Will the Democrats recreate their circular firing squad?
Okay, so here it is. New York is a very blue state.
The Democrats have so many votes in the Assembly that they had to create a sort of “children’s section” for the Republicans in the chamber. However, even in Blue New York, because of political chicanery and anti-democratic practices, the state Senate has remained competitive for the Republicans. Even though it now appears that the Democrats have enough votes to run the Senate, there are traitors within the party who choose to organize with the Republicans because they don’t like the group that is in charge of the Democratic Party. While few will talk about it, race is central to the problem. Top Democratic leaders in the Senate are John Sampson, an African American, and Malcolm Smith, also African American. After considerable criticism for not having a more balanced leadership, state Senator Neal Breslin who is of Irish descent, was installed in a top position. Meanwhile, a group of four or five dissident Democrats (the IDC or Independent Democratic Conference) have been seduced by the Republican majority under the leadership of Senator Dean Skelos. This group of rogue Democrats has to decide whether to organize with the Democrats or risk alienating their own base by conspiring with the Republicans and giving them a majority which they don’t deserve.
Of course, the guy in the hot seat is Andrew Cuomo, the popular, fiscally conservative governor. Almost everyone in the know in Albany believes that Cuomo wants to see the Republicans, whose thinking is more in line with his own, in the majority. There’s substantial evidence for that. You will recall that when Cuomo was running for governor, he said he would veto the reapportionment bill that allows the majority party in each house to design their own districts. As I have often said, that’s like allowing a Steinbrenner to ump the Yankee games. When the time came, the veto didn’t happen. In fact, Cuomo even signed a bill that gave the Republicans an extra seat to play with in the State Senate. Then when things got dicey and looked like the Democrats might win, Cuomo endorsed several Republican candidates who favored same-sex marriage. If, as expected, Cuomo decides to run for president, this support of the Republican candidates may well come back to haunt him.
So what does conservative Cuomo do now? If the Democrats do take control they will undoubtedly be in more of a mood to spend than their Republican brethren. What’s more, if their past behavior is any indication of their ability to embarrass both Cuomo and themselves, we have a pretty good idea of what’s on the horizon. Of course, several of the last batch of disgraced Democrats are already off to the pokey and others will take their place. The bargaining among the various forces will be intense. If the so-called “Independent Democratic Conference” is to bargain with the regular Democrats, they will demand the leadership positions for themselves. This will recreate the famous Democratic circular firing squad that inevitably leads to disgrace.
Cuomo could call the so-called Democratic Independents into a room and advise them to stay with the Republicans. That, of course, will put these four senators in great risk come election time when their constituents realize that the Democrats they thought they were voting for were really Republican enablers.
This is very dangerous stuff. It puts all politicians at risk. People will correctly see some of them as power mongers who only want what’s good for them. It will also give sustenance to those who think that the political game is loaded and not fair or competitive. That’s pretty bad for democracy.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 11/12/12