Power is perishable

This item in today’s New York Times has NYC’s power brokers wondering why there are more “leaders” who have less ability to get things done.

Power broker, a title attributed to Theodore H. White, chronicler of presidential campaigns, had been replaced by what he dubbed “constellations of satrapies” — shifting coalitions dependent on process brokers skilled at navigating bureaucracy.

An old power broker observes:

“A whole generation has been brought up believing that leadership is out of place and in bad taste, that you have to find out what your people think first and that you can’t take a chance. If I wanted to do something today and was promised 10 people to make it happen, who would I pick? I’d be hard pressed. Because when you say, ‘What is power?’ one question is, ‘Is there power?’ ”

About 15 years ago a book (The United States of Ambition) was written by Alan Ehrenhalt, editor of Governing, that asked the same question. One of the chapters dealt with the Elefante machine of Utica and demonstrated that, even though it was corrupt, there was an efficient and functioning power structure in Utica at that time. Ehrenhalt moves on to presidential politics and concludes that power can disappear, or at least, fall through tiny cracks and evaporate. Or (taking Ehrenhalt’s conclusion further) perhaps it can pool somewhere hidden and be discovered by new strongmen.

Something for Malcolm Smith to consider as he brokers “power-sharing” deals. How much power remains to be parceled out? And does he really want to leave Upstaters at loose ends, with no illusion of being part of the network of ‘satrapies’?

3 Replies to “Power is perishable”

  1. Maybe one day these geniuses will figure out that “the system” has done this to itself … things have become so balkanized that it’s more difficult to get anything accomplished. Everybody is out for themselves.

  2. In spite of Mr. Elefante’s faults, Utica was a prosperous place during his era, and was a great place to grow up in. He even helped Rome land the Air Base way back when.

    Today’s power brokers are incompetent wannabees by comparison . . . They or their friends may do OK for themselves, but the community as a whole is paying for their benefits, and is in the gutter.

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