Monday, November 10, 2008

Hiram Jumps Ship: But Fat Lady Ain't Singing Yet

As Liz is reporting, senator-elect Hiram Monserrate has issued his own declaration of dependence-ditching the Gang of Four in exchange for some magic beans: "The deal was sealed late last night here in San Juan, according to the sources, who are both in Puerto Rico and back home in Albany and have been briefed on the details of the agreement. "He was losing leverage by the hour; there wasn't much more that he could extract," one source said. In exchange for his support, Monserrate will be tapped to head the Consumer Affairs Committee and also chair the new Latino caucus that Smith pledged to create in an effort to woo the three Hispanic Gang of Four members who felt their community has long been under-represented and under-appreciated by the Senate Democrats."

It's kinda sad to see the marine get mustered out for a lack of courage; and the idea that he was, "losing leverage by the hour," is just flat out wrong-the longer he held out the more leverage he ultimately had. In all likelihood, however, the wooing of Hiram-in essence, pursuing a divide and conquer strategy-could ultimately backfire; with the remaining three members feeling a real sense of betrayal.

The betrayal here comes from the fact that, on information and belief (as the lawyers say), none of the three were even told that Monserrate was negotiating for himself-utilizing the leverage created by others to cut his own deal without them. And since when does a "Hispanic" caucus have a chairman chosen by someone who's not even a member? (when it's a "muneco caucus," we believe)

What's instructive here is, as Liz points out, is the extent to which labor and the WFP controls Hiram and the Democratic caucus: "Monserrate's decision to support Smith doesn't come as an enormous surprise...Monserrate is close with a number of labor unions and also ran on the labor-backed Working Families Party line. Even though he has been a renegade as far as the Queens Democratic Party is concerned, backing a Republican for majority leader or even merely remaining neutral and allowing the GOP to remain in control would have been potential political suicide in his Democrat-dominated district."

But Liz, this challenge wasn't necessarily about making the Republicans whole; supposedly it was something more. And, isn't it interesting that Smith's Hispanic dissing apostasy in 2005 is considered Kosher, but Monserrate and the others are threatened with political Armageddon for lacking confidence in Malcolm Smith's leadership? One commenter on the blog underscores this dichotomy: "Hopefully, at some point (present or future), the Senate Dems will tell Kruger that he's unwelcome at the Dem conferences. Wash your hands of this nuisance. Screw him."

So the guy who supported Ferrer in both of his runs, and who has contributed $100,000 to the governor and the state party, is being bum rushed by ideologues who, if given their head, will gleefully bankrupt the state. The Monserrate defection may just free Kruger to be Kruger; prompting him to stand up for the tax paying home owners and small businesses that the "progressives" couldn't care less about. Watch for the law of unintended consequences here, especially if the Padavan vote holds.

But the episode does indicate that the Dems in the senate may becoming the wholly owned subsidiary of the WFP, et al; which is not a good thing for either the governor or New York's tax payers. As the fiscal mess worsens, and the special interests call in their chips, the three hold outs are still in good position; and wouldn't it be ironic if Hiram's committee went to a Republican?