To the Editor:
As we start a new year, and new leadership for the 121st Assembly District, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who supported us in this past election. And for those who did not, I hope to gain your trust through hard work, accountability and service.
As we head into the 2019 legislative session, I look forward to working with my fellow legislators, regardless of their political affiliation, to further the interests of our communities and our great state.
Our columnist was prescient: Adrian Kuzminski’s 2008 study of populism, “Fixing the System,” foreshadowed Bernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s populism by eight years.
Since 2016, we’ve had an explosion of political upheavals around the world – all widely described as populist: the Brexit vote in Britain, Trump’s election, and the rise of separatist and nationalist parties in Europe and beyond. We can also include the “yellow vests” in France and movements in places like Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, and the Philippines.Back in 2008, at the time of the financial crisis, I published a book about the history of populism called “Fixing the System: A History of Populism, Ancient & Modern.” It didn’t make me famous, but it did aim to understand the rising political phenomenon of populism – something which since has morphed into a global tidal wave.
Populism is easily misunderstood. It can be found on both the left and right of the political spectrum. It’s not about how liberal or conservative you are. It’s about the failure of the system to provide economic and social security for a large part of the population.
SWEARING IN – 1 p.m. State Sen. Jim Seward, Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr., County Judge John Lambert, Coroners David Delker & Christian Shaefer, County Judge Brian Burns to administer the oath. Public welcome. Foothills Performing Arts Center, Oneonta.
I brought up the Green New Deal in my last column as the only political agenda I’ve seen which, whether we agree with it or not, at least tries to measure up to the magnitude of the two biggest problems we face: climate change and economic insecurity.
Let’s take a closer look.
George H.W. Bush
Life Is An Example Of
Simple Courtesy To Us All
When he was first running for U.S. senator from Vermont in 1974, Patrick Leahy, now eminent ranking Democrat and erstwhile chairman of the Judiciary Committee, used to joke, “Washington D.C. you can’t get there from here.”
Whatever way you look at it, it’s a long way from here to the corridors of power and vice versa. But it’s boys from cities and towns much like Oneonta and Cooperstown all over the nation who get elected president of the United States more often than not.
On Presidents’ Day for a decade now, this newspaper has celebrated points of inspiration and guidance American presidents can provide to those of us back home.
ANNUAL LECTURE – 7 p.m. Annual Richard Siegfried Lecture featuring Andrew Bottomley presenting “Voices From Below: Audio Storytelling and the Politics of Experience.” Free, open to public. Followed by dessert reception. Craven Lounge, Morris Conference Center, SUNY Oneonta. Visit oneonta.campuslabs.com/engage/event/2902174
Democrats Can Rebuild Around Climate Change, Economic Justice
Now that the Democrats have made a comeback by capturing the House of Representatives, they are faced with how to use their new power. Up to now, they have been obsessed with Trump, and split on how to address the problems of the day.
We’ll get to Trump in a moment. But first, let’s look at what the Democrats have to say about the big issues of the day.
These boil down to two super-problems: runaway climate change for all and increasing economic insecurity for many. It’s hard to think of any major issue which isn’t entangled in one or both of these, or that wouldn’t be greatly alleviated by progress on either of them.
Status quo Democrats (the Clinton-Obama tradition) have become the party’s conservatives. They’ve been running the show for a generation, and have failed to rein in either climate change or economic insecurity. There’s less and less reason to think they can deal with these mounting problems.
Progressive Democrats, by contrast, are largely defined by the Bernie Sanders movement, which, revealingly, calls itself “Our Revolution.” They are also influenced by the Green party, particularly by its call for a Green New Deal, recently endorsed by Bill McKibben.
The Green New Deal is remarkable in its focus on the twin problems of climate change and economic justice. So far, it’s the only alternative this writer has seen to business as usual (just Google “Green New Deal”).
The Green New Deal calls for closing overseas military bases and using the savings to help finance domestic renewal. It demands an end to subsidies and tax breaks for fossil-fuel related industries. It insists on an immediate transition to 100 percent renewables.
It identifies the financial system, led by too-big-to-fail private banks, as the main obstacle to economic restructuring. It proposes an alternative public banking system to fund infrastructure, guarantee employment, transition to renewables, offer free education through college, and provide single-payer, comprehensive Medicare for all.
Revolutions are risky business.
Can revolutionary excesses be avoided? Climate change and economic insecurity are increasingly catastrophic. Is a Green New Deal what we need to cope? Is it practical? Can it gain broad support? Can it hope to overcome its formidable opponents? Can its goals be achieved without chaos and abuse of power?
A lot will depend on the answers to these questions.
But, like it or not, the Green New Deal takes seriously our most intractable problems, and gives us a sense of what it will take to deal with them. If we’re going to have a revolution, this is the one the
Progress on big issues is unlikely, however, unless Democrats (and Republicans) learn to deal with Trump. We all know his faults. He has also become the voice of social grievances his critics have mostly, to their peril, ignored. Perhaps most important, he denies climate change and takes extremes of wealth for granted.
