Neuter the Doghouse Democrats

A majority of the two-decade span between my first and last service on the payroll of a New York elected official was spent in service to leaders of the NY State Senate Democrats, and though I’ve long been out of that business, like a junkie, I’ve never lost the taste. The need for the Democrats to take the Senate Majority is something I’ve written about quite passionately (for example here and here) through my years as a blogger. And now it looks like it is in sight.

But, as my friend Roscoe Conway likes to say (channeling Ben Franklin) "a Majority, if you can keep it."

Can they?

Although my warnings about this go back at least as far as an April 2006 post on Daily Politics, my first article on this subject came almost a year later. On October 22, 2007, I began a never completed series called the “Joe Bruno Democrats.“

Excerpts from the series opener follow:

"The Senate Republican majority is doomed in the long-term unless they find a way to corral some non-Republicans into either switching parties or voting with them to organize. This has now been their long-range strategy for many years. They find "Democrats In Name Only" and run them in prohibitively Democratic districts, so they can hold them in reserve in case the Dems ever take the majority…

Example #3: Get Pedro Espada to change parties while maintaining his Democratic enrollment so he can still run in the Democratic Primary. The Democrats actually stopped this one by beating Bruno at his own game by running DINO Ruben Diaz. Diaz, Espada; both have Jewish messiahs, but one follows Jesus and the other Fred Newman.

Example #4: Woo Diaz. That'll teach 'em.

Example #7: Get Democratic Assemblyman Joe Robach to switch parties and run for the Senate. This was abetted by Shelly Silver, who was glad to have Robach gone.

Example #8: Run Noach Dear in the Democratic Primary against divided black opposition. Tried it three times, would have done it a fourth, but Dear (he hopes) got a job that doesn’t require commuting….

Example #10: Get political transsexual Tony Herbert, already surgically remade as a Republican, to pretend to have his Democratic credential reattached, and run him against Velmanette Montgomery.

Rule of thumb: not every primary to a Senate Democratic incumbents stems from Bruno, and some of the Senate Demorats may even deserve primaries, especially the one(s?) owned by Bruno, but, generally, if there's talk of giving a Senate Dem a primary, one should at the very least go hunting for the man behind the curtain.

Example #11: Carl Kruger; already bought and paid for, many times over, but like a case of the clap… Kruger is the gift that keeps on giving. Worth an article all his own; will get one soon.

Example #12: Woo Hiram Monserrate and attend his fundraiser…."

Although we no longer have Joe Bruno, Part One of the Bruno Dems series continues to play out, as I’d predicted. The only real change being that the Bruno Dems are now the "Doghouse Democrats," in honor of the English translation of the last name of the new Senate Republican Leader, Dean Skelos (who I worked against, once successfully, in two successive campaigns during the 1980s).

I’ll get to the most pertinent examples later, but Joe Robach is still around, holding on by his thumbs, and Tony Herbert did attempt to run an abortive race in the primary against Velmanette Montgomery.

In the seat formerly targeted by the Republicans for Noach Dear, the GOP initially shifted its strategy by finding a black candidate, Kendall Stewart, but the indictment of two of Stewart’s aides did result in an effort by the Republicans to switch back to their old strategy by using Stewart’s candidacy in extremis as a means to divide the black vote and elect an Orthodox Jew. But though Mike Bloomberg, as he always does for those favored by Senate Republicans, provided both endorsements and financial help, the overwhelming evidence suggest that Simcha Felder wasn’t playing and would have conferenced with the Dems (though if the last week proves anything, it is that from Bloomberg’s perspective, the help to Felder was still a prudent investment of his resources).

Anyway, on September 5 of this year, I wrote:

"Already, two Democratic State Senator, Ruben Diaz and Carl Kruger, have refused to commit their votes to whoever is chosen to be put up for Senate Majority Leader by the Senate’s Democratic Conference; Kruger even accepted a leadership position from the Senate Republicans. At least one incoming member, Hiram Monserrate, has, in the past, played footsie with former Senate Republican Leader Joe Bruno, and another possible Senate Democratic Candidate, former State Senator Pedro Espada, has caucused with the Republicans in the past…."

On September 7th, I reiterated this point:

"It’s been clear that the Republican plan is to take the Majority Leadership whether they have the majority or not. Already, two Senate Dems (Carl Kruger and Ruben Diaz) have refused to commit to support the Democratic candidate for leader (whoever they may be)."

Further the primaries feature candidates who’ve also refused to commit (Kendall Stewart), have conferenced with the Republicans previously (Pedro Espada)…, have previously flirted with the Senate Republicans (Hiram Monserrate)…"

The assertions about Monseratte inspired some contention:

"oh please stop pushing this monseratte as a crypto-republican line. even if you see him as craven, what future could he possibly have siding with the republicans? he'll be one of the most reliable votes and outspoken voices we'll have in the chamber."

To which I responded: "I'm not pushing a line about Monserrate, I'm just stating a fact. I hope you are right."

When I recently did an article pointing out the failure of Republicans to run local candidates, I took note that among those who had no GOP challenger were Kruger, Diaz and Espada. Why run a cow when you’re already getting the milk for free (or in Kruger’s case, for a big lulu and a few hundred grand in member items)?

But chastened by the criticism I’d gotten, I failed to note they’d also taken a dive on Monserrate.

