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Senate’s dual leadership is cause for skepticism

I enjoyed The News’ interesting comparison of the New York State Senate’s pending experiment in shared governance to Caesar and Bibulus’ disastrous co-consul arrangement in the Roman Senate in 59 B.C. However, as Tom Precious points out, the two were sworn enemies from the start; Bibulus was put in place specifically to thwart Caesar’s consolidation of power. A more apt historical analogy might be the alliance between Alcibiades and Nicia in Athens around 420 B.C. Then, as in our Senate now, the two publicly declared common cause to positive aims, but their alliance was based not on shared perception of the public good but rather on constantly shifting, temporary alliances calculated to maintain the perquisites of power.

This arrangement ended rather badly for Athens. Athenians weary from the Peloponnesian War were dragged into protracted foreign conflict, wars doomed by betrayals and defections as the Athenian Assembly’s quicksand of churning, amoral coalitions expanded to include former enemies Sparta and Persia. In the end, Athens suffered the demise of democracy and the Spartan-imposed rule of the Thirty Tyrants. Indeed, as the Athenians lost faith in their ability to govern themselves, fear and suspicion condemned Alcibiades’ friend Socrates to a death sentence, thus bringing low the father of Western philosophy.

So I remain skeptical of the Dean Skelos-Jeffrey Klein arrangement. As Mark Twain said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Frank Housh

Buffalo