Is NYS politics at rock bottom? One veteran observer thinks so. Fred Dicker, state editor for the NY Post, says “Albany, I Give Up.” Dicker rues the day he began covering the state capital some 30 years ago. Albany today is “on the brink of ruin.” “We’re doomed,” Dicker concludes. He is referring of course to the fiasco taking place in the NY Senate which he points out achieved another new low by the Democrats bringing goons onto the floor of the Senate to keep the Republicans from seizing the podium.
Is there a solution?
Paul Elisha, a man who served under three governors and is former executive director of Common Cause, offered no solution in his interview with Susan Arbetter on WMHT’s New York Now. Elisha rejected the idea of a constitutional convention to fix what amounts to a constitutional crisis out of fear that politicians and special interests would dominate.
Between the two points of views – Dicker’s and Elisha’s – there is room for a long-term solution. I’ve no doubt that the Senators will eventually succumb to public pressure and find a way to accomplish this year’s necessary tasks. Once the short-term crisis is past, the Legislature must call a constitutional convention to deal with the lack of a provision to fill the vacancy when a lieutenant governor replaces a sitting governor.
Elisha’s fears stem from the failure of good government groups like Common Cause to understand representative government at a fundamental level. They don’t believe that elected officials should represent “special” interests. The problem is who is to decide which interests are special?
The fact is that no person is devoid of affiliations with interests nor should they be! The beauty of representative democracy is that it provides a means to resolve conflicts between interests that most of the time prevents wars and violence.
The exception comes in cases like we’re facing in New York where there is an absence of rules for resolving a conflict. One might think it’s the role of the courts to step in, but in our constitutional system the courts are reluctant to tell the legislative branch how it must operate and rightly so.
That’s why we need a constitutional convention. If possible, such a convention should be restricted to a set agenda, but even if that cannot be imposed, don’t fear the outcome. Special interests will collide and the political process will result in winners and losers, but if the past 233 years are any indication, the losers will not be thrown into prisons or sent off the continent in a boat without a sail and the winners will have to tone down their wildest dreams to pass muster with a skeptical electorate.