Let’s face it. A good deal of the way politics are practiced in New York is, at the very least, morally corrupt. Some of the people we have come to depend on to be honorable are anything but. The system is fixed. It has been fixed by the very people who purport to be our best democratic representatives. We can now clearly see just how the system has been fixed.
It turns out that Jerry Nadler, a Democrat who has served in Congress since 2013, has been protected by the corrupt way in which the districts have been drawn. Now that our courts have come to the remarkable conclusion that the gerrymandering of districts can no longer stand, people like Nadler who have always been protected by the way we draw our districts are at real risk. In fact, my old friend Carolyn Maloney and Jerry Nadler may have to run against each other.
Maybe Nadler will beat Maloney since he has a reputation as a liberal icon and Maloney has had to ward off challengers for her seat. To be fair, I am a big Maloney fan since we both worked for Senator Manfred Ohrenstein at the same time. She has been in Congress for many years, as has Nadler.
As things stand, it will be a long time (ten years) before we will see the mandatory redistricting that we are seeing now. Some of the folks who want to stay in Congress are getting older. As I have often written, Congress and the legislature do not have term limits, but God does. Someone in his or her seventies will have to retire sooner or later but people have to run for Congress every two years. Naturally, seniority counts. If you come from a safe district, your chances of seniority and major committee chairmanships like the ones held by Nadler and Maloney are much greater.
I find it really interesting that the potential for a Maloney-Nadler race was brought about by the state’s highest court after the original redistricting map was rejected. All the judges on that court were appointed by Democratic governors. New York’s high court said that outrageous gerrymandering was unacceptable, in contradistinction to other states that gerrymander like crazy and get away with it.
The big problem for New York is that it has lost one member of Congress and that thrown incumbent members against each other. If about 80 more people had answered the door when the census was being taken, New York would have had one more Congressman. That would have made a tremendous difference. A lot of people didn’t open their doors for the census enumerators – Covid was rampant, some people were afraid because they were undocumented, and there were countless other reasons.
In the case of Nadler versus Maloney, seniority, influence and contemporary political rhetoric play a big part. Maloney is one of the most important senior women in the house. Gender counts in elections, especially primary elections.
Primary elections can be won or lost based on what is politically fashionable. I have heard from many women who are anxious to reclaim their appropriate political status. If there is to be a Maloney-Nadler primary battle, you had bet that Nadler will bring out a new “Women for Nadler” committee This will get ugly because incumbency means so much. Nadler has always known how to play tough very since he was a kid on the West Side taking over political clubs. The fact that so many people see him as a liberal leader will surely help him but when gender enters into a fight, it means that women and their politics will make it very hard for a man, any man, to win.
Once you start to draw lines, everything tends to change.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].