Why People Hate the Legislature

By Alan S. Chartock | July 2, 2021

Every once in a while, even after spending years watching them, I learn more about why people hate the legislature.

These people behave like feral pigs. Instead of truly representing the people, they mirror most other politicians, including those in Congress, in representing their own interests. Let’s face it, we all know that you need money to get elected.

Money buys TV ads and, in the worst cases, it buys votes directly. It is exactly the kind of thing that turns people off big time. We recently saw one such example when the legislature, in its wisdom or lack of same, reversed a Covid reform, most probably because the golden rule still reads, “… them that has the gold rules.”

In this case, it was all about how you can buy alcohol. The liquor stores in New York state are a very, very powerful lobby. If you are a politician looking for cheap political support, you follow the money. During the height of the pandemic, when restaurants were having a near death-experience, the rules were lifted and restaurants were allowed to sell booze when they sold a take out meal. Guess what? All of a sudden, the poor restauranteurs saw that there was gold in selling take out drinks. Naturally, the liquor store lobby was not happy about this. While no one is talking about it, one can certainly assume that the lobby representing the liquor stores has put their money where their interests are. Put another way, the word is “representation.” We know that the people come second when it comes to having their needs and views represented.

If the idea was to protect people from overindulging in alcohol consumption by saying that they can buy unlimited amounts of spirits in liquor stories, but not buy alcohol when they order out from restaurants, someone thinks we are really stupid. Of course, this nonsense comes at exactly the same time that cannabis is being sold all over the place. If there is anything that is making the American people sick to their political stomachs, it is their overwhelming need to get high. When that happens, you can predict car crashes, rampant alcoholism, and all the ancillary harms that we bring upon ourselves. But you really can’t pick and choose among the small parts of our opiated society in assessing blame.

I have to tell you that I don’t drink. I love it when I get a questionnaire that asks if I smoke or ever have. I proudly answer that I don’t. I tell you this because I really don’t have a horse in the race. I just hate hypocrisy. The legislature, in its unending search for campaign money, is for sale to the highest bidder. Based on the current push to legalize drugs including but not limited to cannabis, one can only be led to the conclusion that the legislature, like Plunkett of Tammany Hall, “…saw their opportunities and took them.”

The people who run the legislature, in this case predominantly Democrats, ought to know better but can’t avoid the greedy inner voices that tell them in time honored language to “follow the money.”

Of course, there’s a lot more involved in the issue of whether or not to let restaurants sell booze with take-out meals. That subject probably would not have been worth a column. My issue is with the greedy, compulsive people who milk the system to enhance their personal well-being and who are responsible for the views that people have of their legislators. You can just see why a Donald Trump does so well when people look to him for something different.

It may be the cost of milk or the way we conduct our elections to advantage the incumbents. Or, it may be the fact that they tell us how hard they work on our behalf when we know they are hard at work on politics as oppose to policy. Disgusting.

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].