Our late grandfather used to complain that the Democratic Party in New York City was unspeakably corrupt, with the center of its corruption in the Queens County Courthouse. Of course, our late grandfather complained about many things, including, inter alia, onions, the metric system and Swedes.
So, in the arrogance of youth, we discounted Grandpapa's warning. Then we moved to New York and, within a year or so, a prominent politician stabbed himself in the chest. Because his years of corruption were coming to light. And yes, he was a Democrat. From Queens.
We have thought of our wise old grandfather many times over the years, as one local politician after another has been revealed to be criminal and/or criminally stupid. Is it worse than Chicago? Probably not, but it is at least as bad as Philadelphia, and on a larger scale.
We do need to qualify Grandpa's dictum just a bit. In the City, the Democrats are the more corrupt party, because they are the party with the power. Theodore Roosevelt and couple of recent mayors aside, this is a Democratic town. But if you step out into the suburbs, things change. Nassau County Republicans are a pretty uninspiring crew, as anybody who has ever greased the palm of a building inspector can tell you.
New York State politics are corrupt and incompetent on an epic and bipartisan scale. We are the Romania of the northeastern United States.
All of this, of course brings us to the past couple of days.
Most recently, a Bronx assemblyman named Eric Stevenson has been arrested for taking bribes. Apparently, he was pocketing envelopes full of cash in Bronx steakhouses and Albany hotel bathrooms. Just like the movies. Another assemblyman, Nelson Castro, cooperated with the Feds to make the arrest happen. Castro admits now to having been a federal informant since his 2009 perjury indictment.
But the big news came a couple of days ago, when Malcolm Smith was arrested. Smith, a Democratic state senator, wanted to run for mayor on the Republican ticket without switching parties. This can be done, but it's a little complicated; he decided to simplify it by bribing Republican officials all over the state. His collaborator in this scheme was Republican city councilman (and neo-pagan) Dan Halloran.
So don't waste your breath talking about how America's polarized political debate keeps the two parties from working together. Here in New York, we know exactly what will bring them to the table: big wads of unmarked bills in plain manila envelopes.