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Why the New York Coup Matters to You

Have you heard a little about what's happening in the New York Senate, which has suddenly become controlled by the Republicans even though there are more Democrats in the chamber?The internal rules of state senates can be just as complicated and arcane as those of the U.S. Senate, but it seems as though the Republicans called a procedural vote on who controlled the body. At first glance, this vote would seem like a useless endeavor because there are more Democrats then Republicans; a vote to install the Republicans as the minority leaders of the Senate seemed doomed to failure.But wait! The Republicans had a trick up their sleeve. Two tricks, in fact, in the form of Democratic Senators Pedro Espada Jr. of the Bronx and Hiram Monserrate of Queens. After weeks of secret negotiating, they voted with the Republicans, putting them in charge of the Senate, despite not having a majority.Why does this matter to people not in New York (or even, really, to people in New York). Well, for one, both Espada Jr. and Monserrate are under investigation, and seemingly close to being jailed (for the mismanagement of a health-care nonprofit and domestic abuse, respectively) and expelled from the Senate. Their political careers are living on borrowed time, and yet they've decided to upset the will of the voters and switch the balance of power-which is their prerogative, surely, but New Yorkers especially should know that these were less votes of conscience and more votes of political expediency; a desperate attempt to gain power and influence before probably going to jail.For the rest of the country, the New York government was set to enact a series of liberal reforms, most prominently legalizing same-sex marriage. It wasn't a given, but it was very close, and it would have added a major state to the list of states where gay people can marry (see our infographic on the subject here). So, if you're pro-same-sex marriage, you should know that a major milestone was just hijacked by two alleged criminals. If you're against it, you have some savvy allies in the New York Senate Republicans, but remember, you've just jumped in bed with a guy who stabbed his girlfriend in the face with a broken glass bottle. Desperate times, I guess.Photo by Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times

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