Carl Paladino – the man to watch in November 2010

By J. DeVoy

“They say I’m too blunt.  Well, I am.”
— Carl Paladino, Sept. 14, 2010

Tonight, Carl Paladino cinched the Republican nomination for Governor of New York State.  Paladino, a lawyer-cum-real estate magnate in upstate New York, has had a storied past.  Before wading into the political realm, he would buy radio and print advertisements to air his grievances with people he disliked in New York, specifically local politicians in Upstate cities.

After announcing his candidacy, the Western New York media network obtained e-mails from Paladino, featuring racist photos and videos, pornography of all kinds, and general insanity.  In his own defense, Paladino described himself as “uninhibited and probably a little out of the box,” but “mean[ing] no harm to to anyone except the bad guys.”  He concluded his defense with “truth, justice, apple pie, motherhood, the wheels on the bus go round and round.”

Paladino’s campaigning extended into activities that could best be described as elaborate in-real-life (“IRL”) flame.  In Syracuse, Paladino used a man dressed as a chicken to insinuate his opponent, Rick Lazio, was afraid to debate him. (Famously, Lazio lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2000 senate race.)  Keeping with the avian theme of his tactics, Paladino sent a man dressed as a duck to “stalk” Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo — a reference to Paladino’s charge that Cuomo has “ducked” questions about healthcare reform and other important issues.

A few short weeks before the primary, Paladino introduced his idea for the “Dignity Corps” — a modified welfare-to-work program.  Under Paladino’s vision, underutilized and empty prisons would be converted into centers where those on welfare and unemployment insurance can receive job training, state-sponsored work, housing and lessons in “personal hygiene.” (source.)  This proposal was, obviously, met with significant criticism by both Republicans and Democrats.

Now that Paladino has the backing of the New York GOP, he will be more visible for approximately two months.  Given the circumstances already surrounding New York’s Governor’s office – inhabited by a blind gentleman who recently signed the wrong state budget into effect after inheriting the office from a philandering Eliot Spitzer – the race should already garner national attention.  Paladino’s escapades will only give the media more fodder to follow and a greater reason to turn its eye toward the Empire State.

From a free speech perspective, I’m glad Paladino has the nod to go on to the gubernatorial election.  He’s a brash, controversial figure that will draw both intense support and vitriolic hatred.  As much as people might think his plans are insensitive and even reprehensible, the voters can make that decision now, rather than hypersensitive, triangulating political operatives.  This is New York State we’re talking about, and Carl may be relegated to his top-story keep in the Ellicott Square Building via electoral defeat, left to live the rest of his political career alone with his piles and piles of real estate money.

One thing appears clear, though: Paladino understands free speech.  He’s not afraid of making – and defending – pointed statements, as offensive or absurd as others may find them.  One hopes that he’ll extend this understanding to others as well, and there’s good reason, based on his own embrace of the First Amendment’s principles evidenced by his personal speech, that he will.  In the political forum, where words, expression and debate are so important, or at least supposed to be, this attribute is critically important.

For that reason alone, Carl, I’m with you.  I might not agree with everything you do and say, but your right to say it is vital.

12 Responses to Carl Paladino – the man to watch in November 2010

  1. David says:

    From listening to his advertisements on talk radio he wants to use eminent domain on the site of the controversial Muslim Cultural Center/Mosque near Ground Zero. (To listen to the ad:

    Free speak, maybe. Free exercise, nah.

    • J DeVoy says:

      I’m not familiar with his position on the mosque – an issue that I’m tired of hearing about because its resolution should be cut and dry – but it’s not surprising. Kind of lame to make the site a war memorial, but the ad dances around whether Carl is opposed to the mosque because it’s Islamic, and hints at a more sinister motive in its funding and backing – which makes more sense than opposing it because of religious exercise, though I think his claims are proving to be dubious.

      The whole mosque thing reeks of misdirection. When a lot of attention is paid to non-issues like that, people should turn their focus to D.C. or Wall Street, since that’s when the subtle yet important moves are made.

      • David says:

        I agree, there is a lot of misdirection talking about the mosque instead of actual issues. I wish I heard something about him talking about issues. (Which is why I am glad you posted this.) I’ve heard the ad so many times though between every segment on talk radio it’s just the first thing I think about when I hear the guys name—I guess the ad worked.

