If you’ve lived a while, how often have you heard predictions about the extinction of one party by the other?
After Richard Nixon’s rout of George McGovern in 1972 and Ronald Reagan’s two terms, the Democrats. After LBJ overwhelming Goldwater in 1964, Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection and Barack Obama in 2008, Republicans.
Only one Democrat was elected president between the end of the Civil War and Woodrow Wilson, 47 years later. Only one Republican between FDR’s and Nixon’s election, 36 years later.
Their pro-slavery stance before the Civil War ruined the Democrats. Insensitivity to suffering following the Crash of 1929 ruined the Republicans.
Hubris nemesis – today’s pride leadeth to tomorrow’s fall.
Congratulations to local supporters of the Biden-Harris ticket, some who were seen (and heard) in front of their homes at 11:45 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, hammering on pots and pans to celebrate achieving 270 electoral votes.
The nation has spoken – for now, and narrowly.
It isn’t astonishing that President Trump’s divisiveness led to his loss; and that the Blue Wave turned out to be a ripple, and challenger Joe Biden achieved such a narrow victory.
What is astonishing is the wide support for Republican candidates in centrist, moderate Otsego County.
Every local winner was Republican, from Assemblyman John Salka and Peter Oberacker, elected to state Senate, to every candidate on the ballot, except Congressman Antonio Delgado, D-19. Energetic and conciliatory, even he only narrowly beat Republican Kyle Van De Water, who, from what we can tell, only visited Otsego County twice during the campaign.
The single issue that stood out amid all the verbiage was worries about the state’s bail reform. It, in effect, was the dismantling of the justice system as we know it by the Democratic majority in Albany – state senators, assemblypeople and Governor Cuomo.
Here’s a sampling of local fallout.
• Just hours after the state legislative majority folded bail reform into the 2019 state budget vote – thus avoiding the usual public hearings and, sometimes, compromise – a local man was arrested in the morning for stealing a truck. Freed without bail, he stole another truck that evening.
• A downtown merchant called OPD about a customer shoplifting. The police apprehended the man, then freed him as required. He was back shoplifting that afternoon.
• Following the rash of car break-ins in Oneonta this fall, it surfaced that one of the suspects, apprehended in September, had been arrested four times since Aug. 31 for similar petty thievery.
• Then, Oct. 19, when the first two trials since COVID-19 struck in March were scheduled to start in Otsego County Court, neither defendant showed up, District Attorney John Muehl reported in dismay – but not surprise. Charged with crack-cocaine violations, they were wandering, bail-free, amid our children, our families and our community at large.
That just scratches the surface.
Among all of this fall’s candidates, only the scrappy Salka, the Republican freshman who represents Otsego County’s three largest communities – Oneonta, Cooperstown and Richfield Springs – took the initiative in saying it loud and clear: Bail reform is lousy law.
The blatant injustices that needed correcting were mostly at New York City’s Rikers Island prison, not statewide.
He introduced a bill to repeal the reform. And candidate Oberacker, now elected successor to state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, joined him, declaring that on Day One – Jan. 1, 2021 – he will introduce companion legislation to Salka’s bill in the upper house.
Salka’s winning tally rose from 6,582 in 2018 to 7,879 on Nov. 3, an 8-percent increase, garnering him 56 percent of the Otsego County vote, compared to 41 percent for his in-county opponent. Oberacker’s margin was 61 percent to his opponent’s 39 percent.
Indeed: A Red Wave.
Bail reform is not the only bad law to come out of Albany. The Farm Bill, with its extension of overtime provisions to agriculture, will shutter innumerable farms if imposed, both Oberacker and his Democratic opponent, Jim Barber, agreed. The natural-gas prohibition. Issuing drivers’ licenses to undocumented residents. And there’s much more coming.
This election, the split was Republican-Democrat. Truly, though, the divide isn’t partisan; it’s geographical.
New York City, with 3.2 million Democrats, is lost to the GOP for now; there are only 459,008 registered Republicans there. It’s a long way back.
Upstate it’s a different story, with its 2.9 million Democrats and 2.3 million Republicans. That’s 5.2 million votes a United Upstate caucus could tap to end the city’s predations north of Yonkers, and even send a Unity candidate to the Governor’s Mansion.
With one million people leaving our Empire State in the past decade – more than from any other state –
this is essential to our future.
Salka gets it. He enlisted Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, the Utica Democrat, in his bail-reform repeal drive. He intends to reach out to Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, as well.
The county’s other Republican assemblymen – incumbents Chris Tague and Brian Miller; newcomer Joe Angelino, the former Norwich police chief, all elected – should team up with Salka in reaching across the aisle to other prospects for the United Upstate caucus, as should freshman Oberacker in the Upper House.
This could be the start of something big.