Something very interesting is happening in Albany.
David Paterson, the happenstance governor of New York, is finding his footing, getting comfortable in a battle-ready stance and throwing jabs at the legislative body he presides over. And he’s connecting with greater frequency. All of the pundits who have been scoffing out loud at the possibility of David Paterson returning to office next year should sit up and take notice.
Until this point many have considered Paterson a seat warmer for Andrew Cuomo. His inability to read staff briefings and his refusal to learn braille is a source of constant mockery. Even Rupert Murdoch pointed to Paterson’s impaired vision as a primary reason he is unfit to govern the state. The legislature routinely obstructs his initiatives or ignores him completely. Hell, the President of the United States took time out of his schedule to tell him to step aside next year.
But an objective look at what has transpired over the past couple of months tells a slightly different story than what the pundits are saying.
Since being sworn in as Governor, Paterson has gone on a crusade to warn the public that New York State’s finances were spiraling out of control and headed for a wall. His barrage of warnings went virtually unheeded and quickly became verbal wallpaper in the media and in political circles. When NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli finally put a figure to the deficit and joined Paterson in a chorus of warnings, the concern grew ever more palpable among New Yorkers while the members of the Assembly and Senate rearranged deck chairs on the Titanic.
An internal coup during the summer months paralyzed the government and placed a spotlight on their remarkable dysfunction. This is when an almost imperceptible shift in Paterson’s favor occurred. When Paterson threatened to break the deadlock by appointing a Lieutenant Governor he was ridiculed and brought to court by the legislature. Quietly, a couple of months and appellate court decision later, the governor got his man.
Over the past few months the deficit has grown larger while the legislators ignored the governor’s request to get back to work forcing Paterson to once again to take matters into his own hands. He threatened to expand executive authority and begin slashing budgets across the board and forced the legislature back to the table. Say what you will about our beleaguered governor, he is determined to stand up to anyone in his way.
Some of the insider rap on Paterson may well be true, however. The administration itself is considered by many to be highly disorganized and the governor is said to be increasingly paranoid given how many people are angling to fill his chair. But as the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not watching you. Despite some tiny victories, his approval ratings have gone into freefall and talk of his replacement has gained serious momentum. But if the recent local elections are an indication of anything, it is simply that anything can happen. The anti-incumbent wave of emotion may continue unmitigated through next year and send several sitting legislators to the private sector.
The ultimate twist of fate would be if the voters leave Paterson right where he is to captain this ship regardless of what the polls say today.
Stranger things have happened.