Poor arguments coming out of the NYSenate marriage vote

by: Adam Bink

Fri Dec 04, 2009 at 15:15


I've been doing some more thinking on the outcome of the NY Senate marriage vote, and there are some important emerging themes I want to respond to. In a later piece, I will have some organizing questions I'd like your thoughts on re what to do better.

1. The "This is all the Democrats' fault" meme. I have heard this in a dozen places privately, and yesterday, Democratic Sen. Tom Duane, the openly gay lead sponsor, said this at the NYC rally to protest the vote:

"I'm angry at the betrayal of people who are supposed to be standing up for our civil rights," Duane proclaimed as the crowd cheered. "The Democrats failed us in the Senate."

I think there are two important things to differentiate here. One is the mathematics. Yes, more Democrats voting for the bill would have "given Republicans cover" to get onboard. There is near-universal agreement on this and I don't dispute it.

But the second, and thing I want to zero in on, is the political culpability, which is what I have a problem with. There cannot be straight "This is all the Democrats' fault" rhetoric coming out of this. Non-stop "Democrats suck" risks hatred for both parties, particularly for less political people who are don't get the process part of this, and that is not helpful to anyone. And we only got this far because of New York Democrats. Spitzer campaigned on a pledge to submit a marriage bill in 2006. Paterson has been one of the most public and loud voices in the state pushing for it in special session for months. He was the one who issued the executive order granting recognition to out-of-state couples. Shelly Silver, the Dem Assembly Speaker, brought it up for a vote and it passed with mostly Democratic votes in the Democratic Assembly. It would have never come up for a vote in a Republican Senate- in fact, when Republicans controlled the Senate and Bruno was Majority Leader, he refused to bring it up even after the Assembly passed it. Now that 75% of the Senate Dem Caucus voted for the bill, and 0% of the Republican Caucus did, it's suddenly time for "Democrats suck! They're all to blame!" rhetoric?

I understand the optics around how Democrats give cover to Republicans. But we would have never had a vote under Republican leadership in the first place. And there has been too much "it's all their fault!" talk and not enough about how 0 Republicans went for this bill. There are vulnerable gasbags on both sides of the aisle, and you have to tell that story for the sake of the people listening.

2. How "This is all the Democrats' fault" leads to misuse of resources. This kind of blame game makes people think the grand solution to this problem is to just channel every resource into primarying the 8 Democrats and our problems will go away. This single-minded focus is not wise.

There is a target-rich environment here. The 30 Republicans do not all come from R+26 districts. Our side has to target vulnerable Republicans and find candidates to beat them who will be with us on marriage even when 8 of their caucus colleagues are not. At the congressional level, we beat lots of Republicans in 2006 and 2008, and many of the Democrats in their place vote our way on tough votes, even when in marginal districts, and even when 30 Blue Dogs vote against. You have to go district by district, not party by party.

3. How "Democrats from New York City" should be treated. There is a lot of special anger reserved at the 6 Dems from NYC districts who voted no, because the assumption is that because they're from NYC, known as an LGBT mecca, they are monolithically pro-LGBT. I don't think that's right at all. I spoke to one NYC State Senator who voted no on the phone before the vote, who told me straight up, "Adam, I gotta tell you, African-American churches elected me to this seat, and I gotta worry about them." That pretty much tells you what is foremost on most politicians' mind.

Here in DC, Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry voted no on the marriage bill. I would never call them "Democrats from DC" and blindly expect them to be as progressive as they come. They come from Wards 7 and 8, which are 97% and 93% black, much more heavily religious, have the lowest incomes of any wards, the lowest percentage of people with college degrees of any wards. They do not exactly represent Dupont Circle or Chelsea or anything close to it, so I don't know why anyone would expect them- or NYC Dems from similar districts- to be automatically pro-marriage equality. Maybe it's those kinds of assumptions that led our leaders to think we had the votes when we didn't.

I don't excuse the NYC Dems' votes, and some of them should have voted yes, but my point is we need to think of Senators as Senators from a district, not from a giant city.

Adam Bink :: Poor arguments coming out of the NYSenate marriage vote

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I still want names (4.00 / 1)
I think Duane ought to give us the names of those Senators who promised to vote yes and broke their promise to him. There has got to be some consequence for their lying and for setting up the entire LGBT community for a humiliating backstab. Duane should not be protecting them by keeping their names secret.

