How do we get Joe Bruno out of office in a meaningful way?
Over the weekend, Simon of Living in Dryden posted a good expression of the basic question we need to be asking ourselves in the wake of the Bruno-Spitzer scandal (for truly, the whole sorry thing is a scandal worthy of both their names, I think).
I’m not quite ready to give up on New York State government, but I think it’s time to start looking for options that break out of the usual “seize power and make a change” story in New York. I’m not yet sure what that would be, but I’m afraid it’s probably going to mean electing people willing to sacrifice their own power in favor of changing the way New York State runs. There’s aren’t nearly enough of those people, they’re rarely politicians, and voters often don’t like that storyline – but I don’t see other options that are likely to work.
ToddNYC, a commenter at The Albany Project, where Simon crossposted his article, points out:
Ironically, the only chance of institutional change in the Senate is during the short window when Bruno knows he’s lost and before the Dems take control. That’s when he will have both the incentives and the power to effect real change. The progressives who are committed to change should recognize the real-politik opportunity here to set that up. Talk with Bruno.
Partisanship of course isn’t going to help concerned people attack the roots of dysfunction in New York. I don’t even need to really argue that too much — so many people, Republican and Democrat, already know this. Posting press releases for Democratic Senate hopefuls is a waste of time, when we know full well that the New York State Democratic Party is hardly the party of reform, and neither is the NYSGOP. We know that one-party control of the Legislature is not going to magically produce legislators who are willing to fight for the people’s right to get rid of them (via campaign finance reform, an end to gerrymandering, or even basic rules changes in their own houses). If anything, it could make matters worse. Indeed, trying to elect Democrats to the Senate could be highly counterproductive for reform — if nothing is done to force the people’s business upon them.
I think ToddNYC could be right. You have to play with the pieces that are on the board, and I suspect it’s true that the only real hope the people of New York have for the basic building blocks of reform (such as real rules reform in the Senate, for example) is to get someone backed into such a corner that he goes out in a slash-and-burn blaze of glory of last-minute reforms designed to make the opposing party howl. No thanks to Eliot Spitzer and his band of merry men, now Joe Bruno is most decidedly not backed into that corner.
I am trying to get over my irritation that ordinary people with ordinary resources now have to do Spitzer’s work for him. But fortunately, Rochester Turning is embarking on that task unfazed. See this intriguing post on Joe Bruno and campaign contribution weirdness.
But even that sort of digging isn’t enough to help pull off this particular maneuver. It isn’t enough for a blog (or journalists) to simply play the bad guy; as ToddNYC points out, Bruno’s also got to be talked to. Someone’s got to persuade him — at the right time — to think of his legacy. (No, not as the savior of the people of the state of New York obviously — he doesn’t care about that — but as someone who could be legendary for screwing up the Democrats’ one-party rule with all that reform, at least in the Senate.) First, we’ve got to escort him back to his political deathbed, a task that Spitzer has just made harder. But then someone’s got to get him to listen, on his political deathbed, to the scores of voters, including so many from his own region and own side of the aisle, who have been screaming for the specific, basic reforms we can all agree on as New Yorkers. We need someone to play the good cop.
Now, those press releases for Democratic candidates do serve their purpose, as nothing will happen until one party is poised to take control of the Legislature. We need Bruno out of there… but maybe we can get him out of there in a meaningful way. Maybe we can persuade him to blow it all to hell, and let the voters sort it out.