I’m still kicking myself for having missed the Democratic primary here and blown my chance to vote against Andrew Cuomo twice.
You can be sure I’ll be voting against him next month, but here’s the thing.
I really shouldn’t be having to vote against him at all.
I mean two things by that.
One is that as a good Franklin Roosevelt-revering liberal Democrat from New York I shouldn’t be presented with the likes of Andrew Cuomo on the ballot as the Democratic nominee for governor at all.
As I’ve said, Cuomo isn’t a closet Republican. Also, as I’ve said, the proper term for a Democrat who isn’t a good and reliable liberal isn’t Republican, it’s wrong. No, Cuomo’s a Democrat through and through, just not a liberal enough one. He worries too much about the care and feeding of millionaires. But in addition to that, he hates other liberal Democratic politicians and just about every organized bloc of the Democratic base and much of what he does that isn’t liberal he doesn’t do to be conservative. He does it to show them who’s boss.
This goes way back with him, to when his father was governor.
He blames them as much, heck, probably more, than he blames Republicans for the hard time they gave Mario Cuomo and how they got in the way of Mario’s getting things done. We’ll have to wait for the biographies, but I suspect Andrew blames his father too, for not being tough enough and ruthless enough in his dealings with them. Andrew may not be as smart as his father (although I’m not sure he knows that), he may not be as eloquent, he’s definitely not as charismatic, but he’s sure as hell meaner, and that counts for a lot, in his own mind, at any rate. Whatever reverse Hamletesque psychodrama he might be playing out, however, he’s apparently motivated by the determination to oppose them. If they want something, he doesn’t. If they don’t want it, he does.
Charles Pierce dislikes the guy as much as I do. Thinks he’s horrible, as a matter of fact. Despises “the cynical, nasty, and high-handed way he conducts himself in office.”
This also goes way back with Andrew.
I used to hear it from friends who worked with him in the Clinton administration.
I heard it from friends who worked in his father’s administration and from reporters who covered Mario back then.
And it’s not the way he conducts himself “in office.”
It’s the way he conducts himself, period.
It’s him. How he is. Who he is.
That a politician is an arrogant jerk isn’t in itself necessarily a reason to vote against him, just as someone’s being a nice guy isn’t in itself a reason to vote for him. The same qualifier applies to both.
Does his jerkiness or niceness get in the way of his getting the stuff done that needs to get done?
Cuomo’s jerkiness doesn’t get the way of his getting stuff done he wants done, but it gets in the way of his getting stuff done that needs to get done because it makes him just not want to do it.He wants everything his way or…his way.
Nobody tells Andrew Cuomo what to do, especially not his liberal and Democratic rivals.
He wants everything his way or…his way.
So that’s why it’s going to be satisfying to vote against him even if I only get to do it once.
I have to admit, though, it probably wouldn’t feel so satisfying if by voting against him I was really helping his Republican opponent win.
The other way I mean I shouldn’t have to be voting for or against Andrew involves the What Could’ve Been Factor.
The trouble with Andrew isn’t that he’s as bad a governor as any Republican. The trouble isn’t even that he’s a worse than any other Democrat would be. And the trouble isn’t simply that he’s not as good a liberal governor as we should have or could have. The trouble is he’s not as a good liberal as the one we did have.
Right now we liberal Democrats shouldn’t be talking about whether or not we can vote in good conscience for Andrew Cuomo.
We should be looking forward to voting to re-elect Eliot Spitzer to a third term.
And the reason we’re not is Eliot Spitzer’s own fault.
You thought this post was about Andrew Cuomo, didn’t you?
It’s not about Eliot Spitzer either.
Or Mitt Romney’s who’s going to turn up here in a minute.
It’s about Malala Yousafzai.
I don’t want to idealize Spitzer. A second term might not have been a sure bet, never mind a third. He had his own problematic temperament and wasn’t known for working and playing well with others. Hs first year in office was one political squabble after another, most instigated by him, most probably avoidable and unnecessary and accomplishing nothing. So I don’t know how effective a liberal governor he’d have turned out to be. He was a better liberal than Andrew starting out at least in not being overly concerned with the care and feeding of millionaires. In fact, the only care and feeding of millionaires that seemed to cross his mind was that which would be provided at state expense. Spitzer’s main concern when it came to millionaires was how to put them in jail.
Some people think this is why he didn’t get to finish his first term as governor, let alone run for a third. The millionaires he wanted to put in jail got him first.
Nah. Client 9 got himself.
While he was energetically trying to apply the law to millionaires, he decided it didn’t apply to himself.
Before we go any further…
Spitzer didn’t get run out of office. He ran himself out of office. And it wasn’t because he cheated on his wife. It wasn’t because he liked to cheat on his wife with prostitutes. It was because cheating on your wife with prostitutes is against the law.
Eliot Spitzer, while he was state attorney general, while he was putting other people, and not just millionaires, in jail for breaking the law, broke the law.
