For a good example of the dysfunction that plagues Albany, read the letter sent by the New York State Democratic Party leadership to the elected Democratic leaders of the state Senate.
The message sent this week to Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate minority conference leader, and Sen. Jeffrey Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, was worded as a directive: Unify your members under one umbrella or there will be political consequences.
For about eight years, Democratic officials have been frustrated by their inability to take control the state Senate due in large part to a schism within their own ranks. IDC members have clashed at times with the Democratic leaders, and they've been welcomed by Republicans to form an alliance. The merits of the split are certainly up for debate, especially when one considers the extra power and in some case, monetary gains, that IDC members enjoy under the system they've operated.
Having said that, the directive from the Democratic Party leaders is filled with examples that should make good government advocates cringe.
Take this quote: "We therefore send this letter as officials, members and supporters of the Democratic Party – the state Democratic Party infrastructure – to communicate that we can no longer tolerate the IDC and Senate Democrats inability to unify."
The last time we checked, the people to whom state Senators report first are the voters who put them in office. Representing their interests and listening to their demands is their primary job, not pleasing party officials.
Here's another gem: "If all of you finally unify, Democrats would have a majority. The progress of the Democratic agenda trumps all other concerns."
Actually, the progress of both New York state as a whole and the districts that individual senators represent trump any party agenda. Unfortunately, Albany insiders frequently forget, or ignore, that fact.
The letter went on to threaten the two sides if they failed to accept a proposed unification plan. IDC members would face primary challenges. The main conference leaders would be targeted for removal.
Ultimately, we're not espousing a stance for or against state Senate Democratic unification. But we do believe firmly that the senators who have to make decisions about which leaders to support and which conferences to join should tune out the party boss threats and do what they believe is right.
The Citizen Editorial Board includes publisher Rob Forcey, managing editor Mike Dowd and executive editor Jeremy Boyer.