Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Carl Paladino Plays Up Redneck Politics
NEW YORK -- In other years, in a milder political climate, none of us would pay any mind to the rants and rages of Carl Pasquale Paladino. But it is an angry and nutty election year, and Paladino has surfaced fully amped from the reactionary depths of cash-strapped Buffalo to carry the GOP and Tea Party banners in the New York gubernatorial race.
In a relatively short time, Paladino, a 64-year-old anti-abortion, anti-gay-marriage millionaire developer who shocked New York when he won the Republican nomination against the party's favored candidate, has brought redneck politics out in the open in this state.
Redneck politics is not the sole province of the South. It exists in the enlightened North, though perhaps toned down and buttoned up. Paladino's reactionary political views did not come out of nowhere.
LUISITA LOPEZ TORREGROSA
New York politicians have always had to negotiate the state's dichotomy -- between the urbane and progressive New York City metropolis and the rural-suburban, less affluent and traditionally conservative upstate region. Upstate conservatives get elected to the Statehouse and the U.S. House, while the big city downstate offers a balance, a countervailing force. Sometimes the city wins, sometimes upstate.
Paladino comes from there, growing up upstate, in the hard winters of the lakes region, and fed on family-centered conservative values and traditions, and on prejudices. In such a closed-in environment, politicians might hold biases that bubble up in back rooms, at private gatherings and family dinners. But they rarely pop up in public.
Paladino pops up in public. He does so bluntly, proudly, rashly. Then, when his remarks are rebuffed, he apologizes, as he did Tuesday for his anti-gay comments. Calling himself a "simple man" who makes mistakes, he said he should have chosen "better words."
Most people running for office try to rein in their prejudices and intemperate bouts. Not Paladino. Even before his remarks denigrating gays had ignited a political storm, Paladino had picked a fight with a New York Post columnist after the candidate accused him and the newspaper of harassing the 10-year-old daughter he fathered during an extramarital affair with a former employee 10 years ago. Earlier, he had admitted forwarding pornographic and racially degrading e-mails to friends.
But none of that comes close to the incendiary remarks he made at a meeting of Orthodox Jewish leaders in Brooklyn. He said he didn't want children "brainwashed" into thinking that homosexuality was acceptable and tongue-lashed his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, for taking his teenage daughters to a gay pride parade, where, Paladino said, men wear "little Speedos and grind against each other.''
"Mr. Paladino's statement displays a stunning homophobia and a glaring disregard for basic equality,'' said Cuomo's spokesman, John Vlasto. Cuomo said he didn't need Paladino giving him any lessons on child-rearing. Though Paladino's campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, said that most New Yorkers agree with his candidate, polls have shown 58 percent of New Yorkers favor gay marriage, which Paladino opposes.
Not only is Paladino out of step with New Yorkers' gay rights views, but his timing could not have been worse, coming after a series of incidents in which young gay men committed suicide in the past few weeks and after members of a gang in the Bronx were arrested on charges of sodomy and torture of three gay men.
Paladino now risks becoming persona non grata in the city. He was heckled at the Columbus Day Parade (though he did receive a cordial greeting from the archbishop of New York, Timothy F. Dolan). The city's top officials and gay leaders denounced his remarks, and conservative and moderate Republicans like former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani scurried as quickly and as far as they could away from him.
New York has rarely seen the likes of Paladino. Not in the public arena, not running for major office. His persona has so mystified this city that The Times ran an article comparing him and Cuomo. There's hardly common ground. Both are Italian-American; both are lawyers. That's it. Cuomo, who was born in New York City, is the heir to the liberal political legacy of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and has lived most of his adult life in the political arena. Until now, Paladino, a successful businessman with a Syracuse University law degree, has played a behind-the-scenes role in right-wing Buffalo politics.
At this point in the campaign, the Quinnipiac University poll shows Cuomo opening an 18 percentage point lead over Paladino. If the election were held today, Cuomo would get 55 percent of the vote and Paladino 37 percent.