Sunday, June 14, 2009

"Which Way Will He Go, Which Way Will He Go?

Since the senate coup status increasingly resembles that of a cartoon, we thought that the title of this post would most appropriately reflect the current uncertainty over the direction that Hiram Monserrate will take when the sun rises tomorrow. But Monserrate, for his part, sees the situation more in terms of psychodrama: "As the man at the center of the chaotic storm in Albany, who is being fought over by Republicans and Democrats, Monserrate is walking a fine line. In the relatively brief phone call, he offered words of support for a Republican-dominated coalition majority in the Senate, while at the same time suggesting that he might return to the Democratic conference."

But who really knows what the mercurial Monserrate will do-even if he himself knows how he will move forward as we await the court's decision in the morning; although he did appear to be relatively sanguine about the expected ascension of John Sampson as the news Democratic leader: "“At this point, nothing has changed,” said Monserrate, who joined fellow Senate Democratic dissident Pedro Espada Jr. to overturn the Democratic majority in the chamber last week. “There will be a resolution very soon.”He seemed to be laying the groundwork to rejoin the Democrats, characterizing the turmoil he helped orchestrate as a catalyst for change among Democrats. “The Democrats today in the New York State Senate are more unified than they ever have been,” he said.

In the meantime, though, there is a feeling in the capitol that more chaos will reign before order is eventually restored. As the NY Times reports, there appears to be no political center that can hold so that further unraveling is more than likely: "Last week’s coup may signal the final breakdown of New York’s long-declining political order, in which governors and senators were once feared and powerful county leaders provided a check on ethnic feuds or individual ambition. Even veterans of New York’s rough-and-tumble political scene seemed shocked at the revolt, which left the balance of state power in the hands of two freshman senators, Pedro Espada Jr. and Hiram Monserrate, and a rogue billionaire, Tom Golisano, who helped organize their defection."

Which means that any tidy resolution of the leadership battle-let alone resolution for some important political issues-may not be imminent: "The Democratic Party is dominant here, but it lacks a strong central figure with the stature, authority or will to impose discipline. The Republican Party is cohesive, but shrinking. The result, some say, is a virtual free-for-all of opportunism and self-dealing. “It’s like feudal Japan,” said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “There’s a weak emperor and strong warlords.”

Which is precisely the kind of chaos that the Buffalo News' Tom Precious sees coming down the pike (via Liz): "If you thought the past week at the state Capitol was insane, buckle up. A nightmare scenario is developing in which the Senate could find itself in a 31-31 split between warring partisan factions with—thanks to Eliot Spitzer’s sexual liaisons—no lieutenant governor in office to break the tie. With one of two Democrats involved in this week’s GOP-led coup wavering under pressure to rejoin the Democratic conference, the sides are already quietly discussing among themselves how the business of government might get done if a deadlock is created."

As if it wasn't hard enough to get issues resolved in the previous 32-30 regime: "One veteran Senate staffer said there is no chance the sides could agree to a formal, long-term power sharing deal. “These guys would have knives out for each other at every turn,” the source said. “Everything would be on the short-term, emergency kind of power sharing. And the only way to make it work is to get two or four people in a room and agree to do x, y and z bills just for these coming weeks,” the source added."

But all that depends on what kind of decision Hiram Monserrate makes tomorrow. Imagine that; the fate of the state-as well as his own-is in Hiram's hands. Stay tuned.