Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Case For Shelly Silver?

The Working Families Party is a great asset in New York. They fight hard for progressive issues in Albany, even if many do not succeed (thanks in part mostly to Joe Bruno). Dan Cantor leads that fight as their Executive Director and has done a lot of good in that post. Unfortunately the ways of Albany may have clouded his vision just a little bit. He has come out in favor (though short of a WFP endorsement) for Shelly Silver's re-election.

From OpenLeft:

The reason is simple: on every one of the issues noted above, and others that are unmentioned, the most reliable force in state politics for progressives over the last decade has been the Assembly Democrats led by Silver. He may be among the more uncharismatic politicians in world history, but it would be folly to mistake his lack of glitter for a lack of nerve.

Context is important.
Over the 12 long years of drought otherwise known as the Pataki Administration, when the Governor and the Republican Senate Majority Leader (Joe Bruno) would combine to offer ever more right-wing answers to New York's problems, only Silver had the backbone to say no. Unlike some Democrats at the federal level, he refused to blink. He was an obstructionist of the best kind - holding out, month after month and year after year - not only standing in the way of the right, but forcing Pataki and the Senate to make concessions to the left.

His batting average has not been perfect - nobody's is. But he prevented more harm and accomplished far more good than anyone could have expected during an era when Democrats were a minority party among Albany's power centers.[...]

He then goes on to talk about a number of issues that Silver has been helpful on, such as laws to help unions, thwarting the Pataki Administration and boosting the minimum wage. The millionaire's tax proposal is also noted, but Cantor conveniently forgets that Silver went along with Governor Paterson and Joe Bruno in scraping it. Then there's this:

Put this all together and I just think that an attack on him from the left is, well, intellectually shallow and politically naive.

The real reason more good progressive legislation - public financing of elections is one such piece, and there are many others - the real reason these do not see the light of day in New York State is not because of legislative "dysfunction" but rather because of Republican intransigence. They disagree with us, and the Rs still have control of the Senate floor.[...]

Paul Newell and Luke Henry are running principled campaigns, and they have every right to do so. Primary challenges are not just appropriate, they are healthy. They keep everyone on their toes, and that keeps democracy vital. I urge the netroots to meet with tenant and union leaders, with the public financing of elections crowd, with LGBT advocates. If that happens, and you're still persuaded that Silver deserves the attacks that the corporate press heaps on him, so be it.

Here Cantor completely contradicts himself. How can two challengers run against Silver and be both "intellectually shallow and politically naive" while at the same time, "are running principled campaigns and they have every right to do so" go together even if they are four paragraphs apart? Well Cantor is right on that last one, Newell and Henry have every right to challenge a Speaker that has been in office for over thirty years, hides what he makes and what he does at his other job and abides by a system of government where he is one of three people that makes decisions for our state.

I salute Dan Cantor for all of his progressive activism, but using words such as "shallow" and "naive" is not something we do to fellow progressives unless they truly deserve it. Newell and Henry want to change the system, Sheldon Silver is the system.