WEIGHING IN ON THAT NY GUBERNATORIAL DEBATE: WHO WON IT?
When the subject of Carl Paladino came up on the Brian Vines television program (BCAT) a couple months ago, I distinctly remember -as a guest panelist- getting a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach: after all (as a voter) I would eventually have to make a choice and vote for someone in the lackluster gubernatorial field. I left the studio pledging to myself that in the general election, I would keep an open mind on every single candidate running. The reason for my angst was the difficult time I was having in closing the deal for Andrew Cuomo, given my registration as a democrat all my voting life. You see, I hate candidates who for years stay quiet on certain significant contemporary issues, and then suddenly find their 'voice' just around election time. I don't “feel” that kind of political temerity. I really don't. And I don't think it should be rewarded either: but Andrew Cuomo will win this race -and it won't even be close. You can bet the too damn high rent on this.
Over the years, people like former-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi; legislators like Michael Bragman, Karim Camara, Hakeem Jeffries, Eric Adams; former NYC mayor Ed Koch (recently) and a few other brave souls; have called for much needed political-reform in Albany. During this time, our present state attorney general has been as silent as Eliot Spitzer's former madam Kristin Davis was, while her “girls” performed fellatio on lawbreaking-Johns (so much for respecting the law).
Now, today, both Ms. Davis and the attorney general Mr. Andrew Status-Cuomo -opponents in this very race- are as talkative as tropical parrots. Talking about reforming Albany, and about doing all sorts of magical things if elected governor. Gimme a friggin break! Where were they when we needed courageous people to speak up and speak out?
So for me, this debate held last Monday was quite important, relative to whom I would eventually vote for in this race. And although I am still somewhat undecided, there is a candidate I am now leaning towards (a bit).
Look, I am a registered democrat, but I have never blindly voted the strict party line; not me. I am too independent in my thinking for that kind of slavish obedience. In general, I vote for democrats at over a ninety percent clip. I have already written that this election calls for democrats to come out and vote in high numbers, since both state and federal legislatures are at risk in a pre-redistricting election. This is the only reason why I still entertain the thought of voting democratic all the way down the ballot.
So back to the debate. This eclectic bunch of candidates made for an entertaining debate: albeit one lacking the kind of substance the current hard-times now demand. The biggest loser was Carl Paladino (the “Republican” and “Conservative” Parties), who showed the world more of what it already knew: that he was totally unfit to be governor. As entertaining as Jimmy Macmillan (the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party) and Kristin Davis (the “Anti-prohibition” party) were, they too demonstrated that they weren't ready for “prime time” -as we say on the block.
In my estimation, the the only serious candidates were Charles Barron (the “Freedom Party”), Warren Redlich (the “Libertarian”Party), Howie Hawkins (the “Green” Party), and Andrew “Status” Cuomo (the Democrat). Here, the real loser was Cuomo. He talked loudly but said nothing. He talked a lot but conveyed much less than what should have been standard for a governor-in-waiting. Comparing and contrasting him with his father (former governor Mario Cuomo), was like comparing and contrasting major-league and minor-league baseball players. In political debates, Mario usually hit the ball out of the park. In this debate, Andrew got to second base only because he was born on first; and also because Barron successfully bunted him over.
Andrew may sound and look like his dad (style, voice texture, intonation, inflection, demeanor, sound, eye-movements and other mannerisms, et al), but that's as far as it goes. He lacks his father's eloquence and passion. He also lacks his father's depth in terms of policy-analysis.
The winners in this debate were obviously Barron, Redlich and Hawkins. Of the three I gave a slight edge to Barron over Hawkins, then Redlich. I totally disagree with Redlich's theories on smaller government, since I have concluded (after years of study) that it's all a crock. What we need to do (all of us/no matter where we are on the political spectrum), is to strive (and work together) for more efficient and effective government: especially since we are all vested in it. Demonizing government at every opportunity -like right wingers are want to do- hurts more than helps. It also spawns fools like Timothy McVeigh. There are many folks out there who don't understand the theory behind government. They don't know what the “social contract” is. And they surely never read the philosophers Hobbs and Locke.
Today, in a post-debate conversation with Charles Barron, he simply refuses to believe that Jimmy Macmillan's fifteen minutes of media-glory is going make it much harder for the Freedom Party to get the requisite fifty thousand votes needed to attain ballot-status for the next four years. Barron seemed quite happy with his debate-performance.
Look, I am very torn right now. In my heart I am leaning towards voting for the full Freedom Party slate; but in my head, I feel I should stay loyal to my democratic registration. I feel strongly that the Democratic Party has taken Black and Hispanics voters for granted for far too long. I feel that we should send them a strong message; especially when the state-wide ticket has no blacks, Hispanics, Asians, or women.
I think Charles Barron -despite his consistently anachronistic rhetoric and many past mistakes- is someone totally committed to transforming society from the “same old same old” to a more inclusive one. I think we need to shake things up in here. If the Freedom Party obtains ballot status over the next four years it will be an opportunity for political evolution like we have never seen in New York. And yet, since there have been so many wasted opportunities in the past, I am a bit apprehensive here: some of the same players previously involved still remain; and without any reflection on past errors; and without any attempt at introspection or retrospection. It's like de-ja-vu all over again.
There are three main factors which at the moment stops me from totally deciding to vote for the full Freedom Party slate. Firstly, I don't want to waste my vote when the magic number (50,000) is probably unattainable (as happened before). Secondly, the compelling argument that it is vitally important (given the alternative) for democrats to retain the governorship, plus federal and state legislatures, in the upcoming round of redistricting. And thirdly, I am really and truly troubled by a political-party articulating that its leadership must be “Black or Hispanic”. It's too exclusive for my liking. My view is that political parties should be all-inclusive: period.
In politics (as in most other human endeavors), we should always strive to build coalitions based on common interests, goals, needs, objectives and visions. Leadership should be conferred based primarily on experience(s), abilities, intelligence, qualifications, character, vision and other similar and pertinent developmental factors and leadership-qualities. One should not be selected to leadership positions strictly because of one's race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or such superficial attributes. As much as some of these attributes need to be factored into the equation, they shouldn't be dominant. Limiting leadership roles to those of specific races, is exactly that: limiting.
Despite the harsh realities of racism and denial in this society, we cannot respond with reverse-racism. We cannot substitute egalitarian concepts for narrow racial, ethnic, religious or nationalistic ones. Sure there are times when we have to breakdown issues based on race, ethnicity and the like, and sure we may have to apply remedies based on such, but we must always be cognizant of the fact that we are ALL in this together. I could understand the need for this initiative, but if I don't vote for the Freedom Party it will mean that I cannot reconcile their platform with my vision of a truly heterogeneous society, with justice and equal opportunity for all. We have a ways to go, but we also have to watch how we get there.
I still have a little time left to decide exactly what I am going to do when I vote, but rest assured of one thing: as long as I am alive and physically (intellectually too) able, I will vote. Democracy is no spectator sport. I hope all of you (reading my column here) do the same: vote.
Stay tuned-in folks.
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