June 16, 2009

Penultimate Word on on the Anti-Democratic Democrats' Denial of Democracy in Albany

Hatched by Dafydd

Today, as expected, Justice Thomas J. McNamara of the New York State Supreme Court essentially said "you kids better work this out yourselves." He didn't use those exact words (pretty close though!), but that's what his ruling amounts to. (Please note that what New York calls the "Supreme Court" is what most states call Superior Court, the ordinary state-wide trial courts. What the rest of us call the State Supreme Court, New Yorkers call the Court of Appeals.)

A state judge on Tuesday refused to overturn last week’s takeover of the State Senate by the Republicans, essentially leaving it to the Legislature to decide which party is in charge....

The Senate’s operations have been at a standstill since last Monday, when Republicans joined with two renegade Democrats to seize control of the chamber.

The judge’s decision, issued by Justice Thomas J. McNamara of State Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon, effectively puts the Senate at a 31-to-31 deadlock, but it also leaves Senator Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Democrat who crossed party lines last week, as the president of the Senate....

“A judicially imposed resolution would be an improvident intrusion into the internal workings of a co-equal branch of government,” Justice McNamara said, adding, “Go across the street and resolve this for the people of New York.”

But the most interesting part of the story hides behind the second elipsis above:

The judge denied the Democrats’ case and their motion for a stay, and the Democrats indicated that they would appeal. But by late afternoon, Democrats said they would not appeal.


Saying the Democrats have foregone the judicial-tyranny option begs the fascinating question of "why" -- why won't they pursue it to the bitter end? It can't merely be that they are persuaded by Justice McNamara's decision that they were wrong; nor even that they're convinced that right or wrong, such an approach is doomed to failure. The first is unthinkable: Democrats always believe, to paraphrase Shaw, that the customs and traditions of their tribe are laws of nature; and the second is improvident: Even if the chance of court victory is tiny, why foreclose that option? What have they got to lose?

To me, there is only one explanation for dropping the appeal: The Democrats have decided that trying to sue their way back into power is counterproductive to regaining that power. And that means (again in my reading of the political tea leaves) that New York Democrats now believe they are on the brink of regaining that power legitimately; they don't want that "reconquista" tainted by the ugliness of trying to overturn democracy via the most undemocratic branch of state government, the courts.

And there is reason for their optimism:

Republicans wrested power in the State Senate away from Democrats last Monday, but their thin majority collapsed a week later, leaving the chamber at 31 to 31 and its leadership picture more confused than ever.

The move came when Senator Hiram Monserrate, one of two Democrats who had sided with Republicans to give them a 32-to-30 majority, said he was switching his allegiance again and reaffirmed himself as a member of the Democratic caucus.

This redefection leaves but a single Democrat, Pedro Espada, jr., thwarting the caucus's return to primacy. Espada is currently President of the Senate, just one slot below Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican; if Espada returns, and then the Democrats restore the leadership of the former majority leader, Democrat Malcolm Smith, Espada can look forward to nothing but endless penance for his apostasy.

But in the meanwhile, the Democrats (as we predicted) have wisely elected a new "caucus leader," Sen. John L. Sampson of Brooklyn:

Mr. Monserrate said at the news conference that he was returning to the Democratic fold because he was satisfied that a new leader chosen by Democrats, Senator John L. Sampson of Brooklyn, would unify party members and bring about action on important legislation....

Adding to the confusion, Democrats chose Senator Sampson as the leader of their caucus, in a move that was a concession to Mr. Monserrate, who had insisted on the ouster of Malcolm A. Smith as majority leader. But because they no longer had the 32 votes needed to install Mr. Sampson as president of the Senate and majority leader, Democrats named Mr. Sampson “caucus leader” and left Mr. Smith as their titular leader.

Smith continues to try to save his face by insisting that he is the real majority leader -- and Sampson is merely his "CEO." But I think it's inevitable that the moment the Democrats recapture Espada, giving them a majority once more, they will take a quick vote and name Sampson, not Smith, the new majority leader of the state Senate.

(I wonder -- when they do this, will Malcolm Smith continue to argue that you can't change majority leaders in mid stream, that he is still the one and only champeen? Perhaps he can declare himself the People's majority leader!)

The majority leadership of Dean Skelos now hangs by a Gordian thread of Damocles: All the Democrats need do is offer both amnesty and a promotion to Espada (and possibly the squelching of the various ethics charges against him), and they can reel him back in. If Espada has a pact with Monserrate, the two can easily enforce the caucus's capitulation by threatening to re-bolt and start the nightmare all over again if the caucus doesn't deliver.

I suspect the Democratic caucus sees the "mene mene tekel upharsin" writ on the wall of the Senate's executive washroom, and they will do exactly this; Smith will be cast down, the terms agreed upon, and Espada will return to the fold, probably within a week from today.

We stand by our previous prediction:

  • Once Smith is gone, the Democrats will bite the bullet and cut a deal -- legitimate or corrupt -- with Espada and Monserrate, and they will rejoin the fold. The insurrection will fizzle, and Democrats will again be in charge.
  • And the New York State Senate will swiftly pass the same-sex marriage bill already approved by the State Assembly, becoming the fourth state (after Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire) to enact SSM without being extorted by the judicial branch.

This is sad, because I believe that even in the ultraliberal state of New York, a referrendum of the voters would find that they oppose SSM by a significant margin. But when has that ever stopped Democrats and liberals? The irreducible core of leftism is the belief that the Dear Leader knows best and must tell the rabble where to get off.

We await but the passage of a few days to write our ultimate post on this ticklish travesty of anti-democratic Democraticism.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 16, 2009, at the time of 2:58 PM

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I know I said the last post was the penultimate one on the subject of the Anti-Democratic Democrats' Denial of Democracy in Albany; but something so Kafkaesque has just happened in the New York State Senate that I cannot silently... [Read More]

Tracked on June 24, 2009 5:44 PM


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