Alan Chartock’s The Capitol Connection: There are rules in politics


We all know that there are rules in politics and some of them are really disgusting. This country is drifting away from an ideal model of democracy tempered by minority rights. It is up to the leadership to put their obligation to do the right thing above their own political needs.

As we just saw in the tumultuous fight over the seating of Brett Kavanaugh on the United States Supreme Court, political courage is in short supply. Senator Susan Collins of Maine comes to mind when one is looking for an illustration of political hypocrisy. She would at heart rather remain Senator than do what’s right. She says that she voted for Kavanaugh because he had assured her that Rowe V Wade was considered “established law.” Would you like to stake your retirement account that he’ll be there when the court starts to eat away at a woman’s right to self-determination?

It is quite clear that the Republicans in this country are fiercely in favor of both Donald Trump and certain Republican principles. As people of privilege, these voters, representing about forty percent of the country, are the children of the children of the children of the Civil War. You can see it in what they say they want. For example, they want guns to protect themselves against the almost non-existent home invaders. Think of Emmet Till who was lynched after having been accused of offending a white woman in her family’s store and you get the picture. Frankly, that’s the way they get some of the have-nots to come over to their side.

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Then there are those people of the FDR stripe. These are the folks who truly believe that the only way to have a country that lives in harmony is to make sure that everyone is treated fairly and frankly, benevolently. These are the folks who brought us civil rights and health care and fairness in mortgages. Many of these people are what we might call “haves.” As you read this column you have an opportunity to place yourself. Do you believe that someone with a little kid at home whose life could be saved with proper health care deserves health care as a right? How about the right of every child to be educated fairly so that when the child grows up she has equality of opportunity?

In order to get what they want in this political system, the Republican haves do everything they can do to rig our politics. For example, they capture state legislatures and then they gerrymander to their hearts’ content. In a so-called democracy, they draw districts where they can’t lose. They make sure that efforts that would encourage people to vote are discouraged. Same day registration or voting by mail are both on the list of no-no’s. In New York, for example, if one of these measures that would encourage or allow people to vote is proposed, the Republicans who control the Senate aren’t interested. The big “If” is whether the Democrats will change the rules when they take the so-called upper house. Don’t forget that even the Democrats got elected under the existing rules.

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Then there is the question of debates. Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo, like his father Mario before him, doesn’t want to screw up his huge lead with nasty old debates. Predictably, he has insisted that third party candidates be included in any debates. His opponent, Mark Molinaro, knows this is the kiss of death. Cuomo is so far ahead in the polls that he will not risk doing the right thing by agreeing to debate. The last thing he wants to deal with is questioning about his tenure so far, including the trail of corruption among his closest aides. Hypocrisy really knows no political party. If we look away, we deserve what we get. If we fight, we will overcome.



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