Staying Alive in the World Wild Wrestling Federation
Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long's opinion article on the need to reform Albany in the New York Post on New Year's Day, best represents the main mission of any politician - say anything the public wants to hear to “stay in power.” After more than a decade of being an insider in the Pataki Administration and reaping its rewards, Long’s reaction to the democratic take over of the executive office is an about turn to the outsider calling for reforms.
Long’s switch reminds one of a fixed wrestling match where the fighters follow a script written to give the public what they want that evening. Same fighters every night, some nights the wrestler wins, some nights he loses, all designed to fool the public. By continuing to have these same leaders and people in office, it robs the state of representatives who believe in what they say, and do what they promise. Long is the first of many who for years grew rich with their friends, courtesy of Albany’s dysfunctional government, who will now join the public outcry for reforms, simply to save their jobs.
Conservative Long had his Chances to Reform Albany
After delivering the governorship to George Pataki in 1994, Long’s and his Conservative Party were at the high point of their power in the state. Not only did Long broker a deal to have conservative Herb London run for state comptroller rather than primary then State Senator George Pataki for governor, his party delivered the winning votes to the Governor and Attorney General candidates. In the 1994 race for governor, Mario Cuomo was defeated by 190,000 votes. Long’s Conservative Party line (328,000 voters) gave Pataki his margin of victory. That same year the Conservative Party also gave Republican Dennis Vacco his margin of victory for Attorney General over Democrat Karen Burstein. Long got his rewards from the new governor. According to newspaper reports, his daughter (chief-of-staff to the Lt. Governor) and two of his top party aides were on Pataki’s pay roll.
Not once during the 12 years of the Pataki administration did Long call for reforms to fix the dysfunctional government in Albany. He did speak out for banning birth control and against increases in the minimum wage and against banning smoking in public places.
Today Long says we need term limits, an end to member item bills and a recall policy to restore competitive elections to Assembly and Senate elections. Yet when Long had a chance to increase the number of competitive elections in the city, he opposed Bloomberg’s push for nonpartisan elections, which was defeated in 2003. As New York State becomes more and more a one party state, non partisan elections may be the only way to assure competitive elections.
Long’s switch to supporting reforms seems to have happened after his entire statewide Republican/Conservative Team was trounced in the November 2006 General Elections. The one candidate that the Conservative Party line provided the margin of victory to in the 2006 elections was State Senator Serf Maltese, which indicates Long’s conversion to reforming Albany did indeed occur in the last month. Maltese's opponent, democrat Albert Baldeo, who ran on a platform supporting term limits, campaign finance reform and putting the lobbyists, who run Albany out of business, received 49% of the vote. Baldeo received 17,046 votes on the Democrat line. Maltese received 15,856 votes on the Republican/Independent line. The Conservative Party gave Maltese the crucial 1,621 votes. Long’s party line reelected Maltese, who for 18 years in the State Senate conspired with Republican leader Joseph Bruno to block reforming Albany’s dysfunctional government.
It may be time to ask why a party that has less than .01% of the NY state's registered voters have so much power in shaping who runs on the Republican Party statewide ticket. It was only the fear of third party candidate Tom Golisano's millions that kept Long relevant in the 1998 and 2002 governor's reelection. Pataki won both years by much larger margins that he received on the Conservative Party line. Long knows his party has outlived its usefulness, so he changes his script.
One only has to look to the World Wild Wrestling Federation or, as the late Jack Newfield used to call it, "the permanent government," to understand why the New York Post allowed Long to read his new script on their opinion page. While at Pataki's side for all those years, Long did a lot of things for a lot of people; he has a lot of people who owe him favors. Maybe a public relations lobbyist with influence at the New York Post who got a few favors from Long, whose finger prints cannot ever be found with the best x-ray equipment known to science, got Long’s script into the paper. Lobbyists, who are today’s glue of the permanent government, tend to keep the same people they already know in place.
Only through competitive elections where some of this "permanent government" is defeated, can New York change its dysfunctional government. Reforms without competitive elections or term limits will not accomplish real change. If we keep the same leaders in place we will see short-term cosmetic changes designed to quiet the public cry for change. Elected officials believe that the public has a short term attention span and they can remove most of the changes once the public moves on to other things. Once you taste the king’s meat, you don’t want to go back to eating a ketchup sandwich. In other words, the leaders in Albany will not give up the money without a real fight, where lots of people's lives will be destroyed. Is anyone really prepared for this? Or will we continue World Wild Wrestling scripted politics in New York State?
Have you ever heard an elected official speak out against a fellow member convicted of stealing public funds? All we hear is that he was really a great guy who helps people, a family man who did not do such a bad thing. Or we hear nothing at all.
The same elected officials who do press conferences against the cops’ “Blue Wall of Silence” have their own “Elected Official Wall of Silence.” Thou shall never talk bad of another member. What they are thinking is, "Let's not destroy our golden goose; we are getting away with it.” Only when independent candidates who are not afraid to speak out against their fellow member are able to get elected, will we get real change and a real government that represents the people needs.