No matter how the State Senate debacle turns out, one thing is for sure: the curtain has been lifted, and what we are seeing is truly disgusting.
Think about the words “representative government.” The word “representative” has two important components: “re” and “present.” Yet it turns out that the last thing the Democrats or Republicans really represent is our interests.
Of course, there are some very good Senators. Take the Senator from the East Side of Manhattan, Liz Krueger. She has always favored reform and represented the interests of the little people. When the Democrats were in the minority, she always said that when they took over, things would be different. I am quite sure that at the time, she and others like her meant every word of what they were saying. But as soon as the Democrats took the majority, the primal struggle for power commenced. They elected Malcolm Smith as their leader. He just wasn’t up to it. He was domineering but weak.
Those few senators like Krueger who fought for reform were shunted aside and the same old, same old, took over. Some reforms were passed, but the effort was pathetic, considering the scope of the problem. When they were in power, the Republicans ruled with an iron hand, taking no prisoners. But when they lost, despite their gerrymandered districts and near-bribery with all their pork-filled member items, they didn’t go quietly into the night. Instead, they fought a rear-guard guerrilla action, trying to pick off two of the worst of the so-called Democratic bunch, an accused girlfriend slasher and an accused election fraudster. These were men who those very same Republicans had attacked as worthless.
While all of this was taking place, the people were hurting. The school districts, the county governments and the not-for-profit sector, all doing such important work, were left without the necessary cash to go forward. Worse, they didn’t even know how much they would be getting. Try budgeting under those conditions.
The whole sorry situation would be laughable except for the fact that there is so much at stake. They don’t care that school districts are flying blindfolded. They don’t care that state government has come to a standstill. The question now is what do we do about it?
What do we tell the kids who are having mock elections in their schools? Do we tell them that their elected representatives are not worth emulating? That democracy is a fraud and just a cover for a few venal men and women? This is the time for true reform. The division of spoils should include the people.
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
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