Whatever collusions and financial ripoffs might be pinned on Trump, even if illegal, blend all too easily with what many corporations and governments do routinely these days. In these ways, he’s as American as apple pie.
He should be impeached if impeachable offenses can be established. But for impeachment to stick, to avoid the appearance of political vengeance, it has to be part of a larger sense of renewed justice that speaks to the revolutionary changes which seem to be increasingly in the air.
That means getting serious about climate change and economic insecurity – two items not on Trump’s agenda.
Adrian Kuzminski, a retired Hartwick College philosophy professor and moderator of Sustainable Otsego, lives in Fly Creek.
State Zigged To Democrats,
But County Zagged To GOP
The Wall Street Journal headline was sly: “Blue Wave Breaks Softly.”
The article reported that, as of Nov. 6, Election Night, Democrats gained 27 Congressional seats in the midterms, regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
That pales compared to Democrats losing 63 in the first Obama midterms in 2010, and losing the House as well; still, even one-vote control is control. (As canvassing ensued, it looks like Democrats may end up with plus 35 to 40 new seats; still, not the GOP Armageddon some were salivating over. And Republicans increased their margin in the U.S. Senate.)
Whatever – nationwide. But when you look at New York State government, the Blue Wave broke hard Upstate, not least over Otsego County, with some unnerving implications.
The state Senate zigged, turning from enduringly Republican to Democratic, a feat accomplished for only two years in a half-century.
But Otsego County zagged: With the loss of Democratic Assemblyman Bill Magee of Nelson, the one state senator and four assemblymen representing our county are all Republicans, about to dive into a Democratic sea.
That can’t be good.
State Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford, who will be operating without Magee’s steady support in the Democratic House for the first time since 1991, said he’s used to working in a bipartisan manner.
In an interview, he used the term “equitable distribution” twice, hoping the Democrats will extend the concept that has allowed the state’s largesse to be enjoyed statewide.
That would be great, but we’ll see.
More of an issue than Democrats and Republicans is Upstaters vs. downstaters, Seward observed. Only three of the state’s 30 senators are from north of Westchester County. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
The GOP county chairman, Vince Casale, addressed the legislative picture. Now in control of Assembly, Senate and Governor’s Office, he predicts Democrats will seek to legalize marijuana as soon as January, and will press for adoption of the NY Plan, Medicare-like coverage for all Empire Staters – exciting, but perhaps bankrupting.
Depending how hard and fast the Democrats push, what went around in 2018 may come around in 2020.
Meanwhile, even local Democrats are a bit uneasy. Richard Sternberg, the Cooperstown village trustee who is also a member of the state Democratic Committee, said he hopes that, since our mayors are Democratic (Oneonta’s Gary Herzig and Cooperstown’s Ellen Tillapaugh Kuch), the funds will keep flowing.
And, as architect of Democratic gains on the Otsego County Board of Representatives last year, Sternberg is looking ahead to creating a majority next year; he’s only one seat short.
Given the new Albany reality, becoming aligned with the ruling party only makes sense, his remarks suggested.
If anything, we here in Otsego County compounded the zag by voting heavily for Marc Molinaro, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Republican challenger.
Arguably, Cuomo’s done more for Otsego County than any governor in decades, Democrat or Republican, and did so by embracing an all-American principle: competition.
The governor’s concept – divide the state into 10 regions and make them compete for state economic-development funding, and may the best ideas win – was brilliant.
In the past five years, Otsego County has competed and competed well, winning millions annually through CFAs; (the next round of “consolidated funding application” grants is due to be announced in December). Plus, remember Oneonta’s DRI.
In the world of New York State realpolitik, here’s more good news in the returns.
While the county as a whole supported Republicans, Oneonta and Cooperstown are strong Democratic enclaves, supporting Senator Seward, the county’s favorite son, but breaking blue on everything else.
Oneonta, for its population, and Cooperstown, for its iconic status, are not to be ignored, whatever party controls the state political apparatus.
Whoever’s in charge in Albany, there’s a lot to be done here, so fingers crossed.
HOLIDAYS ON THE FARM – 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Workshop festival features opportunity to learn skills with resident experts. Create bottle of fragrant waters & essences, crochet a snowflake coaster, discover cold-process soap making, print custom holiday cards, bake traditional holiday treats, or make a holiday gift broom. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1450 or visit www.farmersmuseum.org/Holiday-Workshop-Festival
NATIVE AMERICAN STORIES – 2 – 4:30 p.m. Celebrate “Native American Month” with Chief Roger Longtoe Sheehan and elder JT Taylor of El Nu Abenaki tribe as they share culture, perspective through traditional stories, music, drumming. Free, open to public. SUNY College Camp, 119 Hoffman Rd., Oneonta. 607 435-3455 or visit connect.oneonta.edu/event/2842816