The curtain has been lifted. With the possibility of Democratic Party control of the New York State Senate, we see some very disturbing aspects of how our political process really works.
Case in point: a rogue band of four Democratic state senators tries to hold up the larger body for their own personal good. One of them has already been picked off, so now it is the gang of three. They hide behind all kinds of fictitious issues of principle, such as gay marriage, but it really all comes down to naked power. They are demanding choice committee assignments and are, pure and simple, thwarting democracy. It is disgusting.
Another case in point: the Republicans under their leader, Dean Skelos, have shown themselves to be utterly without principles. Up until now, even though the Democratic minority in the Senate has only been one or two votes behind, the minority Democrats had to beg for anything they got. We are talking about staff, constituent mailings, secretaries—you name it. Not very fair.
Now Skelos has undertaken a plan to steal what the Democrats won in the Nov. 4 election. He has
approached the so-called Democratic Gang of Three and has tried to pull them over to the Republican side. He is also calling for a radical transformation of the Senate into a utopian vision in which power is shared. He is talking about transforming the powerful finance committee into a sort of independent political body in which power is shared.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Gang of Three is assessing the odds. They know that the Democrats will make sure that they get some powerful primary opponents in the next election. I would not be surprised to see ethical and criminal investigations into the ways in which these men conduct their affairs.
Several of the existing Republican senators who cling to power based on incumbency and name recognition will have to retire from the Senate. While the State Legislature does not have term limits, God does—and these resignations from people who are 80 or older are inevitable. Those open seats will be ripe for the Democrats who will now run candidates in “open” districts.
Skelos is doing what he thinks he needs to do. But with reapportionment coming up in just a few years, this is a crucial moment for democracy in New York State. One key will be the public service unions, which have always sided with the Republicans to play one side against the other. This might be a good time to get back in with the Democrats, who might otherwise have been unforgiving. Clearly, the Democrats will be better friends during these lean years. So, hold on to your hats. It’s all coming down to a final shootout.
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
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