of these so-called elections have become foregone conclusions. I wanted more than a canned statement, so I sent an email to Brown’s press spokesman as well as spokesmen for the so-called opposition parties, the Republican and Conservative parties of Queens. I wanted to know if anyone was disturbed by a fixed election.

The latter two had no response, which was not surprising. However, Brown spokesman Kevin Ryan actually politely replied. However, I remain unconvinced that our electoral system is flawed, often controlled by incumbents, the powers that be, who set up elections to ensure they can’t lose. Still, Brown’s spokesman constructed a defense for the county’s top prosecutor running unopposed. This is based on the principle that Brown’s re-election is actually a good thing. Here is his unedited response:

“Virtually all of District Attorney Brown’s re-elections following his appointment in 1991 has enjoyed bipartisan support. In fact, the New York State District Attorneys Association encourages its members to seek more than one endorsement to demonstrate the nonpartisan nature of the District Attorney’s office. District Attorney Brown and the work that his office has accomplished over the past 25 years in building stronger and safer communities has earned him the respect of all citizens – not just Democrats — and is obviously evident by the other political parties offering their support at re-election time,” Brown’s spokesman Ryan wrote.

Do You Agree with the Brown Doctrine?

What is one to make of the Brown rationale that prosecutors should be non-partisan; that elections for a very important office can be uncontested?

If we accept the Brown thesis, then why don’t district attorneys spurn political bosses and run as independents? Why not tell all political parties—right and left—that you don’t want their support?

Regardless of whether one agrees with the Brown argument that the more political parties that support a country district attorney, the better, there is an uncomfortable truth in this election as well as many others in America: More and more Americans want no part of them. They are disgusted by them. They stay home on election day. That an important job as the county’s top prosecutor has no competition is not a good thing.

Pace Mr. Ryan and the New York State District Attorneys Association, our “bi-partisan” system, in which every major party lines up behind one person, is a scary proposition. Suppose “everyone” inadvertently backs the next Donald Manes?

And, if we can accept the notion that it is a good thing, then why even vote? Why have elections? They cost a lot of money. Save the taxpayers some money—-they already pay so much for so many things—and simply let the major parties get together before every election and proclaim to the voters: “These are the men and women we have decided to govern you for the next four years. Now obey Big Brother and Big Sister.”

Despite Mr. Ryan’s politeness in answering my questions, I poised a follow-up question that is at the heart of these last two columns at GregoryBresiger.com: How can one consider an election legitimate when just a handful of people vote?

Fellow Voter, Mind Your Valuables

Mr. Ryan, along with the county Republicans and Conservatives who were part of this farce election, had no answer. And for one good reason: There is no legitimate defense.

Whenever you have one-party government anywhere—whether it is de jure—as in the old Soviet Union—or de facto—as it is here in many parts of the United States—that’s the time to check and see if someone has stolen your wallet.

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Gregory Bresiger
Gregory Bresiger

Gregory Bresiger is an independent financial journalist from Queens, New York. His articles have appeared in publications such as Financial Planner Magazine and The New York Post.