Smith announced that in November “32 Democrats made history in the state of New York.” But in recent days, “as Democrats do, we have difference of opinion… but at the end of the day democrats always come together.” He praised his party’s achievements before it all went kerflooey — the budget, Rockefeller Drug Law reform, etc. “Has the road been a little bumpy with some twists and turns?” he said. “No question about it… but Democrats have come together.”
Then he presented the new leadership in the state senate under the terms apostate Dem Pedro Espada wangled today — John Sampson as conference leader, Espada as majority leader, Jeffrey Klein as deputy majority leader, and Smith as President Pro Tem — that breaks the Albany Coup deadlock and will allow the state senate to go back to actual business this evening.
They didn’t really tell us much more after that, but they talked a lot about “empowerment” and portrayed their activities as a wonderful “journey” to a new and improved state senate.
Smith said the Coup had given the Democrats “time to reflect on some of our strengths and some of our weaknesses…. as I like to say, out of productive friction good things occur.”
Espada said though “19.5 million people through the state who witnessed chaos and dysfunction at its highest levels… This journey is not yet over. We are pausing today to stabilize ourselves, fortify ourselves, and continue.”
Oh Christ, we thought, not more of this shit! But Espada was talking about a new era of togetherness: He and his colleague Hiram Monserrate did the Coup because “we believed could make the institutions of the state senate more productive,” he said. “It was never about power, it was about empowerment” — specifically “the empowerment of 62 senators” — and rules reform in the senate, which will ensure “votes will be taken up and down, [and] members will be totally empowered.”
He paused to recollect explaining the Coup to his gradduaghter, who had seen “all of the negative press… explaining it to her … this naive innocent soul, touched my heart.” Grandpa Espada told her he wouldn’t stop working until everybody was “empowered.”
Finance chairman/conspirator Carl Kruger had a meatphor of his own: “Some of the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire,” he said, and the steely senators “have passed that test and we have exceeded the highest expectations.”
Ruben Diaz Sr. led everyone in a verse of “Happy Birthday to You” for Times-Union reporter Irene Jay Liu, and then another verse for someone named Meredith. “We had two options that the four amigos had,” he said, referring to himself and the other plotters. “Don’t ask me after this what was the second one, because I will not tell you.” (Murder/suicide?) He said he was glad the Party was now united, and “I pray my God and Jesus Chirst we don’t have to go through this again.”
Hiram Monserrate called him “The Prophet Diaz” for the day the crisis would be resolved, said that since the crisis “I have come to admire Pedro Espada even that much more,” and called John Sampson “brother ”
Senator Ruth Hassel Thompson stepped up to lend a much-needed touch of class and to throw her own metaphor onto the pile: “A good sword,” she said, “is made by pounding and tempering.” She also said she intended in the coming days to “show the people of our state that they did not make a mistake” in electing the Democrats. We wish her luck.
John Sampson proposed to “give all honor to God because without him all this would not be possible.” (Gee, thanks, God.) He praised Senator Eric Adams as “the glue that held us all together,” called today’s deal a “victory for all 62 state senators that represent 19.5 million people” which furthermore would “empower all 62 state senators.”
He added that “politics is temporary business, friendships are forever,” which some of the folks at home might find an inversion of priorities for elected officials; to them Sampson apologized for the all the unpleasantness, explaining sheepishly, “Sometimes you have dysfunctional family members.” But now, “We are home to stay… Leadership means the enpowerment of all 62 members… It’s all about 19.5 million,” etc.
Espada returned to explain his collaboration with the GOP as, in part, a consciousness raising exercise for the Republicans. “I’ve been in the minority all my life,” said Espada. “That was a lesson and a reality that they didn’t understand. We’re so divided by our experiences — where we live, where we go to church. I stepped right into their reality, and they stepped right into mine.” At first we thought he was talking about his other trips to the Republican side of the Senate aisle, but eventually caught on that he was talking about the urban minority/suburban honkie divide. Anyway, Espada said, now Republicans understand that in their decades of dominace “they misused opportunities with their power,” which should leave them regretful and cooperative. (He said later that he had taught Republican minority leader Dean Skleos “about communities of color and how we live,” and that Skelos “knows me better after five and a half weeks that he has known anybody in his whole life.”)
In the Q&A, reporters tried to coax more than uplift chatter out of the senators, but to no avail. “We talked about that,” said Espada to the first question about the unseemliness about his and the other Democrats’ reversals. “We talked to you about it, I talked to my granddaughter.” He then tried to turn his therapeutic powers on the press: “When you in your private lives have dischord in your family… when you release the most negative energy that you are capable of releasing… the truth is that I am none of those things… we have put that behind us.”
Sampson jumped in to say that “for the first time in the history of new york we have a Hispanic majority leader… It’s not black history month, it’s not Hispanic history month, it’s a rainbow coalition.” And now it was time to “empower all 62 members of the New York State Senate.”
Espada wasn’t done, though. “I never left the Democratic party,” he insisted, “I never left my conference.” He told a Daily News reporter whom he thought had suggested otherwise, “You have created your own issues of crediibilty, but I won’t go there.”
Before the group hug could be effected, the senators hustled out of the room to prepare for their evening session.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 9, 2009