Jewish World Review May 15, 2002 / 4 Sivan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Governor George Pataki is increasing aid to schools. He wants an initiative and referendum law in New York State. He's worked to expand health care coverage for children. He is increasing aid to New York City. In short, he's triangulating.
Triangulating doesn't just mean stealing the other side's issues. It means solving the other side's problems, robbing them of the anger they need to summon to defeat you. So, when Clinton cuts welfare rolls, reduces crime, and balances the budget, it lulls Republicans to sleep. And when Bush increases education aid, appoints blacks to the two highest posts in his Administration, and backs amnesty for illegal Mexican immigrants, he takes the heart out of the other side. Now, Pataki is borrowing from this play book in his bid for a third term as Governor.
But Pataki is also playing ricochet politics. Like a pool player lining up the eight ball for a carom shot off the side, he's laying the basis for defeating Cuomo should the heir apparent defeat McCall in the primaries. The curse of the white liberal is that he defeats a minority candidate in the primary and then loses the general election because the bitterness of the primary prevents him from attracting the minority votes he needs to win in November.
For example, in 1997, Ruth Messenger beat Al Sharpton in the primary only to lose to Rudy Guiliani in the general election as blacks stayed home. Mark Green defeated Freddie Ferrar in the primary and then lost to Bloomberg as Hispanics, switched to Bloomberg.
Now, if Cuomo defeats McCall, he faces the difficult task of convincing black voters who he has antagonized by beating their candidate to back him against Pataki. The Governor knows that this will be the Achilles Heel of the Cuomo candidacy.
Black voters realize that Carl McCall, a solid and capable Comptroller and an intelligent, dignified, and able public servant is next in line for the Party nomination. How are blacks to react when Cuomo swoops down from on high to steal the nomination from the man who could become the first black governor of a major state in the nation? Not happily.
So Pataki has laid the basis for a mass minority defection in November by his courtship of Dennis Rivera, leader of the health care workers union, Local 1199.
Their relationship got off on the wrong foot when Pataki sought to cut Medicaid spending in the early days of his governorship. Rivera ran television ads which attacked the Governor and forced him to back down. Then Pataki reached out for Rivera and decided that since he couldn't beat the union leader, he'd join him.
Passing programs to provide health care benefits to Rivera's members and allocating special funding in the wake of 9-11 to assure 1199 workers of a good raise, Pataki delivered for the union.
For his part, Rivera had come to feel that the Democrats were "taking us for granted" and was determined to show that his union "stood by its friends" even at the price of party loyalty. Showing a rare determination to defy convention and act in the interests of his members, Rivera endorsed Pataki and brought his union with him. Where other union leaders could care less about what benefits their members but seek only to enhance their social and political position among party elites, Rivera showed an independent streak and real leadership in swimming against the Democratic current.
Cuomo has been stunning in his bad judgment and lack of political savvy. He and his wife, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, first proudly announced that they had moved to Mt. Kisco, one of the more ethnically diverse towns in Westchester when in fact their house was in the exclusive town of Bedford. They made sure that the purchase price was just under $1 million so they were not buying a "million dollar mansion." Then he and his wife stupidly attacked Pataki for the governor's role after September 11th. Now Cuomo who features his wife in a separate box on his website and who trades on the Kennedy name whenever possible, only releases his own income tax returns saying that his wife's returns are off limits. These folks aren't ready for the big leagues. Not in New York, anyway.
In all, Pataki is showing a skill and political dexterity which auger a
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