Of course, he’s hardly the first politician who thought he could break the law and get away with it. And that’s the point.
Just about every politician is someone who decided they could break the law and get away with it. But this goes beyond politicians. Every person with an ambition to be in some way better than ordinary and acts on it is someone who’s decided the laws that apply to most everyone else don’t apply to them.
I don’t mean the laws that are codified, written down, and enforced by legal authority, the breaking of which gets you arrested, tried, and sent to jail or not just those kinds of laws.
I mean the laws that govern civil society, moral, cultural, legal, traditional, and implicit, the breaking of which ruins lives, wrecks friendships, tears apart families, divides neighbors, dissolves partnerships, and generally make impossible the formation of communities and any effort by groups large and small to work and live together. The laws that keep us from each other’s throats, the laws that keep us at each other’s sides and on each other’s sides. The laws that bind us together mainly by requiring each of us to put others’ needs ahead of our own. The laws that keep us humble and make us kind and dutiful and loyal and responsible.
But that also keep us in line and in step, obedient, self-doubting, self-limiting, self-negating as well as self-sacrificing. The laws that tell us not to get above ourselves, not to ask for too much, not to ask for more, not to ask for anything at all. The laws that tell us to know our place and keep to it and be thankful for what we have even when it’s not enough to get by let alone make us happy.
The laws that tell us none of us is all that special.
These are the laws that keep us grounded, as in, rooted, level-headed, realistic, practical, self-aware, and as in earthbound, tied down, flightless, which is why I call them the laws of social gravity.
But what if you are special or think you are, which is more often the case?
What if you think you can fly and should fly? What if you dream of chasing your heart’s desire into the air?
If you’re brave enough, strong enough, arrogant enough, foolish enough, obsessed enough, driven enough, selfish enough, you set out to defy gravity.
Every young athlete, artist, musician, scientist, entrepreneur, adventurer, future civic leader, who’s told You’re too short, too little, too slow, too weird, too out there, too poor, too ambitious, too much of an underdog, too much of a girl, too much not white enough is being subjected to the laws of social gravity and therefore being presented with a choice: Give up and accept being ordinary and earthbound or break the law.
Every more than ordinarily successful person is an outlaw. That sounds romantic, I know, and it is. But it also means that every one of them has more than a touch of sociopathy in their nature.
And if you’ve decided one set of laws don’t apply to you. You’re one your way to deciding that no laws apply to you.
To be that kind of outlaw, you have to be more than averagely brave and strong but also more than averagely arrogant, foolish, obsessed, driven, and selfish. This is why all ambitious and successful people, upon getting the kind of examination the ambitious and successful tend to get, turn out to be to greater or lesser degrees not very nice.
In fact, they’re often appalling.
That doesn’t mean they’re all bad people. Many have compensating virtues. And some even seem to understand, instinctively or because they’re smart and have good hearts and they’ve worked it out, that one of the reasons they have been able to be better than others is by having been worse. In your superiority is your inferiority. At some point you took when they gave, you turned your back when they rushed forward to help, you left when they stayed, you said no when they said yes and said yes to what they said no to, and in understanding this and acting upon it they’ve made themselves into not just good people but heroic ones.
Others? Not so much.
Still, good or not so good, they are people who at some point in their lives decided: “I don’t care what other people think. I don’t care what they expect of me. I don’t care about what they need from me. I’m going to take care of myself first. I’m going to do what I need to do. I’m going to have what I want.”
And this can be beautiful and inspiring when what the defier of gravity needs and desires is the freedom to do what she does well, to make music, do science, build bridges, start a business, make the team, lead the way, cure diseases and save lives, or just be the person she knows herself to be.
It’s not so beautiful when what he wants is what he can only have by taking from others, power or money or both, usually both, because they go hand in hand and really amount to the same thing, the ability to lord it over others and make them serve his needs.
That last type of gravity-defier includes but isn’t limited to politicians and the professionally rich, that is, the breed of greedhead for whom the getting of money and piling up of wealth are the be-all and end-all of life, not just the point of all human endeavor but the point of human beings themselves. In short, the people running the economy at the moment and with it what should be our civil society.
Hard to have a civil society when the people running it don’t think its laws apply to them.
And that’s where we are these days.
Not only have we handed over the running of the country to these sociopaths or, more accurately, stood by as if helpless while they took over, we seem to like and admire and celebrate them for it. Worse, we seem to have accepted that their sociopathic view of life is correct, that the point of all human endeavor and the reason for having any kind of society, never mind a civil one, is to make money and pile up treasure, that human beings exist only to work or be used toward that end. We’ve acquiesced to the idea that people are divided between makers and takers, although the terms are inversely applied, the true makers being most of us who feel bound by the laws of social gravity and the takers being the ones who don’t think laws of any kind should or do stop them from taking whatever they want.
