Friday, February 29, 2008

Welcoming the One-Party State!

The news that a Democrat has captured a seat in the New York State senate this week in a special election in the Watertown area, becoming the first Democrat to win in the area for a century is the big news in Albany this week. With a 32-30 majority in the senate, the effective lead of the Republicans is down to one, one change and the lieutenant governor will be able to break the tie, and reorganize the senate for the Dems. The disgusting gerrymander of the senate that has prevailed for three decades, and with the population trends in the state being what they are, will be ending sooner or later, and probably sooner.

As a Democratic partisan, I think this would be a good thing, but I think it would be even better for the state as a whole, regardless of party affiliation—the thirty years of ossification of Republican control of the Senate and Democratic control of the assembly has basically killed representative government in the state, and reduced politics to backroom negotiations between cliques. A Democratic senate would be such an electrifying change that its consequences would be hard to predict, but it no doubt be salutary. Rather than having their own little fiefdoms, Democrats in the assembly, and Republicans in the senate, the two parties would have to actually negotiate and try to convince fellow members of the correctness of their positions, rather than just blocking the efforts of the other branch. I suspect the power of the Speaker and Senate majority leader would be lessened, and minority rights would have to be broadened. The two parties would have to increase their geographic scope—upstate interests would no longer be automatically protected by voting for Republicans, as state senators have been trying to convince upstate voters for decades, and raise the fear of NYC dominance. And Democrats, to create a lasting majority will have to go beyond the identification of their party with downstate. The geographic identity of the two parties, which have been locked in place for decades, can finally be seriously challenged. Perhaps the two branches of the legislature will finally learn to work together, and establish a genuine committee structure.

Who knows? Would I be so happy if the Republicans were about the capture control of both branches of the legislature? Probably not, but Republicans are never going to win the assembly, and I think ending the division of the legislature would be a positive development however it worked out. But it will be Democrats that will soon control of the governor's mansion, and the legislature. All of this is probably wildly overoptimistic, but I for one relish the prospects and possibilities of living in a one-party state. May its day be hastened.

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