Entrenched lawmakers facing a political revolution

I have been hanging around the New York state Legislature and watching the government as a professor, broadcaster and columnist since around 1965. I’ve seen a lot, but I have truly never seen anything like what I am seeing now. It’s degenerate, disgusting, venal and beyond comprehension. It appears that no one is operating in their own self-interest, which is legitimacy and reelection. These people are not in our world. It is particularly bad in the New York State Senate where a clique of Democratic politicians has grabbed power and captured the top leadership positions.

We are seeing a study in self-deception. These people are totally lacking in redeeming qualities. Their piggishness reminds me of the guy in the desert who walks around for weeks without a drink of water. Just as he is about to die, he comes across a lush oasis with a beautiful, clear stream. He drinks and drinks and drinks, and pretty soon he is gasping for breath and expires. He was just too greedy and didn’t know when to stop.

Every day I get e-mail alerts as to what these folks are up to. They are spending a fortune of our taxpayer money on their personal and political public relations. They posture as champions of the people but all the while, they refuse to see that they have endangered their own majority. The present so-called Democratic leaders replaced the disgraced Republicans who at least knew how to hide their piggery behind a facade of moral rectitude. The Democrats, as disgusting as they are, are convinced that they will win again because so many of the ageing Republicans are getting out of office and their seats will have to be defended. So what are the disillusioned and disgusted New York state voters supposed to do?

In California and other progressive states, the voters do have options when things get bad enough. In some places they can mount “recall” elections. You get enough signatures on a petition and you can kick someone out of office. States like California also offer the voters something called “initiative and referendum.” Under this plan, if you can collect enough signatures, you can propose and then pass a law rescinding what the Legislature has done. Of course, there are two sides to this. The big money people can put up all kinds of spurious ballot propositions and then use their money for huge radio and TV campaigns. Nevertheless, tough times like these call for tough measures.

In other cases, voters have imposed term limits on state legislators. In some states they have put the brakes on the self-serving interests of legislators by setting up independent redistricting commissions. Instead of allowing the legislators to design districts that guarantee themselves a win, these commissions act as umpires to set up fair district boundaries.

Let me tell you something: if you were to offer New York state voters any of these options, they would approve them in a New York minute. But you know what? We don’t have the tools to do that and the only way to get those tools is through a Constitutional Convention. The problem is, the insiders don’t really want one because they have too much to lose if things were to get out of control.

Andrew Cuomo and other self-designated reformers do want such a thing. The problem is that the same people who run for the Legislature either run themselves or get their friends to run as delegates to the convention and nothing changes. We spend a fortune and have little or nothing to show for the effort.

I think that the present crop of politicians may be cruising for a bruising. When people feel like they have no options, you get political revolution. That is exactly what is happening now. It’s sort of like a pressure cooker. The steam has to go somewhere when you have a defective machine. Entrenched politicians will start to lose in primaries. Someone will start a “throw them all out” campaign. Certain really corrupt legislators will become the targets of district attorneys and will face scrutiny unlike anything they have ever faced. Former Senate head guy, Joe Bruno, is one such example. A whole crew of Democrats in the Senate is facing investigation. These folks are so far gone that we can hardly expect them to turn things around. The more they misbehave, the angrier people will become and the more they endanger their own political futures. The whole thing is just unbelievable.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 6/14/10

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