Publisher’s Corner: Political apathy is a democracy killer

Legislative Gazette file photo

Some questions:

Why is Andrew Cuomo sending state help to the Virgin Islands after the recent hurricane?

Hey, as the saying goes, “It’s political.” As we all know, Andrew is positioning himself to run for president. He has executive experience as a two term governor but he doesn’t have any real international experience. Oh, he’s made the compulsory trips around the globe to visit the ancestral homes of his Jewish and Italian and Hispanic constituents and he has certainly encouraged and participated in trade delegations but helping the Virgin Islands after the disaster shows compassion. While I have heard some negative feedback concerning Cuomo’s motives, I think that he is playing the political odds correctly. His problem is that a lot of people don’t really like or trust him and see him as the ultimate political player.

Why don’t people know much about New York State politics and care less?

Political apathy is a killer when it comes to building democracy. People have busy lives and think of their politicians as they would of their plumbers and electricians. We hire them and then we say, “Don’t steal anything when you’re in the house.” The problem with politicians is that all too often they are bribable, either with tangible goods or even more importantly, with campaign contributions.

I love it when they are caught with their pants down and it is disclosed that they have taken money from someone with an unpleasant history. Then they have to decide whether to return the contribution or to give it to their favorite charity or even, heaven forbid, keep it because they think people won’t care or remember.

Think about the $26 million that Andrew has accumulated for his upcoming elections. Trust me, some of that money really has a foul odor to it. It is unfortunately true that once someone is elected to the Legislature, they are virtually certain of being reelected. One has to look no further than to Blue State New York where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans and wonder why the State Senate still remains in Republican hands. It’s all about the evil gerrymander in which the leaders of the Republican Senate and Democratic Assembly are allowed to draw districts where they have the best chance of winning. Not only is it disgusting, it reinforces people’s feelings that, “They’re all a bunch of crooks.”

Why is the question of whether to hold a constitutional convention heating up?

Every twenty years, voters in New York state have to make up their minds about whether or not to hold a constitutional convention. They seem to have differing opinions about the matter. No doubt about it — such a convention would cost a fortune. We could throw a lot more money to our schools and hospitals rather than wasting it on a futile meeting of politically connected individuals who will do what they are told by the powers that be.

On the other hand, hope springs eternal. What if we could have initiative and referendum? The voters could suggest laws by petition and then pass such a bill over the objections of the self-serving legislators who are all too often controlled by the same old same old politicians and political alliances. I have to confess that I have heard all too little about that possibility from the folks who are pushing what we are calling the Con-Con.

A second thing that might be great to come out of a convention would be limits on how long a legislator could serve. This idea is wildly popular with those polled on the matter. Just look at New York City where there are term limits. It would pass in a flash if people could vote on the idea but they’ll never get that chance. So some people like the idea of a constitutional convention because they buy the idea that things could actually change.