Do-It-Yourself Politics: Political Punk

In a post on the "coup" in the New York State Senate, I noted the absurdity of a New York Times editorial calling on New Yorkers to . . .
toss all of these bozos out of office, regardless of whether the incumbent is a Democrat or a Republican, friend or foe. It is the responsibility of both parties to recruit candidates for the primaries to give voters a choice.
Taking this thought to its illogical conclusion, the Times editorialists would have the people of New York replace the thirty-one sitting Democratic State Senators with thirty-one new Republican State Senators, and the thirty-one sitting Republican State Senators with thirty-one Democratic State Senators. In other words, the 'voters' revolt' conceived by the New York Times would literally do absolutely nothing to change the power dynamics in the state Senate, and provides us with yet another example of how duopoly ideology allows for just enough change to ensure that everything will remain the same. Fortunately, not all authors of editorials in New York are as dense as those at the Times. In the NY Daily News, Arthur Levine calls on New Yorkers to "wipe the slate clean" in the state government and bring a new party into play in the New York legislature:
the citizens of New York should be deeply ashamed if we reelect a single member of the current Senate - whether they finally manage to end the stalemate or not. They have already proven both how self-serving they are and how little regard they have for the people they represent. More than another call to throw out the rascals, what I am suggesting is the creation of a new centrist political party, which could be accomplished in time to contest the 2010 election. This, of course, is difficult in New York's frustrating and self-protective electoral system. But it should not be thought of as a fantastic suggestion borne of frustration.
In his search for the new leaders of such a movement, however, the author is much less imaginative:

There are many candidates for the job in government, business and the nonprofit world. Former Mayor Ed Koch has volunteered to lead such a movement. A business leader could step up. Mayor Bloomberg - successful in straddling both parties, known for his independence, and already inclined to consider a centrist third party when he weighed a run for President in 2008 - may be ideally positioned. Whoever is to lead, someone must act, and act now.

An editorial in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, on the other hand, prefers a bottum-up multi-party strategy unlike that proposed by Levine. Dennis Holt writes:

Does anyone believe that these clowns in Albany will vote for something that can cost them their jobs? No, another approach is needed. And there is one. It’s the most difficult to achieve, the most tedious but also the most democratic. Individuals as well as all kinds of groups must get together to establish a “voters’” party, or anything else one wants to call it, with a single purpose: To be able to field by November 2010, a single candidate in each Senate seat in the state to oppose every single incumbent. The hard part, of course, is that this effort must go beyond the two-party system. Every Senate incumbent, every one, is guilty of malfeasance; and every one, every one, must be replaced. The idea is not to create a new political party, but, if only for one time, to create a new political force. The kind of madness we have witnessed must never be allowed to happen again. The democratic process permits this type of effort to exist and it is the one way that the people can fight back.

Obviously, the ideal solution would be to recruit effective leaders through engaged and sustained citizen activism. Levine's plea -"whoever is to lead, someone must act, and act now"- demonstrates the extent to which the citizens of the United States have been demoralized and politically castrated by the reigning two-party system. Nothing will change in our politics until the pathetic and ever-unheeded calls for "someone" to do "something" lead to the realization of the old truth which states that if you want something done right, you'd better do it yourself.


Samuel Wilson said...

Kudos to Holt. New Yorkers need to get together in each county, starting at the neighborhood level, to nominate their own candidates, perhaps even from their own ranks. As long as their candidates are chosen for them, democracy in America is as compromised as democracy in Iran

Michael said...

Awesome post, Damon! Tomorrow in the Town of Rotterdam, "someone" will begin to do "something."

I don't believe that the effective leaders of the movement needed will come from names we know, like Bloomberg, though they will certainly try to capitalize on the sentiment. Real progress will be borne from "unknowns."

d.eris said...

Thanks, Michael. The "unknowns" are everywhere and nowhere. With even just a minimal amount of local organizing, they may well come out of the woodwork. The neighborhood level, as Sam suggests, is the 'natural' starting point.

Michael said...

Levine makes an important observation when he states, "whoever is to lead, someone must act, and act now." The specific application in the NYS debacle is exactly the lack of actionable leadership. NO ONE in the ranks has stepped up to say, "this nonsense is unacceptable." All of the senators are elected but nobody has the courage to stand up against this continuing travesty. In the larger context, action is always the key. Too many times great ideas or thoughts are hatched but the people behind them don't have the fortitude to take the necessary action to realize them. They are content to just continually verbalize them only until they wither on the vine because no one took action. I've witnessed that firsthand. It may have been my most productive lesson. If you want something done, do it. I consider myself a man of action. That wasn't always true. As far as "recruiting" leaders goes, I don't really get behind that notion. Leaders emerge, they're not recruited. That emergence is a direct result of their passion for the task and their ability to take decisive action.

d.eris said...

"NO ONE in the ranks has stepped up." Despite the severity of the situation, this does not really surprise me. I think some would if there were enough pressure coming from the public, in whatever form, i.e. phone calls, emails, actual demonstrations outside their offices. But this does not seem to be happening. My sense is that people are fed up, but also feel powerless to change anything, and at the same time, maybe many have even come to the conclusion that the deadlock isn't such a bad thing after all: if the legislature can't get anything done, then they can't screw anything else up either.