        Personally, my take on the ad is that it’s a wonderful wedge issue that he wants to use to his advantage with people who listen to pundits scaring them about Islam taking over. From the ad: “Carl Palaldino says it’s an affront to those murdered on 9-11, it’s an insult to all Americans and it must be stopped.” I believe this line alludes to the fact that Muslim’s attacked the WTC on 9/11 and having a “mosque” near the site is an insult to America(ns). And he wants to stop this insult by taking the land away.

        I know this sounds like I hate the guy, but I really don’t know much about him aside from the ad. But, from what you posted, I think a brash style and a sense of humor is great. Guess I’ll have to look him up.

        • J DeVoy says:

          My family’s been in the title insurance business forever and knows about his company, Ellicott Development, and have some decent background on the guy for other reasons.

          And your point is well taken; I’m not interpreting your comment as a statement for or against him. I wish there was more about him on the public record, but Lazio dodged the debate – something that could have worked in his favor, had he done it. So we’ll have to wait for a while to get more information.

  2. David says:

    That should be:

    Free speech, maybe. Free exercise, nah.

  3. Sean F. says:

    Makes me wish I still lived in New York so I could vote for him.

  4. Halcyon 2L says:

    I don’t think the mainstream media will take him seriously–in NY or otherwise. He may have the backing of the NYS GOP, but NYS doesn’t have a GOP worth much of anything at this point. I think he will be treated like a joke and an afterthought.

    I don’t think he has any chance of stopping Prince Cuomo II’s ascendancy, especially since the prince took Mayor Duffy as a running mate–who is sane, stable, and liked upstate. I am totally not a fan of Cuomo, but I can’t see how he could lose.

  5. Gary Krupkin says:

    Dear Mr. DeVoy: I think you are seriously confusing the ability to freely speak on subjects of politcal concern with the ability to advance a cogent and profound political agenda. As a member of the First Amendment Lawyers Association, I stand squarely on the side of Mr. Paladino’s free speech rights. However, at this watershed moment in our country’s history, much more is needed from our polical leaders. Certainly, Mr. Paladino and his ilk such as Sharron and Rand, contribute naught to our ordered sense of liberty and justice. Perhaps you might rethink your sophistry of “defending your right to say it,” and include a more profound call to Mr. Paladino’s “duty to advance our democracy in the body politic.”

    • J DeVoy says:

      This is a fair argument. However, underpinning my position is the reality that Carl Paladino cannot win the Governor’s office. He has too much baggage and is running against Andrew Cuomo, who has a much more recognizable name and better election apparatus in place. The “outsider cleaning up Albany” meme, moreover, is tired to the point of parody in New York, and people will see through it in the next two months.

      If it were a closer race, and if Paladino had any real chance of winning, I would think twice before celebrating the outrageous things he’s done. But he’s a harmless, well-intentioned and bored businessman who will at least represent the frustration many feel with New York State, even if he cannot deliver change. I concur with your sentiments about the duty to advance democracy, but I don’t think Paladino will be the standard bearer of New York in a way that will enable his antics to harm the political process. If he was taken seriously, the potential for harm would be greater; alas, he’s not. Additionally, the politics of winning a primary are different from those of a general election. In presidential primaries, candidates tend to reach their zenith around their respective conventions, and then become progressively moderate until election day to court the illusory moderate, undecided voter. A similar trajectory does not seem like an unreasonable expectation in this election.

      Come November, the public will return more than 80% of incumbents to office, just as it always does, and the same complaints of bad governance in New York State and the United States will begin all over again. There’s no avenue for Paladino or any other insurgent candidate to upset the apple cart in a meaningful way. Personally, I feel this is a bad thing and actually inimical to democracy, as the two-party system fails the vast majority of Americans whose economic positions are better defined by their labor than capital. No lasting harm will come from his antics, or those of any other flavor-of-the-week rebel, though. Those with money at stake will support candidates who 1) they can control, and 2) are tied to people they do control. This ensures consistency and institutional stability, rather than a different group of people who believe they can barter chickens for healthcare, as the tea party candidate in Nevada passionately argued, barnstorming government every election cycle.

      So let him have his fun. His campaign and candidacy have limited impact on the political tenor of New York and the nation. If anything, his extremism advances democracy by encouraging Democratic turnout. Even if he were to win, he would quickly change into the apparatchik of entrenched interests just like “reformers” Pataki and Spitzer before him, and temper his actions and rhetoric.

    • Just an FYI — DeVoy is a member of FALA too. :)

  6. […] previously discussed Carl Paladino and his infamous e-mails.  Hustler’s Larry Flynt recently reviewed them as well and decided to weigh in: “Mr. […]

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