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Assembly Democrats have to summon the backbone to choose a new speaker

No. It’s not enough.

Sheldon Silver can no longer serve as speaker of the State Assembly, and any crackpot coverup scheme that would allow him to step aside temporarily while some cronies divvy up his responsibilities is ludicrous and cowardly. He needs to go.

What hold does this man have on these chickenhearts that they can’t summon the courage to just dump him? Why are they content to be smeared by their continued support of a man charged with some of the most serious crimes a public official can be accused of committing against the public?

No, he has not been convicted of anything yet, but that doesn’t mean he should retain his hold on a job that he can no longer adequately perform. His legal troubles won’t be over in a week or a month or several months. They could drag on for years, as did those of former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Silver may hold fantasies of coming back to lead the chamber, but there is no plausible way that can happen. He is politically and ethically incapacitated, yet some Assembly Democrats are willing to pretend that this is a temporary inconvenience for the speaker.

And for what reason? Loyalty? It’s true that Silver has a reputation for protecting members loyal to him, and that’s a fine thing – up to a point. Silver also protected members accused of rampant sexual harassment. Now, his blindly devoted followers are putting their reputations at risk by baby sitting a powerful office for a man charged with engaging in bribery and kickback schemes for at least 15 years. They must be kidding.

Bruno, eventually acquitted of actions that were nonetheless intolerable, at least had the good sense to quit when he understood what was coming. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned when he was found to have been patronizing prostitutes. Former Comptroller Alan Hevesi stepped down before pleading guilty to defrauding the government.

Not Silver. He is grimly hanging on as though there were still a place for him at the head of the table. There isn’t. It’s even questionable if there is a place for him in the Assembly at all, but that can be left to the voters of his Manhattan district, for now anyway.

At least some members of the Assembly are on the right track. They tend to be younger members lacking the fealty to Silver of older ones. They not only want him gone but they want to restructure his job to make the chamber less reliant on one leader. Elsewhere, that’s known as democracy.

Those members are on to something important. The current structure, which concentrates vast power in the speaker’s hands, is one of the principal reasons the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School concluded that New York’s State Legislature was the country’s most dysfunctional. Why do we need that?

Just cut Silver loose and get on with it.