15 June 2009

New York: Senatorial Counter-coup

In the latest maneuver in the struggle to control the New York state senate, Hiram Monserrate, one of the two Democrats who defected to make a Republican the majority leader, now says he will resume caucusing with the Democrats, creating an even 31-31 deadlock in the upper house. His co-conspirator of last week says that Monserrate's decision does not reverse the result of last week's vote, which made him (Senator Espada) the president of the senate.

I wonder whether the real motive for last week's stunt, at least as far as the two senators were concerned (moneybags B. Thomas Golisano having his own motives) was to depose Senator Malcolm Smith as the majority leader, in the first place, and the leader of the Democratic caucus in the next. They have apparently disliked his leadership since the party took over the upper house, for whatever reason, and the upheaval seems likely to force a vote on Smith's standing within the party, which Monserrate is now in a position to influence. Smith seems to have few friends at this point, and it looks like no one will regret his fall from power. I would hate to think that race is at the base of this tempest, with Hispanic senators rebelling against a black leader, but one never knows. One might tell, however, from how the caucus conducts itself hereafter.

I'm also curious to see how partisans will respond to the apparent repentance and return to the fold of a man they had denounced as a despicable traitor last week, and who remains an alleged criminal. The conscientious approach might be to make Monseratte a man without a party and bar him from the caucus, but that probably isn't an option so long as his vote can make the difference on any bill. That's what partisanship reduces us to in New York State. It makes you wonder whether there's some other way that representative government can work to make scenes like those of the past week impossible or at least less likely. Politicians aren't going to help us with this one, so we'll have to figure it out ourselves.

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