Monday, December 01, 2008

Senate Leadership Issues

With the state in the midst of an economic meltdown, the issue of gay marriage has managed to move front and center in the fight to control the state senate. As the Politicker blog points out: "A forum about same-sex marriage last week at the L.G.B.T. Center in Chelsea earlier in the week turned into a pointed debate over how to respond to three rebellious Democrats in the State Senate..."

The disagreement was over strategy and tactics-with the head of the Empire State Pride Agenda, Alan Van Capelle, calling on the advocates to leave the rebel senators from the city alone, and to focus on the entire state: "Capelle said, “this is not a majority decision in this state” and that organizing in Manhattan was simply “wasting money.” In order to pick up the needed votes, “we have to be on Long Island, we have to be in Corning, we have to be in Rochester and Buffalo.” Capelle said the objections from Diaz and Espada were the outcomes of senate politics, and therefore, not persuadable by protests and public pressure."

Not everyone in the gay community agrees-and the compelling need to protest is hard to resist for some: “With all due respect as an activist,” said Jeff Campagna, who organized a major same-sex marriage protest outside City Hall recently, “I have a little problem with what you’re saying.” He said, “My solution is to call Ruben Diaz. And I’m angry at what he’s doing and I want to hold him accountable.” At that line, a few people in the crowd applauded. “Everybody here that called Ruben Diaz spent about two minutes doing that, and I don’t think that diminished their ability to go on your web site,” Campagna said."

All of which makes it hard for the Democrats to get their act together-and underscores the extent to which the party's special interest tail wags its policy dog; so that it even reflexively raises race when it doesn't apply-as it has in the Padavan recount: "The Democrats have accused the GOP of engaging in ethic profiling by systematically challenging the paper ballots cast by Latino and Asian American voters and refusing to challenge identical ballots cast by non-minority voters."

All of which is subtext to the fight over whether Malcolm Smith will lead the new Democratic majority. The continuing failure of Smith to lock down his support, gives impetus to all of the side issues; and the result is that the putative leader looks less capable of doing so.