When the smoke clears, Shelly will be standing tall
Everyone wants to know about the looming contest for power between Sheldon Silver, the feisty speaker of the New York Assembly who is still the preeminent politician in New York, and Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo. Despite the fact that Silver has often been vilified by the prevailing power brokers, the truth is that he still represents the aspirations and needs of those who have the least. Among his backers are the powerful labor unions. They proved they can still deliver big time, as in the case of the improbable victory of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli over the hand-picked establishment candidate, Harry Wilson.
Cuomo has made his deal with the Murdochs and Zuckermans. He has the backing of the tabloids as he attempts to pare down the largess and expenditures of state government. Andrew, the reborn conservative son of Mario, has a very different agenda from that of his progressive pop. In fact, both Cuomos know how to ride the waves. They are experts at political jiu-jitsu. They use prevailing energy to get their way. They sense what the people want at a given moment and they give it to them. Andrew knows the state is broke and has no choice but to cut expenses. He is looking toward the presidency and needs the Bloombergs, Zuckermans and Murdochs to get there. Like Bill Clinton before him, Andrew is now an official “New (conservative) Democrat.”
Facing off against him is Silver, who keeps on passing the progressive legislation that his fellow Assembly Democrats need in order to satisfy their constituents. Anyone who counts Shelly out doesn’t know beans. He’s like the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going and going, dodging everything that his powerful conservative enemies can throw at him. He is unflappable. I would not want to be in his spot. His enemies will do anything to get him. It’s not personal, “…it’s just business.” First they tried to beat him in his lower East Side district and failed miserably. They ran stories about how his room in Las Vegas was upgraded. Nothing has worked yet but they will continue to use whatever levers they can find to cast him out of power. With Shelly out of the way, they win it all.
So it’s Cuomo versus Shelly. I believe Cuomo wanted the Republicans to take the Senate. Look at it this way — the Democratic jokers who were running the Senate and who couldn’t keep their hands out of the cookie jar (look at the Aqueduct mess) were hardly going to help Andrew reform New York. With the Republicans back in power in the Senate, Andrew wins on at least two levels. When things go wrong he takes a page out of Papa Mario’s play book and blames the mean old Republicans for his having to give in to their conservative demands. He’ll cut Medicare and blame them. If he didn’t have them, he’d have to invent them. So with the Senate thugs out of the way, it will be clear sailing, except for Shelly Silver.
As Kenny Rogers put it, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” Silver is a wonderful card player. He is a superb strategist. My bet is that he will meet Andrew half-way. He’ll certainly go along with the move to combine school districts and governmental entities. Some areas are still patrolled by village, state and county police. That’s absurd. There are too many levels of government. There are too many suburban school districts with administrators that cost the tax payers big time. There are administrative fixes that can be used in the state’s hospital and Medicaid programs. “Member items” are breaking the bank. My bet is that Shelly, always a wise man, will sit with Andrew in a delicatessen of the Speaker’s choosing and make a deal. The first budget will be a blood-letting with nobody spared. The whole idea is to get out in front of constituent anger before the next election rolls around. Shelly will give Andrew a lot of what he wants because, frankly, he has no choice. But when the smoke clears, Shelly will be standing tall.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/8/10