When the newly-formed Sapient Party announced Steve Cohn and Bobby K. Kalotee as its candidates for New York state governor and Lt. Governor in September this year, few in the party’s cadres actually believed that the two will definitely win the election.
The reason for this expectation was because it has happened rarely in the American political history that a three-month campaign has delivered an office to a new political party’s candidates, one of them being from an ethnic minority. Yet Cohn and Kalotee believed that American voters deserved a choice beyond the two dominant political parties. And rightly so.
Kalotee, an Indian American, is a former vice chairman of the Republican Party of Nassau County, former national chairman of the All American Political Party, ex-vice chairman of New York state’s Independence Party Committee and served as national executive director of the Independence Party of America.
Steve Cohn is a respected attorney with close links with minority and communities of color. The very democratic spirit of the two candidates earned them both admiration and some following.
The numerical strength and large campaign funds of their opponents did not dampen the spirit and determination of Cohn and Kalotee as they spearheaded their relatively small campaigns in New York’s many ethnic enclaves. And they proved that their strategy was working. They needed 15,000 signatures to put their names on the ballot. They surprised their critics by getting 100,000 signatures and have their names on the ballot.
“Democracy is a privilege and this comes with a responsibility. To maintain this right we have duty to elect our representatives who understand the democracy and the freedom of speech. So let’s go and vote on the Sapient party line, Row-H,” said Kalotee in a Facebook page message to his supporters hours before voting.
“You can vote ROW H no matter what party you are registered with and it doesn’t matter where in New York State you live. There will be a different text message with a photo every hour until polls close. Bobby suggests that you use those messages to text to your friends and family to get the vote out,” he said.
The Sapient Party actively used social media, and quite successfully, to garner support in ethnic, minority and communities of color. How far the limited enthusiasm for the new party will translate into vote will be known today. Cohn/Kalotee may emerge victorious or defeated in today’s ballot will be significant for American democracy. But more significant will be the addition of this new diversity to the American democracy because in a field dominated by the majority ruling class, the rise of a minority leadership from a party that has its roots in the minority and communities of color, especially the South Asian community, is a bigger event than its possible defeat at the ballot.
The Sapient Party is a welcome addition to the diversity of American democracy. The party’s rise is a manifestation of growing frustration of minorities and communities of color with the Republicans and Democratic parties’ political bureaucracy which offers little political space to the ethnic minorities.