Case in point: Rockefeller Drug Laws. It is true that last year Mr. Silver’s house passed a one-house reform of these immensely destructive laws. However, as Mr. Cantor knows full well, for the better part of this decade Silver has used his outsized powers to prevent such legislation from even coming to a vote – even as Joe Bruno’s reactionary State Senate took the lead.
Case in point: Marriage Equality. Last year Silver did eventually pass a one house marriage equality bill. Yet for years Silver barred LGBT members of the Assembly from even sponsoring Marriage Equality legislation. His reasoning, as always, is difficult to discern. But his tactic of controlling other (Democratic) legislators’ actions through his complete control of member items, staff budgets, committee appointments and even salaries is all too obvious.
Case in point: Campaign Finance Reform. Mr. Cantor’s argument is perhaps most absurd when he claims that Sheldon Silver is an advocate for Clean Money Clean Elections public financing. Silver has collected over $11 million dollars in special interest contributions in the past few years – most of it in unregulated “soft-money” to “housekeeping accounts”. Silver takes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from developers like Bruce Ratner – and shamelessly returns the favor with multi-million dollar giveaways like the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. To argue that Sheldon Silver, of all people, would suddenly want to end the rivers of money that sustain his power if (and when) we flip the State Senate is, to put it mildly, “politically naïve”.
But the details of who supported what bill when misses the point. Sheldon Silver and Joe Bruno preside in tandem over the most opaque, dysfunctional and undemocratic state legislature in the country. In doing so, they lock 19 million New Yorkers out of the room in which our state is governed. In one of the bluest states in the nation, a return to democracy would almost surely mean a return to New York as a leader, not a laggard, in progressive legislation. Look at the leadership New Jersey (a significantly less progressive state) has shown as the party machine has lost its grip on Trenton.
Mr. Cantor argues that Mr. Silver’s obstructionism was valuable when the other parties in the debate were notably corrupt Republicans. This is only true if one assumes that the 108 Democratic members of NY’s 150 member Assembly are conservatives. They are not. Replacing Sheldon Silver would not give us a Republican or even Blue-Dog Speaker. Replacing Sheldon Silver will give us a progressive, reform-minded Democratic Speaker.
Mr. Cantor also assumes that Albany’s broken system is the only possible world. Because any truly democratic system in NY State would surely be a Democratic system – and a progressive one at that. NY is an overwhelmingly blue state and trending bluer all the time. Indeed, even were New York City removed from NYS, we would still have a healthy registration advantage. The large majority of New Yorkers support Marriage Equality, Drug Policy Reform, funding for affordable housing, and accountable government.
Yet we continue to lose on these issues. Why? Because when only 3 men in a secret room determine all policy, the voters are left out. The only way New Yorkers will take our government back is at the ballot box.
Reform, Cantor appears to argue, should be demanded only from those politicians unable to deliver it. If we allow NY's most powerful Democrat to continue collecting millions from developers, if we allow every important policy decision to be decided in a smoke filled room, if we allow legislative leadership to have total control of the agenda, what is the point of reform?
Mr. Cantor claims to be unacquainted with blog culture. Fine. I humbly suggest that he learn a bit about the work and research of a community of active, intelligent progressives nationwide before he accuses them of being “intellectually shallow and politically naive”. WFP may view its roll as an advocate within a corrupt system – required to scratch the backs of the powerful to plead the case of the ignored. The netroots is adamantly committed to “crashing the gates”. Both strategies are valid and needed.
But “Better than Joe Bruno” does not and should not cut it with a community committed to more and better Democrats. Nor does it cut it with Lower Manhattanies.
I appreciated Mr. Cantor’s suggestion that the netroots “meet with tenant and union leaders, with the public financing of elections crowd, with LGBT advocates.” I am confident that, so long as these meetings are held off the record and without fear of reprisal, they will find great dissatisfaction among activists with Sheldon Silver and the New York Democratic Party more generally. In addition to meeting with activists, I have also spoken to thousands of Lower Manhattanites in this campaign. They have no doubt that Albany is broken – and that Sheldon Silver is part of the problem.
Sheldon Silver may not, as Mr. Cantor points out, offer “glitter”. His $11 million dollars of special interest money do not require it.
I also do not offer glitter, as anyone who encounters my campaign will tell you. I do offer a genuine progressive voice, a commitment to the concerns of Lower Manhattanites and working New Yorkers, and a real chance at reform.
I am proud to have BlogPAC’s endorsement.
Democrat for Assembly, 64th District of New York