The dysfunction and stalemate that has gripped Albany since the June 8th Republican takeover has only really served to emphasize that which most of us already know: our state government is in the hands of a cabal of shameless, self-serving creeps and we are powerless to do anything about it. Sure, this latest spike in madness or shenanigans or whatever you want to call it, has more people than usual talking, and proposing bolder and crazier solutions. But at the end of the day, nothing short of voting each and every one of these legislators out of office and instituting a wide range of reforms will result in any meaningful changes. Sadly, even with the current mess in the State Senate, this does not seem possible. This leaves only one real option to fed-up residents of the State of New York: shut up and deal with it.
Everyone who observes this crisis of governance has a few good ideas on how to clean up this mess. Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Long Island congressman Rick Lazio has suggested abolishing the assembly and senate and replacing them with a uni-cameral legislature. Hey, it works for Nebraska! But what’s to stop a uni-cameral legislature from being just as self-serving and corrupt as our current bi-cameral one? Nothing as far as I can tell. Probably just an empty gesture exploiting this mess to attract attention to his own candidacy.
Similarly, likely gubernatorial candidate Rudy Giuliani has called for a new constitutional convention. Plenty of good reforms could come out of this, such as tougher campaign finance regulations, non-partisan redistricting commissions and even possibly term limits. But they won’t, so keep dreamin!
Most likely, the next governor, who I’m betting will be a Republican, will get elected on a tidal wave of support for reforming New York’s broken government. But once in office they will realize that A. reform is impossible and B. they have more to gain by cooperating with the system. More backroom deals will be made, everything will go back to normal and money will continue to change hands, in other words, democracy as usual.
Of course, I’d be willing to bet that most New Yorkers would be happy to see our state government simply return to its status quo of corrupt backroom deal-making if it meant a return to some semblance of functionality. At least our municipalities would have those necessary ‘housekeeping bills’ passed and would get their damn money, right? What this essentially means is that all of us are just as in hoc to state legislative leadership for our own ‘member items’ as all those cowed little legislators. Still, I wouldn’t bet on a single incumbent being tossed out of office in November.
But will things ever go back to normal? Don’t count on it. If the Republican coup is allowed to stand and democrats recognize their leadership as legitimate, this would virtually guarantee that each election would be followed by endless backroom wrangling and scheming intended to sway the weak links of the majority party. If Republicans get away with this, they will do it again and again and again. Democrats need not worry, they will try to do it as well.
Sure there are reforms that if passed could force these creeps to have a real bad day. For example, if we adopted a system of impartially drawn legislative districts, it would mean real, competitive elections, and our legislators would actually have to pay attention to the voters. But this will never happen. We could also implement term limits, making it impossible for weasels like Espada and Skelos to ensconce themselves in office for as long as they are able to favorably gerrymander their districts. But this too, will never happen. Then of course, we could also do away with legislative member items, well, yeah right! Better yet, why don’t we just ask these guys to be honest and ethical and focus solely on the ‘people’s business’?
What this all boils down to is that here in New York we have a caste of political leaders who are so beyond accountability that they feel that they can do whatever they want, which is exactly what they’re doing. It should make you angry, but not too angry. After all, there’s nothing you can do about it. This is only a democracy.
If anyone has any better ideas, I’m all ears.