The Tragedy of David Paterson and the Future of Democracy

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    David Paterson has his back against the wall

    The disintegration of Governor David Paterson’s political career is like a Greek tragedy.

    Yet, as one revelation after another comes out, the chaos in Albany seems to be quieting down. Paterson has stepped out of the race for governor. He’s being urged by some fellow Democrats to resign immediately. The chorus of abuse grows.

    We are starting to take for granted that this governor is departing. And the political savants and pundits, like members of the chorus celebrating a tragedy, are practically guaranteeing that Andrew Cuomo, the Attorney General who has pursued wrong doing most ably for the last four years, is a shoo-in for governor in the November election.

    In Greek tragedies the chorus often represented what the main characters could not say -- their fears or secrets. Sometimes the chorus was seen as representing the general population of Athens.

    Without detracting from the substantial qualifications of Andrew Cuomo to be governor, we seem to be disregarding the danger of anointing anyone as governor without having a competitive process.

    Is the Democratic Party so impoverished politically that it can field only one credible candidate? Where are the other hopefuls? Are they too chicken to come out of the woodwork? Do the Democrats jeopardize their chances by not having a competitive primary? And is Rick Lazio the only Republican capable of seriously challenging the Democrats for the governorship?

    The voters of New York, we believe, are disgusted with the whole spectacle in Albany. The scandals in the Legislature were not committed by David Paterson. He should take the rap for the way he mishandled the appointment of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, harshly dumping Caroline Kennedy. But the scandals that tied up the Legislature and resulted in criminal charges against Republican Joe Bruno and Democrats including Hiram Monserrate and other legislators, didn’t stir affection among the people.

    John Faso, the Republican who ran unsuccessfully against Eliot Spitzer four years ago, said recently: "New York needs, deserves and ought to demand a real contest for governor." The words may be self serving but they are true nonetheless.

    Nothing could be more therapeutic for the citizens of New York than real contests for the U.S. Senate and the governorship. Paterson and Gillibrand were appointed to high office. They didn’t get elected to their jobs.

    It’s time for a rebirth of democracy in New York -- and political competition is part of the answer.