Does anyone smell a minor league conspiracy here?

Oh, come on. Voters really aren’t that stupid. From the time this last election cycle began, no matter which party won more seats in the New York state Senate, the deal was set: Dean Skelos, the Republican leader of the Senate, would remain in charge even if the Democratic Party was the victor. And so it was. The Democrats won the most Senate seats, but a combination of players including Governor Andrew Cuomo and a gang of four so-called Democratic senators with an ambitious leader, Bronx politician leader Jeff Klein, worked it out so that the Republicans would stay in power. I am reminded of all the anti-democratic societies that America calls reprehensible and sends troops to fight.

It began when Andrew Cuomo was running for the state’s top job. He pledged to veto any reapportionment bill that didn’t hand over the responsibility for drawing the constitutionally mandated districts to an impartial third party. People really liked that idea and voted for him. Once he was elected, however, he didn’t follow through and that gave the Republicans a head start in maintaining control. Many people figured he actually preferred working with the Republicans.

As expected, Skelos drew his ideal districts, and just to make sure that he would continue to rule, he added another Senate district to give his computers added opportunities to draw districts in which he would have a better chance of winning. But of course, we now know that the people were heard and that it was to be an Obama-Democratic year. So now the four so-called rebel Democrats sold out for a few committee chairmanships and a “power sharing” relationship with the Republicans in which the Democratic turncoats would rule the Senate every two weeks and then the Skelos Republicans would have their turn.

For his part, Cuomo said that he wasn’t getting involved and he was only interested in policy. He said that among other worthy goals, he wanted campaign finance reform and an increase in the minimum wage. This begs the question as to why, if you want those things, did you set things up so that the Republicans would win? These were all changes that the regular Senate Democrats would have voted for anyway. Cuomo is a strategic genius. He is carefully walking the line as a new, centrist Democrat, leaning toward the Republican model, against a very progressive group of Democrats in the State Senate majority/minority.

Now we have the specter of the turncoat Democrats being in control for two weeks and the Republicans alternating with them. There are lots of unanswered questions. Who will appoint the committee members? Will the “Independent” Democrats go for real change or phony change like the very disappointing ethics commission that Cuomo put in place? If you ask the two best people in the regular Democratic caucus, Liz Krueger or Mike Gianaris, who have worked so hard to preserve democracy in New York State, they have some real reservations. Krueger says that she will be watching what the rebel Democrats put out to see if their reform legislation is too pablum-like.

The rebel Democrats claimed they formed their own caucus in response to the terrible way in which the regular Democrats conducted themselves when they were in the majority. They were certainly right about that. Now we see one of the worst of that previous group, Senator Malcolm Smith, joining up with the break-away group. Smith is said to be exploring running for New York City Mayor on the Republican ticket. Does anyone smell a minor league conspiracy here? Doesn’t this just confirm the idea that this is all to keep the Republicans in power in the Senate? How do you leave the Senate partly in response to Smith and his pals screwing up and then bring him over to augment your ranks? Will someone please give me a break?

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 12/10/12

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