Why Paladino could win in these dangerous times
Everyone wants to know whether Carl Paladino can really be elected governor. The answer is yes, he can. That is astounding to everyone who think he is a mad, crazy, tea party kind of guy — a rip off artist who has made tons of money from government programs while preaching the gospel of fiscal conservatism. You can pick and choose among all the reasons not to vote for the guy but recent polls show that Paladino is moving up. How can that be when the newspapers are doing one expose or editorial after another about him? Of course, the newspapers are not well thought of. We have seen several polls indicating that journalists enjoy widespread contempt. How is it that when Andrew Cuomo is doing the right thing by not getting down in the mud with the guy, Paladino’s numbers keep going up? The respected Marist Poll shows him fifteen points behind among likely voters.
Things get stranger and stranger. I have a friend who makes his living selling legal guns. He tells me that he is voting for Andrew Cuomo. He says that the other guy is just too crazy. That would fly in the face of the rising poll numbers for Paladino. The secret, of course, is that the middle class voter sees the “system” as conspiring against them. All they know is that no matter who is in power, they are the ones getting screwed. Their taxes are going up, their schools are characterized as not working, too many of their politicians are on the take and the in groups in the legislature are more concerned about preserving their status than about helping the people. What’s more, the voters are feeling more and more that they are being “played.” They get two choices, Republicans or Democrats, and no matter who is in office, things seem to stay the same.
People want to know why media magnate Rupert Murdoch, a fiscal conservative, is wildly backing Andrew Cuomo and has been since the attorney general got into the race. They are genuinely puzzled about the fact that Murdoch is supporting the son of Mario when he did more than anyone else to get Mario out of office in 1994. A few potential answers to the puzzle are that Andrew has been moving seriously to the right; Murdoch’s kids seem to have far more social conscience than he does; and Cuomo senior saved the New York Post when he supported giving Post owner Rupert a waiver on the prohibition against owning both a newspaper and a television station in the same market.
The better answer is that we have no idea. It could just be, as Woodrow Wilson once said, “…secret agreements secretly arrived at” (implicitly or explicitly). That’s why it was no surprise that one of Murdoch’s top political guys, Frederic U. Dicker, got in the face of Paladino and started the “War of Two Mutts” that was seen on TV and heard around the world on virtually every radio station. Dicker has done this kind of gonzo journalism again and again and it always gets the desired results. But let’s just remember who is pressing the Dicker buttons.
Many journalists know that the in-your-face Dicker performance was unprofessional but they supported him anyway, so threatening is Paladino, the rogue politician. So Joe Shmoe, living in Levittown and madder than hell about everything may just want to send a message. Joe’s, “Get off my back. Get away from me. Go away!” may be just like Paladino’s, “I’m madder than hell and you should be too,” message. It will not be the first time in history that someone has fallen for the off-the-wall politico message. When people get angry enough they just say, “Nothing can be worse than this.”
Andrew is between a rock and a hard place. If he comes out and fights Paladino, he is the old “Bully Boy” Andrew and if he takes the reasonable path and doesn’t fight, he is disdained for not being combative enough. As of now, he seems to be holding his fire but if the polls continue to narrow, Andrew may have to come out and fight. That would mean debating, which is something he clearly does not want to do because it gives the man the Daily News calls “Crazy Carl” an even bigger platform. These are very dangerous times. The voters are in a state of near rebellion against what they think is a rigged system and that’s why Paladino could win. It all depends on just how angry and fed up they are.
Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 10/5/10