There are still elements to this case that are unfolding, and nobody involved – if they’re wise about the legal process - will say anything much. There are two disturbing elements to last week’s FBI sting claiming that a state senator, a councilman, a Queens GOP vice chair, and a Bronx GOP chair, were involved in a political pay-to-play situation.
The first is that the two elected officials had potentially promising futures, and now that has all been jeopardized…if not finished. Statements from all sides are the same, “(Insert name) is sure that after all is settled, (Insert name) will be vindicated.”
Ah, the spin. In reality, it is not the amount of money or the opportunism, it is the ugliness of a story like this that lingers. Even if they had acted legally, it is ugly. In modern American politics, ugliness is just as much of a death knell than extra-legal activity (well, almost as much).
It is no secret that the Republican Party line has become a diving board for Democrats that do not want to endure a competitive primary. There is no problem with the GOP siding with the occasional Democrat if the issues are a good fit.
What makes this strange is that these are people who normally do not have much in common, politically speaking anyway. Almost like a pastiche of awkward superheroes, there is a centrist Democrat, a libertarian Republican, a GOP operative (who actually works for another mayoral candidate), and a GOP leader from a borough where there are less Republicans than anywhere else in the city.
What was supposed to happen if everything went right for them? There is a reason nobody robs trains anymore - there is just no point to it.
A second unfortunate aspect to a story like this is that it gives the general public the notion that this is par for the course, and it is not. Facebook and other social networks were lit up with comments like “they all do it.”
If they all did it, there would be more upset elections. It would actually work more often. It is the battle cry of the politically uninformed to suggest that they all do it. They do not all work across political lines to secure ballot access for money. Those who feel that all politicians are secretly scheming to sidestep elections are jumping the gun.
What should the city do in light of this? This could be a good time to revisit the mayor’s idea about nonpartisan general elections, where ballots do not have a party notation. The top two finishers in a general primary go on to face each other in a general election. There is no buying the line or drumming up leadership support.
The city put the idea of nonpartisan elections on the ballot last time in an off-election year. It needs to be explored in a major citywide election. City Hall has wanted another chance to get this on the ballot, and this is a good opportunity to introduce this process again.