And in the last Presidential election we came close to making one of them, a quintessential one of them, President. Would’ve taken a shift of only about 3 million votes out of the roughly 127 million cast and we’d have had the vulture capitalist and 47 percenter Mitt Romney in the White House.
And almost unbelievably there are members of the so-called liberal media who are in fact liberals who are eager for Mitt to run again in 2016!
Some of them want him to run just because it’s something to write about now. Some of them want him to run because they think he’s the only Republican with a chance of beating Hillary and that would give them something to write about when the campaign really gets underway. Some of them want him to run because they want Hillary to lose and it just doesn’t matter to them who would become President instead. Some of them want him to run because they are disgusted by the thought of having to cover the likes of Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. And some of them are just plain dumb and believe against all the evidence that the opportunistic Mitt Romney who was beaten and bullied about as governor of Massachusetts by the overwhelmingly Democratic and liberal state legislature and forced to govern as if he was a moderate if not a liberal is the real Mitt Romney.
But some of them want him to run because they think this is what the country needs, Mitt or someone like him, a sociopathic rich guy who knows how to make money and keep the “takers” in line.
And, perversely, self-destructively, self-loathingly, a great many of us seem to have not just accepted that the laws of social gravity that keep us from each other’s throats, that keep us at each other’s sides and on each other’s sides, that bind us together mainly by requiring each of us to put others’ needs ahead of our own don’t and don’t have to apply to the “makers”, but that other laws, the ones that keep us in line and in step, obedient, self-doubting, self-limiting, self-negating as well as self-sacrificing and tell us not to get above ourselves, not to ask for too much, not to ask for more, not to ask for anything at all, the laws that remind us to know our place and keep to it and be thankful for what we have even when it’s not enough to get by let alone make us happy, those laws, apply to us “takers” even more strictly than in the recent past---or, at any rate, they apply to others who aren’t among the rich and the favored, you know, Them, and need to be enforced with punitive and vindictive zeal.
And the only power the rest of us have to oppose and defeat this is power we can only gather by acting collectively, which is to say, the power that comes from progressive government.
Which, unfortunately, puts us in the position of having to rely on that other group of gravity-defiers who want what they can only have by taking from others, politicians.
Like Andrew Cuomo.
Like Eliot Spitzer.
Like too many other Democrats who in one way or another are unreliable because they are sociopaths in their own ways or because they’ve accepted that it’s a good thing to have the sociopathic rich running things or at least having a strong hand in the running of things.
I’m not going to bother talking about the Republicans, since most of them are only mere employees.
I think Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are great. (Yes, I know. Sanders isn’t a Democrat.) And although they don’t get much national attention, I hear good things about Al Franken and Sherrod Brown. And one of my own senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, shows promise. She hasn’t exactly been radicalized since her promotion to the Senate but she has moved squarely to the left and seems to be constantly glancing over in that direction and seeing more congenial company.
But then there are the Clintons, Hillary as well as Bill, who seem far too comfortable in the company of the professional rich. They might not be overly concerned with the care and feeding of millionaires but they don’t appear to mind watching them chow down as long as they mind their manners and remember to tip the waitresses. And I’m not sure about the President. I think he’d just as soon see the professional rich made to foot more of the bill, maybe even pick up the whole tab, but I think that for too long he was too respectful and too willing to listen to people who told him that couldn’t and even shouldn’t happen, that the best way to be sure the sociopaths remembered to mind their manners and tip generously was to let them order pretty much anything and everything they wanted off the menu, dessert and the finest wines included.
I’m done torturing that metaphor, by the way.
So…this is where I stand, disgruntled, resentful, but resigned, not sure how much to regret I won’t be voting for Eliot Spitzer, glad to be voting against Andrew Cuomo but somewhat relieved to know I really won’t be helping him lose because the only way he could lose is if Howie Hawkins and the other alternative party candidates siphon away enough Democratic votes that the Republican Rob Astorino squeaks in.
No matter how big an arrogant jerk Cuomo is, no matter how much he’s not enough of a liberal, no matter how much he cares about the care and feeding of millionaires, which is too much, this is still New York. Things could be worse. I could live in Wisconsin or Iowa.
It’s still far from a sure bet that the guy Charles Pierce calls a wholly owned subsidiary of the Koch Brothers, Scott Walker, is going to lose and Joni Ernst is still ahead in the polls even though she’s not only exempted herself from the laws of social gravity, she’s decided the rules of sane and coherent reasoning don’t apply to her either.
And before you say it, sometimes calling something the lesser of two evils is another way of describing the lesser of available goods.
So, finally: Speaking of someone who decided the laws of social gravity didn’t apply to her and she was going to have what she wanted no matter what she was told she should want, which is, the freedom to be the person she knows herself to be and the freedom for other young women to be their own persons too, this is a good place to celebrate Malala Yousafzai’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.
I love it that she was in chemistry class when a teacher told her about the Prize and that she finished her school day as normal before going out to meet the press.