The Spectacular Emptiness of Jeff Klein
I hesitate to spend any more time talking about the State Senate reorganization until I’m sure there is actually a contest.
Right now, Republicans hold thirty seats. Thirty-one democrats have been elected. Two seats are in the midst of recounts, though things look pretty good for Terry Gipson in his race against incumbent Stephen Saland.
One cannot be say the same about Democratic prospects in the newly created Suburban Albany/Hudson Valley based 48th SD, where the lead has been bouncing back and forth between Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk and Republican George Amedore, with Amedore currently holding the advantage.
Given that Republicans already have a pledge of support from Borough Park DINO Simcha Felder, an Amedore victory would be game, set and match.
Further, I suspect that, even without the so-called “Independent Democratic Conference” (IDC), Dean Skelos may already be holding one or more aces as hole cards.
Ruben Diaz has already indicated in the past his willingness to sell himself to the highest bidder, and the GOP is also congenial to his social conservatism (though, however socially conservative Diaz’s constituents are, unlike Simcha Felder’s, their votes in general elections indicate they prefer Democrats who are both socially and economically liberal to Republicans who are neither).
Then there is Malcolm Smith, a moderate Democrat who once served as Party Leader, before similar desertions necessitated his departure.
In the past, Smith had sometimes taken the Republican and Conservative Party ballot lines and endorsed Republican candidates. Back
Already seeing an opportunity to do unto others like they done unto him, Smith is further motivated by a desire to get three GOP county leaders to allow him to run in their primary for Mayor.
Then there is the incumbent leader, John Sampson, widely seen as heading for the trash heap at 90 miles per hour in a car with no brakes. What could possibly motivate him to allow the Dems to take the Majority with someone else at the wheel?
With one vote possibly being decisive, who knows who else might offer himself up for sale?
Nonetheless, some recent articles and editorials make assertions which compel a response, even if the response will have a shorter expiration date than milk sold by John Catsimidis (the only difference being Catsimidis’ milk will remain on the shelf).
First there’s an editorial in Crain’s which is notable for grasping a very sophisticated point:
"State Senate Democrats appear to be blowing their chance to control the upper chamber of the Legislature. While that may be viewed as good news by many in the business community, chaos in the Senate threatens to disrupt the government and erode the public's fragile confidence in Albany....
...It's unhealthy for state government to be viewed so cynically by the public. Voters should expect the candidates they elect to represent the principles of their parties, not become free agents looking for a better deal.
We're not saying legislators should reflexively vote the party line. But for state government to function, a certain degree of order must be kept in the Legislature. We can't have 63 undisciplined senators dangling their allegiance on eBay whenever the mood strikes. With the chamber so closely divided, we can't afford even one."
My major quibble here is their assertion: "Mr. Felder's spin was that he's doing what is best for his district, but it looks more like he's putting perks over principle."
In reality, Mr. Felder's desertion of principle did not come when he agreed to caucus as a Republican, but rather, when he agreed to run as a Democrat. In fact, that was more or less the entire basis of the campaign his far right wing Republican opponent ran against him.
It is, however, noted that the voters in his district rejected that argument.
As a Democrat who embraces the occasional heresy, I've no problem with deviations from the party line, but for Felder the deviations are the rare times he lines up ideologically with the Democrats.
In other words, Simcha Felder didn't betray his principles; he finally came home to them.
But the balance of the Crain’s piece argues from the right a point I think I may embrace from the left.
The price of any bidding war may be worse than the price we may pay if the wrong side simply wins without one.
Which brings us to the IDC, which consists of Jeff Klein, his goomah, and his two pet iguanas.
Much like Dudley LeBlanc making his pitch for Hadacol, Jeff Klein has taken his medicine show on the road, and is selling the IDC as the cure for whatever ails us,
As a real Centrist-Democrat, let me call bullshit.
Klein: In January of 2011, in an effort to break the partisan gridlock and stagnation that had made progress in New York impossible, three of my Senate colleagues and I formed the Independent Democratic Conference.
Gate: If this sounds familiar, there might be a reason.
As I noted back then, for all the smoke and mirrors concerning this being about the need for bipartisanship in a time of crisis, few have pointed out that the bi-partisan nature of the current NYS status quo, which has been a fact of our lives for all but two years since the 1974 elections.
Further, it is that status quo which has usually been directly responsible for much of the Albany phenomena which another Independent Bronx Democrat named Pedro Espada then called "dysfuctionality and polarization" in much the same manner that Jeff Klein now refers to it as “partisan gridlock and stagnation.”
In fact, one could argue that it is the bi-partisan status quo which led us into the mess Klein (and Espada) complained of.
But, nonetheless, the meaningless rhetoric about the utopia of bi-partisanship continues unabated.
