Commentary Magazine


Can Paladino Be New York’s Paladin?

Speaking of Tea Party successes in the elections last Tuesday, it seems the upset win of Christine O’Donnell in Delaware sucked most of the oxygen out of the blogosphere. Thus Carl Paladino’s success in capturing the Republican nomination for governor in New York has not received that much attention except to have it widely assumed that he cannot win against the Democratic candidate, Andrew Cuomo.

I’m not so sure. Paladino didn’t just defeat former congressman Rick Lazio, the anointed of the Republican establishment in New York; he crushed him 62 percent to 38 percent.

Paladino has been called a bomb-thrower, especially for his impolitic remarks like calling the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, the Antichrist. That might indeed be a tad over the top, but Sheldon Silver is very much the poster child for all that is wrong with Albany. I think many New Yorkers will agree with Paladino. And he has some baggage, including a 10-year-old out-of-wedlock daughter. But as his wife has evidently forgiven him and the daughter is very much a part of the Paladino family, I suspect that New Yorkers — a forgiving bunch when it comes to personal peccadilloes — will not hold it against him. An acknowledged illegitimate child didn’t stop Grover Cleveland from becoming governor of New York and then president. (Whether Cleveland was actually the father is a good question, as the mother had been bestowing her favors on more than one man, including Cleveland’s law partner. Cleveland apparently took responsibility because he was the only bachelor among the group, making him a gentleman twice over.)

Assuming there are no major skeletons to come out of the closet (and the media is surely scouring every nook and cranny of Paladino’s career looking for them) and he can come across in debate and on the campaign trail as mad-as-hell but not out-of-control, I think he has an excellent chance of winning on Nov. 2. A bomb-thrower, I think, is exactly what the long-abused citizens of New York are looking for. Add to that the fact that Paladino is seriously rich and can self-finance a credible campaign, even in super-expensive New York State. And his opponent is the very model of a modern political-establishment apparatchik, son of a former governor who presided over Albany for 12 years and did nothing — absolutely nothing — to reverse the slow decline of the Empire State or to reform its ever more corrupt political ways. He didn’t even try.

Mario Cuomo was the very embodiment of the status quo, and there is no reason whatever to think that his rather colorless son will be any different. This gives Paladino a heaven-sent political slogan: “No more of the status Cuomo!”