Machiavelli and the Struggle for Power in New York

By Gabe Pressman
|  Friday, Mar 19, 2010  |  Updated 5:45 PM EDT
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Machiavelli, the great 16th century Italian philosopher, said that the goal of politics had to be to seize power and hold it -- that there was no room for morality in politics. Machiavelli put it simply: "Politics have no relation to morals."

And what’s been happening in New York’s Republican politics certainly sounds Machiavellian.

Out of the blue, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who won success as a Democrat, switched to the Republican Party the other day, declaring: "There seems to be a void out there that I can fit perfectly."

It set the stage for a bitter intraparty battle for the Republican nomination for governor that pits Levy against former Congressman Rick Lazio, who seemed to have the GOP nomination sewn up.

The State Democratic Chairman, Jay Jacobs, said Levy’s conversion to the Republican Party "reeks of the worst kind of political opportunism."

But Levy insisted: "I am the only candidate who has balanced a budget, who has cut spending and taxes, who has said ‘no’ to the special interests."

Levy had choreographed his departure from the Democratic party efficiently. A succession of Republican county chairmen, quickly fell in line. He was endorsed by John Jay Lavalle of Suffolk County. Queens GOP chair Phil Ragusa. who had endorsed Lazio in January, switched to Levy. And so did the Bronx Republican leader, Jay Savino.

Levy is also supported by John Faso, who ran for governor four years ago, and by Republican State Chairman, Edward Cox. Levy has a campaign war chest of $4 million dollars. Lazio, at last count, had just $637, 000.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the presumed Democratic candidate, has amassed about $16 million.

Professor Douglas Muzzio, who teaches politics at Baruch College, was almost irate at the antics of Levy and the Republican politicians. He said Machiavelli was right and denounced the switches from party to party as establishing that the switchers were political prostitutes.

"It’s clear," said Muzzio, "that self-interest rules. Everybody is reaching out for what he can get. As Machiavelli taught us, there’s no morality in politics."
 

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