As I noted when predicting the Amigo crisis months before it occurred, efforts like the IDC and the Amigos are not about, in Espada’s words, bringing an end to the "dysfunctionality and polarization," nor are they about, in Klein’s words, “break[ing] the partisan gridlock and stagnation.” Efforts like those of Espada and Klein are about creating “dysfunctionality and polarization”, and “partisan gridlock and stagnation.” and then exploiting them for personal and political gain.
Klein: If challenging the norm has made us renegades, then we are proud to wear that title.
Gate: I will note that in my lifetime, Democrats have taken a majority in the State Senate three times—in the elections of 1964 (five weeks of deadlock before a Leader was chosen), 2008 and 2012, and in every one of them something like this has occurred. The motto of the NYS Senate Dems is "every rump faction for themselves," The IDC hasn't challenged the norm, they've embodied it.
Klein: We will fight to raise the minimum wage so that workers can receive a paycheck they can actually live on, while our state’s economy can receive the boost that it so clearly needs
Gate: Senate GOP Spokesman Scott Reif just recently declared the minimum wage a “Job Killer”
Klein: In order to make this type of progress, a strong, stable government is absolutely necessary. Make no mistake; the IDC is a permanent third conference in the New York state Senate. We are committed to our vision of bipartisan governance that places progress above politicking."
Gate: Back in 2008, the Amigos’ initial cover story for refusing to support the choice of their Conference concerned "work[ing] together actively to promote a unified vision to support the needs of their diverse communities in the upcoming legislative session," and "working to insure that, in these difficult economic times, state government can function efficiently to protect the concerns of all New Yorkers."
As I noted "post-partisan" was inexact; what they envisioned was more like a "pre-Hobbesian state of nature" where roving bands of nomads form momentary alliances of convenience, but essentially, it was every caveman for himself. Still, the essential point about getting beyond parties, which are, after-all, semi-coherent groups organized around a commonly held system of belief, seems to have been remarkably accurate.
And, in similar fashion, Jeff Klein and the IDC seem to believe that the way to create “stability” is to create an artificial deadlock, and then put themselves in the middle of it in order to create a vision of buy-the-partisans government, which places politicians over parties.
Klein: For the four of us, bipartisanship is not a matter of political expedience. It is a matter of principle, rooted in the reality of the changing times. It is becoming increasingly clear, both at home and in Washington, that we are at a political tipping point.
Gate: Back in 2008, Amigo PR Strumpet Juda Engelmayer opined on behalf of his Johns (or do I mean Juans?) "Nationally…we are experiencing, in the face of uncertainty, a unique moment of both hope and opportunity. Now is the time to return to our core values."
And that was all in 2008, before the last four years exposed the wishes for a national bi-partisan utopia as embodied in movements like “No Labels” and “Americans Elect” and the cheerleading for such in the clueless columns of Tom Friedman, as empty fantasies made up of delusions and wishful thinking.
If Mr. Klein had made his case for “bipartisanship” solely by citing the situation in New York State, one could still suspect his motives, but one would not necessarily feel a motivation to become infuriated.
In face of the empty calls for “bi-partisanship” once again welling up in the face of the so-called “fiscal cliff,” it seems a good time for a little cold hard reality.
Let me review:
When the GOP brought our country to a real “fiscal cliff,” by taking the unprecedented step of holding up an increase in the debt ceiling, they refused a compromise which was a capitulation, gambling that putting off everything until after the election would bring them a total victory.
Now, having been nationally repudiated, and hoisted by their own petard, they respond to the non-fiscal cliff of tax cuts expiring and defense cuts being implemented by gracefully agreeing to accept the capitulation they previously rejected as a basis for the start of negotiations.
And this is what is now being defined by the mongers of conventional wisdom as “bipartisanship.”
Given recent history, the
But, in the service of his own personal agenda, Jeff Klein has the nerve to say “bipartisanship is not a matter of political expedience. It is a matter of principle, rooted in the reality of the changing times. It is becoming increasingly clear, both at home and in Washington, that we are at a political tipping point.
We surely are at a political tipping point nationally, but any Democrat who cites it in the context of advocating “bipartisanship” as a means of advancing a “progressive” agenda is either a fool or a charlatan.
However, the reality of these “changing times” is actually that bipartisanship is becoming less and less useful, as a means for accomplishing any goal. In Washington, bi-partisanship is most analogous to negotiating with terrorists. In fact, by citing Washington, Klein tips his hand that his vaunted principle is nothing but an empty rhetorical device.
But New York is not Washington; in New York, bi-partisanship is neither futile or solely a means to the end of accomplishing useful goals. In NYS, bi-partisanship is quite often a means to facilitate corruption and greed.
The Amigos were an example of bi-partisanship The IDC seems quite clearly in that tradition.
The truth is that real bi-partisanship in the good government sense would be if both parties rejected the likes of the Amigos and the IDC and negotiated a power sharing agreement that left them out in the cold
enate threatens to disrupt the government and erode the public's fragile confidence in Albany....
enate threatens to disrupt the government and erode the public's fragile confidence in Albany....