May 17 , 2008
A Positive Political Shift
State Senator Neil Breslin may face a primary challenge from a newcomer worth considering
The other day I received an email from a fellow who lives in Renselaerville named David Weiss, who asked me to look at his campaign website. No, he’s not another clueless amateur announcing a bogus run for Congress, although as far as I can tell this is his first run for statewide public office. What I saw on his site took me very much by surprise.
If you want to run for office you have to have a decent website. It has to be straightforward, easy to navigate and it has to make sense. If you can’t produce a readable site, you might as well go looking for another job that doesn’t require communication skills.
The biggest reason why a good website is essential is that the sort of active voters a candidate needs to win an election nowadays get their news primarily from the internet. The passive easily influenced occasional voters still get their news primarily from the corporate media. The bad old days when an aspiring politician had to “horsetrade” exclusively with the media owners are gone, hopefully forever.
Now, I had one problem trying to read Mr. Weiss’ site. The home page opened to an absolutely lovely picture of his family in front of the million dollar stairs at the Capitol...
...but at first glance I was a little unclear about exactly where and what he is up to. Yes, the header clearly reads, “New York State Senate District 46 Albany.” It took me a moment to remember that “46” means “Albany County” which means right here where I live. Then it finally dawned on me that David Weiss wants to capture Neil Breslin’s Senate seat.
So, next I was rummaging through the site trying to find Mr. Weiss’ party affiliation. I expected to discover that he was running as a Green, a Libertarian, a Republican or some other mostly irrelevant third party. Finally, I found his apparent affiliation under “Voter Info:”
The Primary is September 9th - Mark it on your calendar.
Ah! Call me Sherlock. By this bit of evidence, my dear Watson, I deduced that Mr. Weiss intends to challenge incumbent Senator Neil Breslin in the Democratic primary. In other words, his chances of winning may be slim to none, but he’s not fooling around. Forcing Neil Breslin to run a primary is absolutely the only way to get anyone to take him seriously.
As far as I can see, Mr. Weiss does not mention the word “Democrat” or any other party on his site. This is an interesting decision. My assumption is that this is a general disavowal of party politics on his part, and that he would agree with the words of our first president, George Washington:
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages & countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders & miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security & repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
The Real George W.
The real and original George W. may have talked funny, but he sure was sharp. Consider what’s squatting in the White House right now and how it got there. The Father Of Our Country may very well have foreseen the main reason why our nation has degenerated from a vibrant republic into a tottering empire.
Mr. Weiss may also have a more immediate and practical reason for rejecting identification with a party. It’s not likely that the Albany County Democratic Party is going to support and encourage Mr. Weiss to run a primary against an established Democratic incumbent. I mean, why should he kiss the party bosses’ butts and get his nose dirty for no tangible reason?
I have to say that all this initially plunged me into consternation. As readers of this blog may recall, I’ve supported Mr. Breslin since the beginning of his first run for Senate. And I was quite enthusiastic when our State Senator briefly considered making a run for Michael McNulty’s 21st congressional seat.
By the way, due to the sudden onset of a 72 hour bug I was forced to miss the congressional candidate’s debate last Wednesday at the SEIU building on Washington Avenue in Albany. This is not normal for me, I usually don’t get sick like that. (This time, I blame The Wife and her germs.) I was all ready to go, I even had my iPod all charged up and empty so I could record the whole thing.
The serious congressional candidates Phil Steck and Tracey Brooks were joined at the debate by the probable candidate with the big name, Paul Tonko. Joining them were the five wishful thinking candidates, including the Republican. But hey, one of the unlikely could very well pull off an electoral miracle. Except the Re-pub, of course.
I’m particularly annoyed at being forced to miss this debate because, as usual, the local corporate media failed to do its job. Unless you want to call the one miserable, sniveling article in the Hearst Times Union coverage. If you don’t read local blogs or your email, you wouldn’t have even heard about the debate in the first place.
Fortunately, a good quick summary of the debate was posted by albanylayman on DIA. And I hesitate to mention the most comprehensive report was by soundpolitic on the albany project. I hesitate, well, because they don’t like me over there.
The albany project won’t put up a link to this site, although they link to everybody else they can think of. They refuse to respond to my emails, so I don’t know why they hate me. If you glance over to my sidebar to the left, you can see that I link to them, albeit unenthusiastically.
I'm beginning to suspect that the albany project is run by some corporate media types, which would explain their hatred. If anyone out there knows for sure, I’d appreciate it if someone would clue me in.
Assuming that my speculations about the albany project are correct, then I don’t think it at all strange that a corporate media run or influenced site would put up quality coverage of a story on the internet while refusing to publish a worthwhile article in a daily newspaper. With the rise of local internet news sites in the last few years, we are seeing the establishment of a two-tiered system of information dissemination.
We are seeing quality coverage for the demanding and critical internet consumers, while at the same time we are seeing the same old unreliable propaganda and misinformation for the passive consumers of old fashioned traditional media. This situation proves two things: 1) competition is healthy, and 2) the public gets exactly what it demands.
