Governor Ravitch: New York at the Abyss?

05/02/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

New York is at a precipice of sorts. Looking back over the political history of the state, it's completely unique. Sure, there were the Draft Riots of 1863 and Mayor Fernando Wood's calls for leaving the Union in 1861, and sure, we had Tammany Hall and its Republican counterpart running things for decade after decade. But Boss Tweed and Chet Arthur are ancient history. So are Jimmy Walker and Carmine DeSapio. But throughout our history, democracy, or something like it, chugged on.

Not today. Democracy in New York is dying. The revelation that Governor David Paterson personally intervened in the Sherruna Booke case means he has no credibility and no support anywhere in the state. But that's not the worst of it. The worst of it is that he cannot go without sparking a bigger constitutional crisis, the likes of which the state has never seen. Richard Ravitch is in there illegally, and the possibility of an illegal governor, plus no Lt. Governor, an appointed Comptroller, and a compromised Attorney General ,may be more than the state could take.

I remember 1974, when the State Democrats met in convention in Niagara Falls, designated a bunch of people for state office, including an unknown schlub named Mario Cuomo, and each and every one of them (except the Comptroller, who was running unopposed) lost in a primary. In 1986, Cuomo, who was Lt. Governor, beat the designated nominee Edward Koch for the top job. This year?

Harold Ford has withdrawn from the race to replace Hillary Clinton because the state Democratic Party doesn't want a primary against unelected Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Paterson has already withdrawn from the race and as Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is currently investigating him, he cannot run for governor without a huge conflict of interest hanging over his head (plus, there are other issues).

In other words, with the State Convention three months away, and a possible primary in September, there's no one running for Governor, Lt. Governor or Comptroller. The status of the Lt. Governor is questionable at best, (after all, the Court of Appeals voted 4-3 to let him keep the job, which was bestowed by royal fiat) and if he becomes Governor, there's going to be another court case. Governor Ravitch will have no mandate to do anything. It's theoretically possible he could appoint Bernie Maddoff Lt. Governor and promptly resign. He probably won't, but he could.

The Republicans have Rick Lazio for governor, nobody for the Senate, Comptroller, AG or Lt. Governor. Nobody. Outside the gerrymandered state legislature, peopled by obscure and corrupt schnooks, New York State has no one of any stature to go after the top jobs in the state. Nobody wants any of the top jobs in the state, and if things are going the way they are, then we won't have any government in New York, much less a functional one.
There doesn't seem to be any alternative to revolution, although what form that will take is anybody's guess. This is unprecedented, and that's a good thing...I think.

Where's Boss Tweed now that we need him?