Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Run Carl Run ... but why?

Politics to me is a sport. And I'm a fanatic just as many are sports fanatics. I'm not just interested in who wins or loses the game, I'm enthralled with the play-by-play and the locker room interviews … and even the cheerleaders.

One of the things I find most compelling in politics is what makes a candidate decide to be a candidate. Specifically, I'm always intrigued to see what makes someone jump into a race they're pretty sure they can't win.

Now in sports, this is easy. The league determines the schedule and you know that every so often all teams end up playing each other. The Bills are a perennial candidate, kind of like Ralph Nader. They can no easier opt out of playing the Patriots than Nader could say “no” to another publicity filled run for president.

The Bills do it because it's required. Nader does it because he's full of himself. Those two are easy.

But what makes a guy like Carl Paladino run for governor? This thought had been plaguing me for a while. Then I heard my friend Chris Smith talk about it on a recent podcast hosted by another friend of mine – and former colleague – Brad Riter.

Chris is a very bright guy and gets politics better than most. Begrudgingly, I might even say he understands politics better than yours truly. And I endured four years of schooling and tens of thousands of dollars in loans studying the topic.

But enough about Chris and enough about me. Back to Carl Paladino, the Republican-ish candidate for governor who has only a slightly higher chance of winning than you do. And I probably don't need to remind you that you're not on the ballot.

Some people run knowing that they'll lose because their political party has offered them a job after they lose. The party wants to save face by having a candidate. The party also wants to make the other candidate spend money. And there's always a chance that the other guy - who everyone knows is going to win – does something really stupid and loses. This does not describe Carl. He created his own party and has no need for a government or political job.

Some people run knowing that they're going to lose in hopes of increasing their profile for another race in the future. Their first run is strictly to get their name out there so that two years from now when people go to the voting booth, they say, “hey, this name looks familiar.” This also does not describe Carl. He has no interest in running for anything else. He just wants to be governor.

Some people run knowing that they'll lose because they want to inject their ideas into the system. As a candidate it's easier to get your message across. Hopefully someone with some authority will pick up your ideas and run with them. This doesn't describe Carl either. He hasn't exactly released a platform of things he wants to accomplish. His whole message is “I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.” It's kind of hard for someone to pick that up and run with it.

The best I can figure is that Carl Paladino is running for governor because he likes the attention. And I think he enjoys playing spoiler, having effectively neutered Rick Lazio's candidacy. There's also the possibility that he thinks he can win, but I doubt it.

Basically, Carl Paladino is our own home-grown Ralph Nader.

Hey, look, I'm mad as hell, too. And I'm not looking forward to four or less years of another Cuomo … or Rick Lazio. But I also can't vote for a guy who has poor judgment (his email fiasco) and no real solutions.

So to those of you with the orange “mad as hell” yard signs, do us all a favor and take them down. You're just enabling him and feeding his addiction.

Plus, you look silly.