Paterson's Opportunity to Step it Up
Monday, March 1st, 2010
That morning, heads were shaking across the city and the Web, and, within days, questions arose. Just three weeks after the news broke of his rumored affair with an upstate mistress, and just over a month after his 15-year-old son’s arrest for gambling, the Paterson rumor mill sprang into action once again. By mid-week, with David Johnson, the governor's closest advisor and lauded protegee, accused of domestic violence, allegations of coercion struck Paterson himself. Within hours, the mill ground to a halt as Paterson bowed out of the upcoming gubernatorial race.
Much of the city and state's political elite wants more. Some go so far as to clamor for Paterson's resignation. But his move to halt his campaign may be his smartest one yet, in both the long and short terms.
The long term: It’s evident that Paterson wouldn’t win—not after this deluge of political and personal scandal. Had he run, his campaign, with less than $600,000, was sure to fail, and he would have needed a miracle to piece his reputation back together. For the Democrats in Albany, his bowing out ends up being a sensible move, leaving the door open for Andrew Cuomo, New York’s attorney general. Cuomo’s approval rating has skyrocketed to over 60 percent, and he is now set to enjoy a relatively smooth primary ride, saving his fight for the election.
And the short term: Instead of retreating and licking his wounds until he’s relieved of his duties in January, Paterson is looking at the best opportunity of his career. Finally unburdened, he is free to try to see his plans through without having to navigate disparate, often conflicting political allegiances. Paterson's last hour could prove his most fruitful.
Sure, the to-do list is long. Remember that gay marriage bill? Now is the time to push it through. And the contract to turn Aqueduct into a 'racino?' Bring on the slots!
Though some may not like Paterson's financial moves—his school budget cuts, along with his proposed fees for early-intervention programs—he has shown a rare willingness to brave the state’s fiscal challenge. Now is the time, in short, to try new ideas that, if he were dreaming of another four years in the governor’s mansion, he may have shied away from.
Paterson also has the chance to bring a little dignity back to Albany and to win back his supporters. The years of political pandering and childish bickering have alienated the public. Paterson, now able to bypass much of the political back-scratching, can help Albany gain traction without worrying about stepping on toes. He can renew his allegiance to his African-American supporters, a vital and essential populace for New York's government.
Politicians have a duty to serve the public, but too often the lure of reelection leaves them overly cautious and fearful. Perhaps we'll find that the strongest politician is one set free.
More by this Author