Why has the “No” vote for New York’s constitutional convention adopted Steve Bannon’s playbook?
On November 7, New Yorkers will decide the shape of our state’s democracy for the next 20 years. Every New Yorker will choose to vote “Yes” or “No” on a constitutional convention to re-envision New York’s governing document.
If New Yorkers vote “Yes”, the real work begins. A year-long process to nominate and elect convention delegates will commence. Then, proposed amendments would surface from the convention. Voters would ultimately approve or reject any proposed amendments. No better opportunity exists for fundamental reform. Thanks to Trump, new networks of empowered activists stand ready to run as delegate, to advocate for change and to ensure a transparent and accountable process, supported by digital technology.
If you vote “No”, you vote to postpone our next opportunity to hold a constitutional convention by 20 years, to 2037. Think about how much has changed in the last 20 and how our children will experience the change over the coming 20 years.
If you vote “No”, you vote “Yes” to our sole reliance on the Governor to circumvent the stalled legislative process that forces him to achieve important policy wins as amendments to the budget — at least for as long as he remains Governor. You vote “Yes” to legislative paralysis caused by cynical alliances like the IDC who ignore the will of the voters who elected them. You vote “Yes” to an imbalance of power where the legislature controls voters, more than voters control the legislature.
If you vote “No”, you vote “Yes” to a system artfully designed to further unbridled incumbency and the big, dark money that supports it, protected by rules that hinder political competition and dissuade citizens from voting. This system categorizes legislators as part-time employees, with no restrictions on outside employment. Unlimited campaign contributions flow to legislators who rarely face real opposition. Unspent campaign contributions can endlessly accumulate, with few meaningful limitations on their ultimate use. No wonder New York is the national leader in corruption.
To protect this system, the “No” vote has adopted the Steve Bannon Playbook: alternative facts, fake news, red herrings, smokescreens. The “No” vote has cynically manipulated liberal fears to deflect attention from the rot at the core of New York’s current system.
Like Bannon did for Trump, the “No” vote has inflated lies and false conjecture to stoke fear. Virtually none of the “No” vote claims have a basis in fact. They say:
- Koch Brothers support a convention. In fact, if the Kochs or Mercers or other bogeymen were truly interested, they would be investing today on the “Yes” vote, and their contributions would be made visible to the New York Board of Elections as direct contributions and/or unrecognized corporations.
- National right wing extremists favors a convention. New York’s political landscape looks more like California and the six other states with completely Democratic state governments. New York is a bastion of liberalism, safe against most challenges outside its existing, corrupt system.
- “Big money” is supporting the convention. Big, dark money already pollutes New York’s democracy. In the Constitutional Convention vote, the only big money flowing comes in from the “No” vote.
- The Convention will cost taxpayers up to $1 Billion. This is an urban legend. The likely cost of the convention is less than 50 cents per year per New Yorker, the price of 30 minutes of street parking in my Brooklyn neighborhood. Experts estimate the likely cost in the $47 to $108 million range, with an upper limit of $160 million, about 1/10th of 1% of New York State’s $150 billion budget. Spreading $160 million over New York’s 19.7 million people and out over the 20 years between constitutional convention votes translates into
$160 million ÷ 19.7 million people
= $8.12 per person
÷ 20 years
= 40 cents per person per year
- Republicans control the Legislature. Democrats hold the overwhelming majority in New York’s Assembly. Democrats also have a numerical majority in New York’s Senate which, combined with New York’s Democratic Governor, should ensure reliable progress in making New York the best place to live, work and raise a family. But the IDC, a group of eight Democratic Senators who caucus with the Republicans, blocks meaningful legislative action in a cynical power play for their personal benefit. No better evidence exists for New York’s one-sided electoral system.
- The convention will take away my pension, collective bargaining, social safety nets, and destroy environmental protections safeguarding the Adirondacks. If there’s a “Yes” vote, the unions and other advocacy groups will be among the biggest players — and spenders — in the election of delegates and the running of the convention itself.
So why is the “No” vote fighting and spending so hard? The “No” vote defends our dysfunctional political system, investing millions from hard-earned union dues to fight off phantom enemies. This expensive defense of the status quo protects and furthers implicit corruption, implicit gender bias, implicit racism, implicit voter suppression, implicit conservatism and ultimately serves our common enemies by keeping us mired in muck, unable to make progress to expand our protections to those left out in our Constitution, which was last significantly amended in the Constitutional Convention of 1937.
Implicit wrongs often repeated make us all complicit. It’s death by a thousand cuts.
Vote “Yes”. Then the real work can begin.
Go to The Sanctuary State Project to learn more about the New York State Constitutional Convention. This blog post also appears here.