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Status Quo Wins Again

By James Ostrowski

November 4, 2004

It’s becoming a tradition. After the elections, I survey the local results and reach the same conclusion: the status quo won again.

Here we go. Forget the judicial races because they are supposed to be apolitical. The District Attorney was re-elected without opposition. Every incumbent state legislator was re-elected—all seventeen of them. There were two open Assembly seats. In one, the Democratic machine candidate moved on up from the county legislature according to a decades-old script. In the other race, nepotism, another age-old local tradition, carried the day. The unknown son of a well-known retiring politician was elected.

As for Congress, our U. S. Senator was re-elected. Two incumbent congressmen won. In the open seat, a retiring South Towns Irishman was replaced by a South Buffalo Irishman and career politician in thrall to the unions. A big win for the old South Buffalo political machine and its union allies. If all a community needed was lots of unions, Buffalo would be one of the greatest cities on earth.

Thus, the retiring congressman’s moderate, Rockefeller Republican liberalism will be replaced by an older, stronger version of the same poison. Great─more economic liberalism. If economic liberals made a city great, Buffalo would be one of the finest cities in the world.

So here’s the apparent message for those who (unlike me) believe election results perfectly reflect the will of the people: Everything is swell in the Buffalo area. Let’s keep doing the same things, only more so.

The truth is, the voters don’t pick their representatives; their representatives pick the voters—by gerrymandering, trading favors for huge contributions that make them invulnerable to challengers, and using our tax money to buy votes from special interest groups.

All this brings to mind the final words of the great film, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957): “Madness, Madness!” One also conjures up images of the seven hundred pound man who can barely squeeze through the door, yet who continues to overeat even though he knows that tomorrow, he will be too big to leave the house.

Keep munching on those big government bon bons Buffalo.

James Ostrowski is the author of Political Class Dismissed: Essays Against Politics, Including “What’s Wrong With Buffalo”