March 13, 2008
Blind, and with Vision
By Mary Lyon
Can we clone David Paterson?
Granted, most of the country is only starting to get to know New York's incoming governor, but perhaps that's an indication of just how desperate these times are. At least for Democrats.
Everywhere else, it's a mess.
The campaign that started out on such positive, lofty notes, and an entire stage-ful of mature, statesmanlike candidates offering confidence, hope, and a better way of solving the country's problems and leading America away from Wrong-Track Republican policies has devolved into a pie-fight worthy of the Three Stooges. It's not just Obama versus Clinton, either. We have a former vice presidential hopeful with her entire leg inserted in her mouth while defiantly ripping the scabs off slowly-healing wounds left over from generations of discrimination. Then, there are the squabbling party leaders in Florida and Michigan who insist they have a right to get back into the game after they willfully spit in the eyes of the referees, tore up the rule book, and stomped off the field months ago.
I don't know a single person now, either loyal Democrat or disgruntled Republican defector, who hasn't thrown up his or her hands in near-complete disgust.
This all looked terrific on paper, once upon a time. We were poised to take our country back and fix everything that George W. Bush and and all his pirate pals broke, ransacked, or wiped their muddy track shoes upon. Much of the nation, according to multiple polls, was looking to the Democrats to put the REAL adults back in charge once the drunken GOP frat party was, at long last, brought to an end. Now, it looks like everybody's moved into Animal House.
The heck with all of 'em. I want David Paterson for president.
Here's a guy who's already done plenty to ease the agony of the state of New York after the staggering Eliot Spitzer implosion, four days before he formally replaces the disgraced governor. Paterson arrived on the scene like the proverbial dove set loose by Noah, that returned with the olive branch in its beak as the storm clouds and floodwaters receded. And he can't even see clearly - in a physical sense, at least. Evidently in a different way, he has perfect vision. At the very least, he's struck the perfect note.
Out of the contentiousness of the Spitzer Style, out of the roiling scandal that's ended his career while thoroughly stinking up the joint, Paterson steps forward and changes the mood. And opens the windows. And lets in some fresh air. And allows everyone around him to slow down a moment and take a much-needed deep breath.
The seemingly unassuming African-American politician who toiled in the legislative vineyards of Albany for some 20 years, working his way up into the leadership before winning the Lieutanant-Governor position in 2006, noted in his first public remarks that he never dreamed or wanted to go this far in quite this way. With a kindly, soothing voice he cracked a joke or two, easing the tension throughout the crowded room. The heat and shock of the Spitzer prostitution scandal suddenly seemed to lessen a bit, thanks to Paterson's reassuring demeanor. Members of the warring Democratic and Republican factions around him, strikingly, began speaking at somewhat lower volume, with far fewer fighting words. The real shocker here? Suddenly, everyone seemed a lot more interested in laying down their arms and trying to work together on what's REALLY important - the issues facing the people in their state instead of fighting to be first to light the flame-throwers. And he's brought an impressive record to the table with him, spending years in public service as a leading progressive, working effectively with both parties to help effect change and advancement in public policy, whether it concerns encouraging alternative energy sources, reducing domestic violence, pursuing scientific and medical innovations and stem cell research, and promoting small business - especially among women and minorities. He's a known peacemaker, legal expert, and specialist in international and public affairs (on which he lectured at Columbia University) who enjoys well-deserved popularity and respect. And he seems to have been able to get a few things done without alienating - or offending - anybody.
Could we have a little of that over here - for all the rest of us?
We've got a sorely divided nation, and an even more horrifically shredded party - yearning for someone or something to bring us together, overpower the naysayers and agitators, and buckle down to the business of collective healing and rehabilitation. Could somebody, somewhere, PLEASE at least take a page from David Paterson?
Yes, it's way early in the game as far as he's concerned. We've just barely been introduced. But already I've seen enough to sense that I'm in like, if not quite yet in love. Paterson may not be able to see across the room, but so far, he looks, sounds, and acts like a desperately-needed sight for sore eyes.