Voter Anger and the New York Horse Race

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A fable from antiquity. A principle of Buddhism.

    These are among the things that stand out when you consider the latest development in the race for Governor of New York.

    Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic candidate who was rated as nearly 40 points over Republican Carl Paladino in April, now has just a six point lead over Paladino. Both estimates are from the Quinnipiac Poll.

    Although the race between the hare and the tortoise in Aesop’s fables took place a few thousand years ago, the story still gives comfort to candidates who are running behind.  You remember, the hare was way ahead. And he was so comfortably ensconced in first place, he decided to take a rest. While he was asleep, the tortoise caught up and passed him. When the hare awoke, the reptile was crossing the finish line.

    After he was endorsed by Mayor Bloomberg today, Cuomo took on Paladino. The attorney general said he understood the voters’ anger at the political establishment but only, he, Cuomo, could harness it as a constructive force for change.

    “So we’re all angry!” said Cuomo at a Manhattan appearance, “Okay, what do we want to do?  We can have an anger party, celebrate our anger. Or we can say let’s take that anger, let’s take the energy, let’s focus it and actually do something to correct the problem.”

    In the last few days, Paladino, who has said he’s mad as hell and wants to do something about it, has denounced various politicians.  He called the Democratic leader of the State Assembly, Sheldon Silver “a petty dictator and master manipulator” and compared him to Hitler. He called former Republican Governor George Pataki a “degenerate idiot” and later apologized. 

    Paladino does identify with the anger many voters feel. In Buddhist philosophy, divisive speech and harsh speech are among the 10 Non-Virtues. Harsh speech, it’s written, wounds another person through very critical and insulting words.

    Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, told me: ”There was Tea Party anger visible in the Republican primary. But this poll indicates that the anger is more general than that. It extends especially to independents too.

     “It shows that this is going to be a horse race.”

    Or, to go back to ancient wisdom, in Eccliastes [9:11] is the passage: “I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.”