Desperation Politics in New York

It’s probably risky making a judgment about something that’s going on 3,000 miles away. But that’s never stopped me before.
I’m referring to the governor’s race in the state of New York. What it looks like from the other coast is a multi-faceted story of desperation.

On the one hand, it looks like the Republican candidate — Carl Paladino — is engaging in some pathetically desperate moves to garner a few votes and possibly inch forward in the polls. His event yesterday during which he rubbed homophobic elbows with Orthodox Jews is only one such shameless attempt to align himself with people with whom he seems to have nothing else in common but their mutual distaste for gay people. I’m sure his anti-gay invective appealed to that particular audience. But I’m guessing that these so-called religious leaders were not recipients of his racist emails. Did they get to see the horse/human sexual interaction?

Then there’s the desperation of the Republican party. They’re clearly attempting to balance their undying desire to reclaim political power against the very real truth that the candidate that voters chose in the primary is extreme even for them. That part is kind of predictable, but it’s still fun to watch.

The part that’s not so much fun is the poll numbers. Cuomo still has a pretty commanding lead, according to just about every poll out there. But somewhere in the vicinity of 37% of New York voters are still supportive of Paladino. What kind of desperation leads voters to support someone as hateful and out of control as this candidate? And what does that say about the voters of New York? Do 37% of them truly share his extremist views? Or is that 37% of voters simply are willing to overlook the kind of bigotry and insanity that this man presents to us? Either way, it’s pretty scary.

We always hear politicians say how much they “trust the intelligence of the American people.” (It’s kind of a standard answer when a candidate is behind in the polls and they can’t think of anything else to hang their hopes on.) This election clearly brings that trust into question.

Big Al

When I was but a wee sprout, I spent a few years working at a daily newspaper. One of the editors once said to me that if I really wanted to learn about history, I should read the obituaries in the New York Times every day.

Today’s New York Times obituaries contain plenty of history – of the New York Times itself, and of the New York theatre scene – in the form of the obituary of caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, who died at 99.

His passing marks what seems to be the end of an era. His career spanned most of the last century and the beginning of this one. I can only pray that a retrospective of his work will remind producers, performers and audiences alike that there is so much more to theatre than Disney and Andrew Lloyd Webber.