Sheinkopf Speaks: To the Party Victor Go the Redistricting Spoils

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The Spoils by Charles Marion Russell, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Hank Sheinkopf

The easiest way to think about it is that the State Senate was created just like the same body that shares half its name. Like its Washington namesake It was created to be the protector of those who did not live in the cities, but who wanted to get their hands on the riches the cities generated. 

If anything, the New York Senate was to be the revenue-sharing enforcer. Simple system. New York City creates the wealth. The Senate sends a bunch of that dough north of the Bronx County line. In return, the Senators will let the pagans in the five boroughs live. Maybe.

There are exceptions. The Democrats are just as liable to delude themselves about history. It’s what politicians do. The final say–the final word on the 1975 fiscal crisis to save a bankrupt Gotham–belonged to then-State Senate Majority Leader Warren Anderson. He saved the City as much as anyone else.

State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno might have been the best friend of hospital workers. Those guys were Republicans. And labor leaders might not want to tell the truth, but they could often cut better deals when Republicans ruled the Senate. Unions couldn’t be taken for granted, and workers’ organizations were more than just check-writing machines. The progressive word is always a good one for those who can afford to use it. Ideology is fine. Once you have a deal. Never saw a union member eat the proceeds of paycheck made from something called progressive. It’s nonsense

The four boroughs–not Staten Island–have gotten even. One part of Governor George Pataki’s legacy was a million more registered Democrats than Republicans. The state was bluer than ever then and that was fifteen years ago.

Trends were moving against them but the Republicans fought to hold on. There was a Republican senator in Manhattan. Gone. The Bronx. Gone. Queens. Brooklyn. All gone. New York City’s population grew again. Western New York shrank. And the suburbs, Long Island? The unbeatable Republican Nassau County organization met the political kryptonite called population shift. More people who weren’t white figured out that the adage urging those who wanted a brighter future to go west was wrong. East they went to Long Island and Nassau County suddenly had more Democrats than Republicans. Half of western Suffolk County fell much the same way.

More State Senate seats downstate, less upstate. Quite logical. Political? Well, the Democrats had the pencil and did exactly what the Republicans would have done. So what’s the big deal?

They will tell you they will be progressive. They will tell you this will be better for you. They will tell you whatever they think you want to hear.

But they won’t tell you is that it’s all about power. And they’re going to hold onto it as long as they can. Why not? It’s just another merger and acquisition. And the fellas with the most to gain and who were in the best position did just that. 

Just politics. Nothing else. Nothing new here at all.