In an op-ed piece scheduled to run in the Journal News tomorrow, the leaders of the Working Families Party and Citizen Action urge the four-member Independent Democratic Conference to stick with Democrats in the state Senate and avoid a coalition with Republicans.
The labor-backed groups supported the IDC members on Election Day, but are saying that if the members go with the Republicans as part of a coalition government, “their solution violates a core principle of democracy: namely, that the will of the voters is paramount.”
The opinion piece is written by Dan Cantor, the executive director of the Working Families Party, and Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York and a co-chair of the Working Families Party.
Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, told Gannett’s Albany Bureau that the IDC isn’t looking to boost the Republicans, but instead wants to become a permanent third conference in the Senate.
But for liberal groups and unions, a coalition government could mean that Republicans retain their hold on the Senate and thwart the groups’ efforts on a host of issues. The control of the Senate is undecided as a key race heads to court today.
Klein said a coalition government would achieve many of the liberals’ goals — such as a minimum-wage increase and campaign-finance reform.
Here’s the op-ed piece:
State Senator Jeff Klein and the three other members of the “Independent Democratic Conference,” each of whom has also enjoyed WFP support in the past, are making waves in state politics. With control of the State Senate still uncertain for a few more weeks, the IDC’s leader and members argue that a “coalition government” between the IDC and the Senate Republicans will bring effective governance to the state.
It sounds credible at first hearing. Bi-partisanship has a nice ring to it. Politicians should stop “bickering” and just make compromises with each other.
But their solution violates a core principle of democracy: namely, that the will of the voters is paramount. Had Senator Klein and his colleagues told the voters before they accepted the Democratic or WFP nominations that they planned to form an alliance with the Republicans, that would have been useful information for voters.
Senators Klein, Savino, Valesky and Carlucci do not march in lockstep, but they are each progressive-minded Democrats. They will not be able to be true to their values in a coalition with Republicans who oppose their core beliefs.
To name just a few issues on which Senator Klein’s conference and the Republicans disagree: Abortion rights, gun control, public financing of elections, stop and frisk, mass transit, paid family leave, school funding, higher ed support and an increased minimum wage tied to inflation. So unless Senator Klein is about to abandon his long-held beliefs, this “coalition” is a one-way street. The Republicans will give Committee Chairmanships, but it won’t fool anyone, including Senator Klein himself.
Politics is messy. The Democratic (and Working Families) Senate Conference is a bit messy itself. The Senators reflect the diversity of the state; members are African-American, Latino, and white. The Republicans are all-white, and nearly all-male.
In truth, Senator Klein has had good reason to be annoyed with some of his Democratic colleagues over the years. Two of them formed their own “independent grouping” in 2009 and went over to the Republicans for a brief, stupid month. Since then, both were defeated in Democratic primaries and replaced by reliable, stable Democrats. Even though most people only remember the chaos, it’s important to remember that the Senate Democrats had some major accomplishments, including establishing a millionaire’s tax rather than imposing devastating cuts on schools and hospitals, creating the landmark “Green Jobs” program, protections against wage theft, and the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. If anyone thinks Republicans would have passed even one of these, they are seriously misguided.
This isn’t personal. We have real respect for each of the IDC Senators, and have worked with all at one time or another on legislative initiatives. Our disagreement is a principled one, and we call on the IDC Senators to respect the will of the voters and their own values by conferencing as a group with the rest of the Democrats. It will for sure be messy, but that’s life and politics both, and it’s how we can best make progress as a society.
Dan Cantor, WFP Executive Director
Karen Scharff, Citizen Action of New York Executive Director and WFP Co-Chair