Sunday, June 26, 2011

POLICY: What Back-Room Dealing Looks Like

The New York Times has the definitive article on how we got to have gay marriage, and the main thing it highlights for me is how innocuous back-room dealing looks like when it's for a good cause:

The story of how same-sex marriage became legal in New York is about shifting public sentiment and individual lawmakers moved by emotional appeals from gay couples who wish to be wed.

But, behind the scenes, it was really about a Republican Party reckoning with a profoundly changing power dynamic, where Wall Street donors and gay-rights advocates demonstrated more might and muscle than a Roman Catholic hierarchy and an ineffective opposition.

And it was about a Democratic governor, himself a Catholic, who used the force of his personality and relentlessly strategic mind to persuade conflicted lawmakers to take a historic leap.

“I can help you,” Mr. Cuomo assured them in dozens of telephone calls and meetings, at times pledging to deploy his record-high popularity across the state to protect them in their districts. “I am more of an asset than the vote will be a liability.”

Bottom line: Cuomo used his political skill in the back-room to convince key donors to take action, and using the leverage of money convinced legislators to vote against their constituents (at least, what they felt their constituents wanted). Obviously it couldn't have happened without strong public support and weak opposition, but Cuomo's strategy is the strategy of a Republic, not that of a Democracy.

Which is fine. Nothing unethical happened and there was a good result. Cuomo staked some personal reputation, and he seems to have won.