For example, on the David Weiss for Senate homepage, there is a prominent link to a brief Hearst Times Union article about his candidacy... from their “Capitol Confidential” blog. As far as I know, there has been no mention of Mr. Weiss’ candidacy in the dead tree version of the Times Union. And the article seems to be more about Neil Breslin being challenged than about David Weiss and his positions.
This little article on the Hearst blog brings us to the heart of the matter. Senator Neil Breslin has always been considered unacceptably “liberal” and anti-corporate by both the party bosses and by the corporate media. I’ve always noted the lack of enthusiasm by the Democratic machinery for Mr. Breslin. This is going back twelve years to his original run, which was initially considered a sacrificial candidacy against his worthless predecessor, Michael Hoblock.
Last Fall when Mr. Breslin announced his intention to run for Congress, the entire corporate media recoiled in horror. For almost a week, this blog that you are now reading was the only media that carried news of his intentions. And the dead tree Hearst Times Union was absolutely the last news source that mentioned his possible candidacy.
For me, this disdain for Neil Breslin by the corporate media has always been a big positive. Take congressional representative Kirsten Gillibrand from the nearby 20th District, for instance. She is indisputably a vast improvement over her drunken, wife beating predecessor John Sweeney. But I’ve been noting with suspicion the string of positive articles about her in the Times Union. What, I wonder, is wrong with her?
That being said, Senator Breslin cannot point to a long record of major accomplishments during his twelve years in office. This, of course, is because he belongs to the minority party in the notoriously dysfunctional Senate (which is a mirror image of the notoriously dysfunctional Assembly.) Perhaps this is the reason why he has never had to face a serious electoral challenge from the radical right and the corporate media. Why bother?
All that may be about to change. The minority Democrats in the Senate are one seat away from claiming a majority this November. And Mr. Breslin, by virtue of sitting in one spot for so long, is positioned near the top of the Senate Democratic leadership.
And he’s plenty ready for the change. Shortly after he announced that he would not run for Congress, he told me (at a Christmas party) that he was looking forward to creating and leading the fight for a single payer health plan for all New York State residents. This way, he explained, New York could serve as a model for the rest of the country.
What makes this so fantastic is that Mr. Breslin’s plan is rooted firmly in reality. He has intensively studied the problems involved in health care reform and is probably about to occupy a position where he can make a single payer system happen once the Senate changes hands. Bad news for a handful of influential insurance corporations, good news for the rest of us.
But wait a minute. David Weiss pulls no punches when it comes to health care. From his website:
New York can provide the model for a National Health Insurance program by building on the strengths of the current Medicare program and on New York's own Family Health Plus. We need health coverage that is available to all, regardless of income, age, and medical history. This can be achieved without raising taxes by eliminating the wasteful, expensive private health insurance industry, eradicating fraud, and emphasizing preventative health care.
Wow! I believe that the incumbent Senator would probably mostly agree with that statement, although I have not heard him dare to call for the elimination of the private health insurance industry. That’s the conceptual leap that challenges Mr. Breslin and puts him on the spot.
And Mr. Weiss’ other positions, such as the elimination of the stupid Rockefeller Drug Laws, and a clear call for a fair system of public funding of campaigns, also serve as a challenge to Mr. Breslin. Most importantly, Mr. Weiss’ positions challenge the incumbent from the right direction, toward positive and progressive solutions to current supposedly insoluble problems.
Mr. Weiss’ biggest area of concern is energy. He appears to be an expert and major advocate of wind turbine generation, which appears to be the cornerstone of his proposed policies of energy reform. Great stuff, for sure.
But here we see the one thing lacking from Mr. Weiss’ platform, which The Wife was quick to point out. You see, wind generated energy is great for rural areas, but the current technology is impractical in urban areas such as the South End of Albany. The reason is that wind turbines work best in flat, open areas. Buildings cause turbulence, which in turn affects smooth rotation of the turbines.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) is best for urban areas, but this only merits passing mention on his site. Where is Mr. Weiss’ policy on urban revitalization? How does he stand on building rehabilitation, on the unequal application of law in the city versus the suburbs, and the solving of conundrums such as inner city gun violence by minority youths? Remember, we cannot expect to preserve our green spaces if we do not make our cities livable.
Volunteer Firefighter David Weiss
In any case, it is very unlikely that David Weiss is going to remove Neil Breslin from the 46th District Senate seat this coming September. But I’m delighted to see someone with such positions on the issues make a run for office. If he runs hard, he will have a positive effect all around.
Perhaps Mr. Weiss’ candidacy is part of a national trend away from the failed policies of the corporate radical right. Personally, I’m sick and tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, the bad candidate over the worse one. I’m delighted to see at least one upcoming race where we can choose our State Senator based on the candidate's practical solutions to problems and on their ability to get things done.
If David Weiss is serious about holding public office, we should hear from him again. If he keeps trying, he’ll get elected to something. If what he puts on his website is an accurate reflection of who he is, then I hope that he eventually succeeds.
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