First in a planned series looking at the state Senate Democratic conference.
For once, the elephant in the room wasn’t race — it was Gov. Cuomo.
Saturday’s National Action Network rally, led by media personality and political activist Rev. Al Sharpton, featured much anger over the “coup” that has prevented the Democratic conference from leading the state Senate.
NAACP leader Hazel Dukes remarked, “We’ve been crucified, and we got up on the third day.” For African-Americans, crucifixion is code for racial mistreatment.
But everyone knows Cuomo could’ve prevented the “Skleinos” takeover. (Skleinos, after Republican leader Sen. Dean Skelos and Independent Democratic chief Sen. Jeff Klein, is the derisive nickname for the coalition.)
At best, the governor’s been a modern Pontius Pilate, washing his hands of responsibility and party loyalty in the name of a cooperative and functioning state Senate.
When Skleinos was announced, I tweeted that Cuomo, by turning his back on the Senate Democrats (15 of whom are black and Hispanic) and other progressive constituencies, was having his “Sister Souljah” moment four years ahead of his much-rumored 2016 White House bid.
The ralliers were nowhere near as pointed. Harlem Sen. Bill Perkins simply asked where the governor stood on “backroom deals that put us in the back of the bus again.” Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson went a bit further, complaining that Cuomo’s claim of “dysfunction” under previous Democratic Senate rule was code for “black people in charge.”
And Dukes recounted a recent conversation where she pointedly challenged the governor, “Do we allow dysfunction in the Democratic Party [i.e., preventing Senate Democrats from taking control]?”
Rep.-elect Hakim Jeffries warned that, by coalescing with the GOP, the several Independent Democrats who represent “majority-minority” districts had disrespected and disenfranchised the minority voters who supported their re-election.
To be fair, Senate Democrats were woefully underprepared in 2010 to lead budget negotiations and policy debates. Assembly members privately joked that Speaker Sheldon Silver was running the entire Capitol.
The governor may think that the conference is still not ready, yet suspicions are rampant that it’s something deeper. An unnamed Democratic operative says that Cuomo is exasperated and believes, “Blacks are difficult.”
Whether or not that truly characterizes the governor’s feelings, African-American Democrats have every right to be difficult over the Senate situation.
Cuomo concedes that neither Republicans nor Democrats performed well during the 2009/2010 legislative session, when GOP leader Skelos conspired with now-disgraced Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate to take political control of the chamber.
Sens. Malcom Smith and Klein were the leaders betrayed by Espada and Monserrate, while Skelos was the instigator of the tumult that paralyzed state government, making New York a national laughingstock.
Yet the governor has seen fit to hand the keys to the Senate back to these jokers. In doing so, he alienates loyal black, Hispanic and progressive Democrats — many of whom weren’t in office for the 2009-10 session.
Yes, all these tensions are longstanding. Time hasn’t healed the wounds inflicted by the deal that ended the Skelos-Espada coup. Indeed, that deal in many ways merely exposed the serious infighting (including real threats of physical violence) and factionalism within the conference that gave birth to the Independent Democratic Conference not long after. Because the leadership wasn’t going to play with him, Klein took his marbles and walked away.
All this has some of my former colleagues speaking fondly of disgraced former Gov. Eliot “F—ing Steamroller” Spitzer. “At least Spitzer believed in having a Democrat-controlled state Senate,” said one.
Meanwhile, progressives across the nation are railing against Cuomo, threatening to upend any bid he makes for national office. (Amazingly, the hero of marriage equality is being treated as though he were Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker.)
But local Democrats — certainly, office-holding ones — don’t dare go that far publicly. They fear incurring Cuomo’s wrath. Despite his demurral on involving himself in the 2013 mayoral race, those running for citywide office want his blessing, not his curse.
For others, publicly blaming the governor would cut off access to patronage and other favors. And access is the coin of the realm in Albany.
via Angry at Andrew but afraid to say so – NYPOST.com.