David Paterson has always been a political star, and he’s definitely a fighter. His stellar career landed him in the New York governor’s mansion after a long climb up the gritty landscape of New York politics. Being the first African-American governor of New York was impressive enough without adding the fact that he is also legally blind. Achievements of this magnitude don’t come to those who quit things easily.
By asking Paterson to step out of the upcoming governor’s race, people were expecting him to do something that was completely out of his nature. They were asking a man with a chip on his shoulder to submit to the opposition and walk away from what he perceived to be his destiny. He has overcome the odds his entire life, so his terrible political luck as of late was supposed to simply be another chapter of an impressive autobiography. In David Paterson’s mind, he wasn’t supposed to lose.
But it appears that Paterson may be conceding to his circumstances, at least for now. It has been reported that Paterson is not planning to run for governor of New York in the next election. This brings a sigh of relief to the Democratic Party, which found itself in the uncomfortable position of telling a blind, black man that he needs to give up the job he’s waited for his entire life. Paterson didn’t make things any easier by telling them to kiss his you-know-what at every available opportunity. He was planning to hold on until the end.
To some extent, one wonders if Paterson’s stubborn disposition was the result of political posturing. I sincerely hope his defiance was genuine, for it’s refreshing to see a politician making decisions that are not simply the product of opinion polls. While his behavior could often be confusing, it was interesting to watch a powerful political go off script and say some of the things that the rest of us discuss around the dinner table.
By governing a state in such disarray, Paterson was being asked to provide sunlight during a thunderstorm. New York’s economy has been slammed by unprecedented proportions, with a $1.6 billion dollar budget gap, it’s facing the worst reduction in tax receipts since the Great Depression. These problems were added to the gridlock of the New York State Senate, where elected officials were angering the public by not getting anything done. Paterson’s “off the court” troubles didn’t make things any better. His outburst alleging racism led to his political isolation, and disturbingly low approval ratings kept even President Obama from getting anywhere near him.
Perhaps Paterson was right about the racism in American politics. He was also the governor who helped repeal the infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws, which have devastated African-American families for decades. If only President Obama would be bold enough to directly confront issues that so readily affect the African-American community. But then again, if he were to do so, he might suffer the same fate as Paterson. One must applaud politicians who are willing to do the right thing rather than focusing on that which is most politically gratifying.
I also submit that he would have had a far more successful run as governor if the state of New York were not so troubled. At the same time, allegations of drug abuse, infidelity and domestic violence by one of his closest aids were hammering the final nails in his political coffin. Paterson was doomed to go down bloody and burning. It’s good that he’s choosing to walk away.
The Democrats’ troubles are not going to end with the withdrawal of David Paterson. What is also true is that Paterson’s political career has been nothing short of remarkable. While he might not be a perfect man or an undeniably capable politician, David Paterson reminds us that a little determination can go a long way.