Friday, October 17, 2008

Columny Against Anti-Democratic Coup

Clyde Haberman continues his pointed critique of the "backroom deal" between the mayor and the speaker to usurp the will of the voters: "This week, Ms. Quinn made it clear that she would be Mr. Bloomberg’s chief enabler in the Council to push through a voter-dodging bill that would stretch the limit to three terms. The bill goes by the nondescript title of Proposed Intro No. 845-A. You may reasonably think of it as the Incumbency Protection Act of 2008."

But, as Haberman reminds us, "Both the mayor and the speaker bristle at suggestions that theirs is “a backroom deal.” They may be right. Who knows what room the deal was made in? But they definitely have, shall we say, an understanding." Our view is that the backroom nature of the deal is so transparent that it might have been negotiated in plain sight; reminding us of Theodore Lowi's aphorism: "The law in all of its majesty, punishes the thief who steals the goose from off of the common, but lets the greater felon loose, who steals the common from the goose."

And it helps to make haste when you're absconding with the folks most precious possession-their democratic voice: "Typically on so highly sensitive an issue, with nothing less than the democratic process on the line, many hearings are held, often with at least one in every borough. But this is a rush job. The full Council may vote on the matter next week. The bill is moving like an express train. It might as well be called the Bloomberg Unlimited."

Haberman continues in rare form-a unique kind of high ironic outrage. Here he wryly observes just how disingenuous the self referential Bloomberg is: "Then on Wednesday, having rejected holding a third voter referendum on New York’s electoral process, Mr. Bloomberg flew to Los Angeles to support a referendum that would change how Californians elect their public officials. He was not amused when someone pointed out the contrast. Chalk it off to a sudden bout of irony deficiency anemia."

Continuing in this vein, he observes that the mayor's partnership with the speaker has lead him to see things about his junior partner that no one else has yet been able to discern-true love, in this case onanism, is truly blinding: "In lavishly praising Ms. Quinn, Mr. Bloomberg used some intriguing language on Monday. Were she not in government, he said, she “would have enormous opportunities in the private sector as well as the public sector.” Until the billionaire businessman-turned-politician uttered those words, no one had talked about Ms. Quinn in any kind of role beyond government service."

In our view, this lavishness has an ulterior motive that hasn't been mentioned: it signals to the speaker that, should she happen to fall because of her slavish devotion to the cause, there will be a place for her in the Bloomberg empire-a variant of the Lauder detente.

In the end, Haberman underscores just how this exercise in the ox goring of the folks is anti-democratic: "Oh, yes, we haven’t forgotten the civics quiz. Here’s another hint: Ten months ago, Mr. Chávez of Venezuela held a referendum on his attempt to increase his considerable power by, among other things, ending term limits. He lost. In the last few days, a few critics of Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Quinn have cited Venezuela’s experience. Generally speaking, any day when New York’s leaders are compared unfavorably with Hugo Chávez is probably not a good day."