Senate Democratic leader Malcolm Smith
AP Photo/Mike Groll

Last year, the people witnessed the benefits of their involvement in politics as they went to the polls in historic numbers, stood in line for hours in many cases and voiced their desire for change.

President Barack Obama has urged for a shift in self-aggrandizing politics and an elevation beyond racial barriers that impede the advancement of our nation. And most recently, we observed both Black and Brown standing in unison as they supported the President’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as the first Latina on the U.S. Supreme Court.

But on June 8, 2009, the New York State Senate diminished any notion of progress in our political process as Republicans – and a few Democrats – staged an all-out coup in an attempt to oust the first African American Majority Leader and regain control.

In a move that can be described as egocentric at best, two Democratic leaders, Senator Hiram Monserrate of Queens and Bronx Senator Pedro Espada Jr., betrayed their party loyalty as they joined 30 Republican Senators on the floor, demanded new leadership and vied to shift the majority in the 62-member chamber.

Just days before the Senate breaks for summer recess, these New York elected officials have taken it upon themselves to lose sight of their responsibilities, improperly attempt to seize control and put the business of the people on hold.

At a time when jobs are diminishing, the economy is in the tank, we’re engaged in two wars and there is social unrest around the world, legislators somehow get distracted from the dire needs of their constituencies.

With pertinent issues like same-sex marriage, mayoral controlled schools, property taxes and more on the table, New York’s Senators have chosen to focus instead on partisan bickering, forcing citizens to wait until both sides battle it out in the courts and finalize a clear-cut majority.

Democratic Senator Malcolm Smith won control of the chamber after a due political process and has served as the first African American Majority Leader since January. After both Latinos and African Americans endorsed their support for Judge Sonia Sotomayor, it defies reason that Espada and Monserrate would unseat Smith and use race baiting to justify a maneuver that is nothing more than politics at its worst. If the Republican coup is upheld, Espada will serve as the new Senate President, meanwhile pending legislation, precedent and procedure will all be kicked to the curb.

This loosely termed ‘bipartisan’ move is nothing more than political upheaval that defies the voters’ wishes who made their vision clear on election day. It denounces our entire political process and throws us into the same chaotic undemocratic mechanisms that we shun elsewhere in the world. It’s New York today, and it could be any other city, town or state tomorrow.

The debacle in Albany must be resolved, and must be resolved immediately. Our elected officials must be held accountable to the people, and the people have serious issues that must be addressed without delay.

I echo Governor David Paterson’s extremely grave concerns, and ask when do we actually get around to the business of governing?? The people are waiting.

UPDATE:

Rev. Sharpton met with Sen. Hiram Monserrate on Sunday. Monserrate has reportedly decided to come back to the Democratic Party, creating a 31-31 deadlock in the Senate. Read the article here.