A classic comedian still gets support
It’s early September in New York, the circus is in town and it will be staying on until early November. Recently, I voted in the primary election—-for governor of New York—-and, in about seven weeks, it will be time to vote in general elections, always an exercise in pathos and low comedy. Elections are quite as entertaining as the circus, a circus in which the clowns are the stars.
This year the circus of politics, once again, is providing its usual hi-jinks. Most democrats and republicans—-the ruling parties here in the United States—-are making their usual outrageous promises: They will do anything and everything for the voters; expanding programs but never raising taxes. This skewed logic is on the order of the logic of someone telling you that you can eat cheesecake every night and have unlimited Colt 45 as your breakfast beverage but never get fat or sloshed.
Yet the logic of those inane diet promises isn’t very different from the political moonshine we get from our pols on the make. But the two parties share a scam. The average pol will say or do most anything to get your vote. Then, if successful and safely ensconced in office for another two or four years, this bird will suddenly feign an attack of amnesia when someone points out that he or she came nowhere near to what was promised in the heat of the campaign. (Clinton’s “middle class” tax cut. Reagan’s promise to discontinue two federal departments. George W. Bush’s Robert Taft like warning in the 2000 campaign that the U.S. was sending troops to too many places around the world. The flim-flam list is endless) But today I just want to write about New York, a state whose endless taxes will plague me and my scions even after I die.
Despite endless failed promises and policies that only end up giving us more and more useless government departments, programs and busybody bureaucrats, we continue to hear the same tired “the government will solve all your promises” from most democrats and republicans as they battle for office. These cockamamie campaigns seem like auctions in which there are only two bidders for our business and the winner’s check always bounces. And the rival bidders sometimes don’t seem all that unfriendly when the bidding—-the election—ends.
That’s because these “hated” opponents share a secret prejudice—a kind of prejudice of two circus owners who don’t want you to know they are both cruel to those wonderful creatures called elephants. The ugly secret of most republicans and democrats is they both hate competition. They both want to keep out new parties or even turn their intra-parties battles, the party primaries, into a mockery in which the ruling candidate runs against nobody, or, if he or she has an opponent, can so stack the deck so that the contest is a joke.
And speaking of comedy, I recently returned from the circus. I voted in our idiotic gubernatorial primary. Governor Andrew Cuomo, elected four years ago, just waltzed to a primary victory. He faced only one potential primary opponent, left-wing Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout. Cuomo spent tons of money trying to knock her off the ballot. In this rigged American system called elections, she seemed a sacrificial lamb with about as much chance of getting to Albany as the Chicago Cubs have of getting to the World Series this year.
Our Blessed Governor
Cuomo had a some 30 to one advantage in fund raising, yet the governor never missed a trick. Over the last few weeks I have received endless mailings from our governor telling me how justice demands that he gets the next opening of the Blessed Trinity. One interesting subtext is that most of these pols are desperate not only that you fall for their line, but that you fall for the entire scam and be sure to vote. It is as though they fear the obvious: The system is losing legitimacy as fewer and fewer people head for the Big Top for each primary and general election. Only about ten percent of the eligible voters went to the Big Top, err, polls, this time.
In the weeks leading up to this foolishness, Cuomo’s annoying messages have been clogging my phone mail. He seemed to be telling me that he is a Christ-like figure and his lieutenant governor running mate is the Blessed Virgin.
Still, some say that political ads are a form of free speech so people are entitled to make whatever claims they want. Ego, people with big checkbooks are entitled to write big checks. Fair enough. But here’s something about this campaign that was been anything but fair: The governor, who desperately tried to knock Teachout off the ballot and failed, repeatedly refused to debate her. They didn’t debate even once.
The governor, in most polls, was ahead by about 35 percent so he decided he never needed to debate her and her left-wing ideas about adding more government and raising more taxes here in New York. So we went to the polls without the governor having to answer any hard questions. Cuomo won by about twenty five percent. By the way, Governor Andrew Cuomo, who dismissed calls for debates from all sorts of people and groups, has conveniently contracted the great political disease: amnesia.
Governor, Remember Your Father
Thirty two years ago, when Andrew Cuomo was a young man studying law and helping to run his father’s fledgling, underdog, gubernatorial campaign, the race started out in the primaries with then New York City Mayor Edward Koch far ahead in the polls. All the big money was with the mayor. Mario Cuomo, Andrew’s father, was then a lieutenant governor in the administration of governor Hugh Carey, who didn’t run for another term. Most people thought Cuomo didn’t have a chance at the start of the campaign. The smart money was with Koch. Then something interesting happened.
Koch consented to debate Mario Cuomo. Indeed, Koch, then a political superstar, often worshiped by the slaves of the mainstream media, agreed to debate the little-known Cuomo. Koch did it not just once or twice, but lots of times.
Was it ego? Was it a sense of fairness that motivated Koch?
It doesn’t matter. The series of debates resurrected the Cuomo campaign. He went on to win the democratic primary and gubernatorial election. Cuomo served three terms as governor, with hijo Andrew at his side, before he lost to Rockefeller Republican George Pataki in 1994. After a year or so of pretending to reform the state’s big spending ways, Pataki continued the spending and taxing that have made New York one of the highest tax states in the nation. It is a place where few middle-class people will retire.
Can We Please Debate?
But let’s get back to the never ending political circus and its never ending supply of clowns. Andrew Cuomo, according to media reports, has no intention of debating his republican opponent, Westchester County executive Rob Astorino, this fall. The general election probably will be just like the just concluded primary or possibly the governor, facing pressure from outraged voters, might consent to one or two debates. Still, I will be entertained by it all.
Since the clowns were always my favorite part of the circus, I never miss a political campaign or participating in the let’s pretend contests that end in egregious elections. These elections demonstrate the myopia of many Americans preaching to the world—-and sometimes bombing parts of it—-that our version of democracy is divinely inspired.
But please excuse my regional hubris. Here in Nueva York we probably offer the best circuses—-although I certainly acknowledge that taxing and corruption plagued places like Chicago and California can hold their own with the best of our Boss Tweeds—-because now it’s easier than ever to write in a vote.
Here was and will be my vote for New York governor: Comedian Lou Costello, you’ve been dead for over fifty years, but you still have my vote.