When a political party loses its last power base, as New York state Republicans did when Democrats won a majority in the state Senate in November, the rational response is to analyze the results and determine what needs to change.
When that loss comes as the clincher in a decline of more than a decade, with George Pataki’s re-election in 2002 the last statewide victory and an inability to even recruit viable candidates in most state races since, the conclusion is inescapable.
And while there is talk of the need for change, perhaps letting the state chair, Ed Cox, retire gracefully, the new minority decided to stick with the old, voting 14 to 9 to keep Long Island Republican John Flanagan once again as Senate leader.
And just to prove that they have not learned anything over these years, one of the first issues they have chosen for a fight is the possibility that Democrats, who are now in charge of both Senate and Assembly and who hold all elective statewide offices, are thinking of letting undocumented immigrants who qualify have access to state-issued identification and driver’s licenses.
You don’t have to spend time in Albany to understand this issue. Consider the City of Middletown where the council with the mayor’s enthusiastic support unanimously approved the establishment of a municipal identification program. As the council said after a thorough debate, this is intended to help those who live and work in the city, who obey the laws but who have suffered because our nation has not been able to come up with a humane and effective policy on immigration.
A city cannot issue a driver’s license but a state can, and New York is likely to do so for the same reason that Middletown has chosen to establish its program. With a license, the undocumented who obey the laws and live and work in all parts of the state would be able to legally buy a car and obtain insurance. We understand that licensing and insurance are crucial to keeping the roads safe and extending this to all in the state would increase public safety.
But Republicans will not have it. They have been opposed to this idea ever since it first came up in 2007 and they are using the same kinds of arguments that their national leader uses, hoping to inspire fear.
They first call it unfair to those who have worked to gain citizenship, although fairness is not high on their agenda when it comes to giving law-abiding, high school graduates access to a college education. And they say they have to block this idea to protect “mothers who worry about the safety of their children in our neighborhoods.”
How would those mothers and their children be better served by having people drive without licenses or insurance? The Republicans do not say because the real cause and effect goes in the other direction, toward safety. As long as they can find ways to try to make people scared, however, they seem to be content so they also will have to be content as a political afterthought in the state.