Changing sides like never before
Jun 10, 2009 | 2665 views | 0 0 comments | 57 57 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Apparently, crossing the aisle is the new cool thing to do this year. First, it was the ornery Pennyslvania Senator Arlen Specter, who shocked the Washington political establishment by joining the Democratic Party in a coldly calculated move aimed to avoid an embarrassing Republican primary defeat.

Though it was a strange, highly unusual decision - politicians rarely just switch parties when they feel they cannot beat their own fellow Democrats or Republicans in primary elections - it still felt somewhat far from home: just another silly maneuver in the never-ending game played by the powerbrokers who control Capitol Hill.

But now that two state senators from New York have followed Specter's lead - albeit in reverse - and switched parties to swing control of the State Senate back to the Republicans, it all starts to hit home. We might even say a never-before-seen trend is brewing that could reshape the way politics are practiced for generations to come.

Just imagine a time when career politicians switch sides four, six, eight times over the span of several decades, following the whims of their constituencies.

Not so fast, at least not yet. For now, New Yorkers are left to puzzle and struggle through the meaning of this latest development in a state known in recent years for its political instability.

The defection of State Senator Hiram Monserrate of Queens and Pedro Espada, Jr. of the Bronx throws a serious wrinkle in the state Democratic coalition's plans to enact a raft of progressive legislation, from same-sex marriage to higher taxes, after four decades in the political desert. Remember, Democrats served as the minority in the State Senate for two generations before last year's election returned them to power.

Now their plans, and perhaps the political futures of the (now former?) Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Governor David Paterson are less than certain.

The day after the "coup," which was enacted in a bizarre afternoon of confusion and temporary blackout on the Senate floor, Smith maintained that he remains the Majority Leader. Smith said the defection of Monserrate and Espada was illegal.

Fewer people seem to be listening right now than the newly crowned Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican.

Who knows how this will play out. One possible outcome however, is a slew of politicians changing sides at whim in the years to come.

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