Above, South Jersey Democratic party boss George Norcross arrives at Mar-a-Lago with some guy in silver sparkle shoes (link). Promoted by Rosi
The visual is a powerful one. Glamour. Sequins. Mar-A- Lago. And Democratic power broker George Norcross strolling in on a red carpet, champagne in hand, heading in to spend New Year’s Eve with none other than President Donald Trump.
Last night, South Jersey Women for Progressive Change posted a picture showing George Norcross making his way to President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago’s New Year’s Eve Party and linked to a video of the glitzy procession. (Could this be the first time we’ve been grateful for Fox News?) George didn’t just stumble in; he had to pay $600 a head, a newly-increased fee, for the honor of attending the event. (He is a member of Mar-a-Lago, so he got a discount!) The photo infuriated the 8,000 strong SJWPC membership, and in less than 24 hours, the post had a record breaking reach of over 12,000 people, with hundreds of interactions (mostly angry faces), of comments (almost all displaying disgust) and hundreds and hundreds of shares across the state and region. Clearly, the photo hits a nerve.
But why? Rich people gotta do what rich people do, right? What’s a little party among zillionaires?
We care because it is symbolic of so much that is wrong with the Democratic Party in South Jersey. Here’s why:
- The out-of-touch-ness.
Like it or not, George Norcross is a powerful leader of the Democratic Party. He is lauded by big business leaders. He is a Democratic superdelegate, a major fundraiser and donor, and one of the most powerful and influential men in New Jersey. Whatever policies are going to happen in NJ, they pass through Norcross first. He calls the shots in our party. Did we mention that he is unelected?
On the other hand, Trump is the focus of the entire Democratic resistance. Democrats (rightly) believe Trump is a bigot, a racist, a serial liar, a misogynist, a sexual harasser and a danger to the norms of our democracy. He is unfit to be president, as is more than clear from last night’s tweet threatening North Korea again with the size of his nuclear button. What Democrat attends social functions with Trump? If we ever were invited, we’d relish the opportunity to RSVP NO WAY!!!! with exclamation points, ten circles and red underline. How can the leader of South Jersey Democrats want to spend time with this man? Does he not share our outrage? It’s the height of hypocrisy to say you’re a “proud Democrat” and then choose to buy a $600 ticket to attend Trump’s New Year’s Eve extravaganza – money that fills the coffers of the Trump empire.
- This is not just a one-off, it’s part of a long-standing pattern
We might be willing to overlook a trip to Mar-a-Lago IF this was in some way an anomaly. But it’s not. The SJ Democrats have long made a mockery of progressive (or even basic Democratic) values, and the connections between the Norcrosses (George and Don) and the Trumps (Don and Ivanka) are deep, with stories that involve Atlantic City, Trump casinos and convenient campaign donations. We aren’t afraid to call nonsense on Trump dealings when it’s between Republicans – – we shouldn’t be afraid to call it out when it involves Democratic party bosses either.
And the SJ Democratic Party’s voting record is terrible on issues close to the Progressive heart. Take Jeff Van Drew, for instance, a longtime State Senator and candidate for LoBiondo’s House seat. Earlier this winter, George proclaimed that Van Drew would be the Party’s choice for LoBiondo’s seat— even though Van Drew’s voting record is atrocious — he voted against same-sex marriage… in 2013! What Democrat does that!? And Van Drew voted for guns, against women’s reproductive rights, issued a statement against undocumented immigrants, and has the lowest ranking from Clean Water Action out of any candidate in NJ. This is a Democrat we are talking about! And Steve Sweeney, Senate President, another recipient of Norcross’ money and power, has come out against Phil Murphy’s millionaire tax and continues push through Christie appointees, right before a Democratic governor takes office. These men are recipients of Norcorss’ money and favor – and on paper appear to be staunchly Republican, if not for the D next to their name.
George Norcross is going to throw his money and power in Van Drew’s corner, despite the existence of other, more interesting candidates- including an impressive woman of color and a local teacher. Is it really about ideas and values for Norcross? What does he believe in, anyway?
- The problem with Don Norcross.
Donald Norcross is our Representative; he’s also George’s brother. The three Norcross brothers are all very active in NJ politics: Donald is the front-man and elected official; Philip is a lobbyist for American Water (water privatization company who just received a massive tax break and is building a huge suburban-style office park along the Camden waterfront); and millionaire George, holder of the purse strings, is the head of a mega insurance company that collects millions each year in public insurance contracts (also enjoying a $86 Million tax break– to move next door to American Water). Don and George’s work has been intertwined for decades- mostly through financial connections. When the voters vote for Don, they get Phil and George too: George’s PAC heartily and consistently supports Don’s re-election campaigns- they throw fundraisers together- and George’s funds behind the scenes explains Don’s quick rise to power.
In other words, it’s not necessarily about how Don votes in Congress (generally D) it matters how he got there- through a game of Democratic musical chairs with Norcross-aligned Democratic politicians. Don Norcross was elected to the New Jersey Assembly in 2009. A week after he became an Assembly member, Senator Dana Redd, also a member of the South Jersey Democratic power structure, was elected mayor of Camden, and South Jersey Democratic county committee members unanimously selected Donald Norcross to fill her seat in the state Senate. As an incumbent, he won the special election in 2010 and was reelected again in 2011. In 2013, Congressman Rob Andrews resigned; on the same day, virtually every major New Jersey Democratic power player endorsed Norcross for Congress. Then, Don wrote Urban Hope Act that allowed George-connected school to open next to hospital that George is on board of, and wrote Economic Opportunity Act that allows George-connected businesses to get massive tax breaks. I mean, come on!
These are hardly habits of a strong democracy. The constitution was written in explicit opposition to family dynasties- how is this our Democratic party?
Whose party is it? What do we believe in?
Nothing happens in SJ without George’s blessing- George’s values and ideology are the values and ideology of the Democratic Party in SJ. And that makes us deeply uncomfortable. It’s our party too, and we care what those fundamental values are. It’s our party when we show up to Thanksgiving dinner and our GOP uncle gives us a hard time and says “well, Trump isn’t as corrupt as those New Jersey Democrats!” and we must admit, he has a point.
So what do Dems in SJ stand for? What will they fight for? The environment? Unclear. The rights of immigrants? Unclear. Public education? Nope. Anti corruption? Definitely not. When we vote for Democrats in South Jersey, we feel we are giving support to a corrupt system.
Times are changing. No longer is it ok to be complicit in the perpetuation of elitism and racism; of sexism and extreme income inequality. Voters have taken revenge at the polls across the country, and it’s a mistake for the SJ Democrats to assume it’s OK have malleable values because they have a “D” next to their name.
South Jersey women are on to you. Progressive groups are on to you. We are paying attention, fighting for issues, calling out elected leaders, protesting nepotism and cronyism. We’ve had it. We believe the best innoculation against Trump is a strong, unified, healthy Democratic party — along ideologically consistent lines. No more hypocrisy.
You can’t have it both ways, either you’re with us or you’re against us, Mr. Norcross. The resistance has been fighting for a year now and we continue to fight, to flip the house to True Blue and to protect our neighbors against Trump’s harmful policies. Flipping the House might be easier to do than it will be to clean up Norcross politics in South Jersey, a political dysfunction that affects the whole of the Garden State. But we’re up for the challenge. It’s our party too.