Of the Republicans? (4.00 / 2)
Alesi, Little, Lanza and Owen Johnson

Of the Democrats; Monserrate, Kruger, Stanchowski, and almost certainly Addabbo and Huntley who became targets of the churches in their districts.


[ Parent ]
The bigger issue of course (4.00 / 2)
is the complete disaster that is New York State government and the Senate in particular. The marriage equality vote was just a sample of the wide ranging problems we have.

It is indeed a target rich environment starting with all 30 Republicans.

Unlike the US Senate where Democrats seem to feel 60 out of 100 is not enough to govern, the 32 out of 62 in the New York State Senate is in fact not enough of a majority to actually be a majority... as events in the June coup showed all too disgustingly.

The biggest problem with the Democratic side of the equality vote was the failure of leadership that it showed (again).

As you may have heard there is a solid group of New York based activists, campaign veterans and the like that have formed a new organization called RebootNY.org. Our website is being built but we have a placeholder up where folks can sign up for news and updates as well as contribute to our startup fund.


New York State government is a disgrace. The State Senate, in particular, is a disaster. Senators fight over power and personal privilege to the exclusion of all else.

RebootNY.org's mission is to rebuild state government, starting with the Senate. We are working to elect new, honest, ethical leaders committed to reform so that elected officials can focus on their true mission; solving New York's desperate problems and making New York the best it can be.

One of the Democrats that voted no is Sen. Hiram Monserrate who just a few hours ago was sentenced to 3 years probation for slashing his girlfriends face with a broken glass. More on that and on the mess that is the New York State Senate at The Albany Project.  


This Senator (0.00 / 0)
I spoke to one NYC State Senator who voted no on the phone before the vote, who told me straight up, "Adam, I gotta tell you, African-American churches elected me to this seat, and I gotta worry about them."

This Senator is right that those churches got her elected, she barely won a primary against a contrversial incumbent (who was also a bigot btw) and is looking for any reason to get her job back.

Addabbo also has a church people, the Catholic Church put their support behind a Republican for his council seat and the Republican CREAMED the Democrat, who was Addabbo's Chief of Staff and a very progressive Democrat.


If you're talking about Huntley (0.00 / 0)
and clearly you are, that's a load of nonsense.  Huntley comes across as practically a bigot.  Maya Angelou called her to ask her to vote for marriage equality and she made some pretty ridiculous comments including "even if they paid me a million dollars I wouldn't vote for it."  I never believed Huntley would vote yes but let's not shield her decision and her attitude towards marriage equality on the basis of Black churches in Southeast Queens.

[ Parent ]
Still (0.00 / 0)
those black churches in Southeast Queens did have a lot to do with Huntley's election and are very anti-gay rights.

This is Floyd Flake's home turf.

another words, don't expect someone more progressive to even stand a chance in this district.  


[ Parent ]
Not saying someone progressive stands a chance (0.00 / 0)
But Ada Smith dug her own grave with her personal conduct.  It's not as though she was being punished for being too liberal.  Similarly, there has been no talk about Huntley getting challenged by anyone.  At least we all know Addabbo is in for a tough race.

[ Parent ]
A tough race against who? (0.00 / 0)
Certainly not a primary. Addabbo can never be successfully primaried. I live in his district, there is very little, if any, LGBT community and even those who support same-sex marriage are going to let this slide.

He's also sitting on a multi-million dollar warchest that he was supposedly saving for Weiner's seat in Congress (which I think is off the table now)


[ Parent ]
General (0.00 / 0)
I think it's fair for him to think he'll have a tough general election race if Ulrich.  Definitely not a primary.

[ Parent ]
yeah (0.00 / 0)
and unfortunately he needs the Catholic Church to win, anad Ulrich has the churches in Southwest Queens wrapped around his finger, and with it, at least half the vote of the 15th SD. LGBT rights activists are irrelevant, perhaps even an albatross for Addabbo. He knows that.

It's very very unfortunate, but I've lived here for a really long time, I have a good sense of this district. Remember, it was drawn for a conservative Republican.  


[ Parent ]
I just want to mention one more time (0.00 / 0)
Addabbo's base aren't progressive at all. I was at this victory party last November. The only person more popular than him among his supporters there was Sarah Palin.

These are not progressive Democrats.  


[ Parent ]
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