Yes, Governor Paterson, who’d eased out Monserrate’s opponent, incumbent John Sabini, by giving him a job, had earlier made a job offer to Darrel Aubertine, the Senate Democrat with the seat most likely to go Republican in the event of a vacancy, and had also appeared on Joe Robach’s radio show; and yes, the Queens Democratic Organization had a history of taking dives in State Senate races. But the Queens Organization held a controlling interest in Senate Dem Leader Malcolm Smith and thought greed was good; and Paterson might have never seen the rain, but was still a weatherman who knew which way the wind blows, so their efforts to ease out Sabina in favor of Monserrate looked merely to be smart politics which ensured that the mercurial Monserrate was down with the program. To be clear, I think that was actually what they intended.

But, yesterday came a report from Liz Benjamin that Espada, Kruger, Diaz and Monserrate have set up an "independent caucus" hoping to capitalize on their status as potential state Senate kingmakers. "Maybe it’s four or five", said Espada, "that could be decisive on many issues." Espada also hinted at worse, "the potential for one or two others that I can’t stipulate to right now."

It’s hard to see what these "Independents" have in common. Kruger is a political animal both cold blooded and hot tempered, who swings to the moderate right and likes to play Super Jew, while Espada, who flails to the far left, is an associate of the psychotic and anti-Semitic Newman-Fulani cult. Espada once lost his seat to Diaz, a member of the Christian Right on social issues like abortion and sexual orientation, but a left populist on economics. By contrast, Monserrate, an ex-cop, is a wild card, seemingly more interested in bloviation that ideological consistency (not that the two are necessarily incompatible).

The only thing all share is a fondness for perks and member items, in all but Kruger‘s case usually going to groups they personally control; in fact, Espada was once indicted for such things.

According to Espada, the purpose of creating an independent caucus is to bring to an end what he called the "dysfunctionality and polarization" in Albany. But these guys aren't really interested in ending dysfunctionality and polarization, what they’re interested in doing is creating dysfunctional and polarization and then exploiting them for personal and political gain (to be fair, Diaz, though interested in money and power, also has an ideological axe to grind, but given the ideology, I’m not sure that that’s an improvement).

But just to make things clear, I have no problem with this Gang of Four Horsemen of the Preposterous forming an internal bloc within the conference and taking sides in any leadership battle; such doings may actually be merited, although I’m not sure that this is the group I’d like to see at their forefront. My only proviso is that what happens in the conference, stays in the conference; one does not tell Sollozo what one is thinking or take sides against The Family unless one desires to be sleep with the fish, rather than leaving with the cannolis.

Typically, some of the wise men of the Albany Bi-Partisan Iron Triangle are using such antics to slowly ease out of their old argument that one-party government would eliminate the need for compromise in the legislative process (by eliminating gridlock) and are now instead screaming about potential gridlock, as if dysfunction were something new in Albany. And those wise men who are not trading in the old story for the new one are instead simultaneously peddling both at once (as per usual, the press has not noticed its own cognitive dissonance).

As I previously noted in response to this sort of nonsense, “with a one party government in Albany, everyone will know exactly who to blame. In divided government, pesky interest groups can be placated with ‘one-house bills,’ a shrug of the shoulders, and promises of better days to come. One party government means a time where the chickens will come home to roost, and payback will be a bitch. Suddenly, a lot of folks are going to expect all those poorly drafted, poorly conceived, ‘one-house bills’ to be enacted into law. For the most part, this won’t happen, because it can’t happen; but a lot of people rue the day when they are called to account for this.”

As I also noted, “in truth, resources are finite, and the means to attain them are finite as well. Political courage only goes so far, especially in a bad economy. In other states, facing similar problems, liberal Democrats were forced to become prudent and innovative while still embarking on a legislative agenda that advanced social and economic justice—not merely the ‘Just-us’ of public employee unions and other special interests, although surely they are entitled to fairness as well.”

Thanks to an economy which has gone from bad to worse, the chickens have returned from Capistrano early this year, anticipating a special session, and already Shelly Silver has telegraphed his punch. As I predicted, the prospects of a Democratic Senate is already putting an end to the Assembly’s tactic “of promising wine and roses and bringing home Ripple and dandelions.” Putsch is finally coming to shove and Democrats are going to have to make real choices rather than promising the world and delivering nothing. When Captain Hook is finally dead and buried and Dean’s Doghouse boarded up, Peter Pan is finally going to have to grow up.

I wish I could say they’ll the right choices. I was hoping that waking up and smelling the coffee would mean innovative ideas like combining the unpleasant medicine of fiscal conservatism with the radical solution of a modest millionaire’s tax, showing that facing reality knows no ideology, or maybe that it knows all.

Instead Speaker Silver, now faced with a possibility that such a tax is more than just a one-house bill he could promise to the suckers, like strawberries and cream, come the revolution, has abandoned progressive taxation at a time when it will probably prove most necessary.

Nonetheless, Silver’s craven cowardice does have the virtue of proving untrue the chicken-little like warnings of imbeciles like Michael Goodwin. Noneteless, they persist; this week,  the Newsday Editorial Board discredited itself by its endorsement for essentially keeping a local Senate seat (the one currently unoccupied by Caesar Trunzo) vacant as a more palatable alternative to letting it go Democratic. 

In a better world, these calls for the continuation of NYS's self-dealing, Board of Elections-style Bi-Partisanship, as if it were some sort of Platonic ideal, would be confined to the semi-delusional ravings of crack-pots; instead they are the pronouncenment of "respectable opinion" delivered from on-high by those far too invested in the nation’s most discredited status quo outside of Alaska.

Clearly, the only solution is to elect a Senate with Democratic margin wide enough so that the "Independent Caucus" will fit inside as they come crawling back for admission on their hands and knees.