The People Think And Make A Difference
There were lessons learend all over the region on Election Day as a Dem NYC overwhelming ly returned a Republican Mayor, Mike Bloomberg (Top, left) to office. NYS Legislative leaders (bottom, left) Dem Speaker Sheldon Silver and Repub Senate Leader Joe Bruno (bottom, right) saw their Budget Reform proposal go down to defeat. And (right, top) Nassau Exec Tom Suozzi led an effort that saw the Dems solidfy their hold on a once Republican Long Island as both Nassau and Suffolk voters crossed party lines.
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
The headline says it all.
This is not a deep analytical column justifying a statement that some may consider bold: “The people think and make a difference.”
It is a homage to democracy and that we in New York have demonstrated that people can rise above the base intellectual levels often attributed to them and go into the voting booth and demonstrate they think, discern, evaluate and choose – not in lockstep – but by thought.
They are not blinded by party, habits, race, ethnicity or even a single issue. Performance, principle, integrity all seem to drive the trends in New York voting.
The New York I write of is the broad New York – the metro region and the State. The City is seemingly too narrow of an ideological sample on which to base conclusions.
So what has happened in the region that has caused me to applaud the critical thinking of the masses?
First and foremost, they rejected one ballot proposition while passing three others in the city or one other in the State. The good ones – ones fostering good government were approved: a Transportation Bond Issue, Ethics for City Judges, City Budget reform. Interestingly, a Transportation Bond concept similar to the one that received voter approval had in the past gone down to defeat.
The proposition that lost was a State Legislative Budget sham introduced and pushed by a Legislature that only under extreme duress managed to pass an on-time budget after two decades of pathetic failure. The budget that they did pass was incomplete, did not address a huge out-of-control deficit and disregarded the judicial decision requiring endless funding to satisfy the Campaign For Fiscal Equity decision.
The legislative leaders – Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno — took $500,000 from Cablevision, a questionable ally who seemingly was paying back the two for defeat of the West Side Stadium furthering its monopolistic franchise for Madison Square Garden, in order to promote the State Budget Proposition One.
In reality, if passed, this proposal would have rewarded the Legislature for a late budget giving them much greater control over the process than the Governor. It was a daring and reckless proposal for any legislature. It was outright deception for a legislature that has been unable for 21 years to deal with the budgeting process.
But historically the correct thing doesn’t always happen with ballot proposals. Voters ignore them. Many don’t know they are there nor have any idea of what they are about.
The few words on the ballot do not disclose the serious nuances nor even significant meaning of the vote. Many times, the voters reject it if they perceive it has a real monetary cost to them. Many times they don’t vote on propositions. Many times most just don’t understand the issues of ballot proposals.
This time City voters had four questions and statewide there were two. The costly Transportation Bond Issue (Proposition One) passed but the no-apparent-cost Budget “Reform” was defeated.
The process works.
Because democracy works.
The press, good government groups, watchdogs and elected officials don’t sit by and allow self- serving legislative leaders and corporate America to buy passage of outrageous proposals.
Two decades worth of outrageous performance – or is it non- performance – has caused the system and the people to reject Albany’s word. It took quite some time, but the people caught on.
It took the continual pounding by this paper and others, the “Fix Albany” campaign by Nassau County Exec Tom Suozzi, the evaluation by the independent Brennan Center, in order to break decades of the Legislature being non-responsive to the needs or wants of the people. The Legislature has become immune to those needs because of their control of the redistricting process and big money buying incumbents lifetime positions. It has allowed, no fostered, the repeal of the commuter tax costing New York City half a billion dollars a year; it has resulted in 20 straight late budgets with immunity at the election booth; and it has allowed the State to live on an irresponsible budgetary house of cards, piling up unmanageable deficits.
It took way too long. But it happened.
And now the State Legislature is watched at every turn. And the failure of Proposition One is another statement by the democracy – the people – that the legislature must change or the people will change it.
But that’s not all there was to show that people think and make a difference.
In New York City, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 5 to 1, a Republican Mayor was overwhelmingly elected again. That’s four straight elections where the Republican won the Mayoralty while just about everything else went Democratic.
Because people think.
People are not blindly tied to their party. They cross party lines. Although I haven’t crunched the numbers, one could likely conclude that more than half the voters in this month’s city election voted for a Mayoral candidate on a party line different than their own registration.
They did so because they believed it good for themselves and their city.
Sadly, the Republicans have been unable to build an organization in the City to offer challenge at the more local level. I say that as a lifelong Democrat, because I know a party unchallenged too long is a party that soon serves its own power instead of the people.
Just look across the border at Long Island.
There the people thought, too.
Election Day was filled with surprises.
In Nassau, the people endorsed the work of its County Executive Tom Suozzi, the first Democrat to hold the post in almost a half a century. They not only resoundingly re-elected Suozzi, they returned a Democratic legislature to office. And, they voted out a 30-plus-year incumbent District Attorney. Kathleen Rice beat Dennis Dillon and became the first Democrat in a lifetime to become Nassau DA.
Nassau has always been the stronghold of the Republican Party and now, the GOP is fighting for its political survival.
The story is perhaps more profound in Suffolk where the longtime dominant GOP took a beating just about everywhere. The Suffolk County Legislature and the Brookhaven Township joined the County Exec in going into the Dem column.
Both Long Island Counties have a clear registered Republican Majority.
People think and don’t just pull their party’s lever.
It is perhaps more than that.
On all levels, the people are becoming distrustful of their government. Politician is becoming a dirty word. “Public service” seems to be a meaningless phrase when party machines take control. Big money, special interests and taking care of the “ins” seem to become the primary political agenda items when one party is left in control.
In New York City, the people have responded to the Democratic monopoly with 16 straight years of Republican Mayors.
In Nassau and Suffolk, the once-unbeatable Republican dynasties have taken a clear backseat to the upstart Dems.
In New York State, the Dem dominated State Assembly and the Republican dominated State Senate are finally under the great microscope of public scrutiny.
It doesn’t matter which party; if you don’t serve the people they will react.
Not to go too far astray, on a national level, the Republican Party, the party which right now has it all, is facing an administration with an all-time low approval rating and may be devastated at next year’s midterm elections.
The people want performance.
The people want integrity.
The people want public servants.
To those who entered the political arena for another reason, the people will ultimately throw you out.
To those who entered the political arena with a commitment to public service but have been corrupted by the perks and pressures and money of incumbency, there is still time to change.
The people are a forgiving group.
You can still speak up against the wrongs of the system and become part of the solution. Otherwise, you’ll ultimately be cast out by the people for being part of the problem.
Democracy does work: the people think and make a difference.