Monday, June 08, 2009

Race Carding the Governor' Challenger

Charlie Rangel, who when last heard from was residing in three separate rent stabilized apartments and failing to report income on a luxury condo in the DR, has now weighed in on next years' governor's race; warning that any challenge to the stumbling David Paterson would cause a calamity for the Democratic Party: "Rep. Charles Rangel Friday warned of "racial polarization" if Attorney General Andrew Cuomo challenges Gov. Paterson in a primary next year. Rangel, who is close to the poll-challenged Paterson, ripped Cuomo on New York 1 last night for flatly not ruling out a run for governor next year. "You cannot support the governor, prepare for reelection and at the same time say that you're keeping your options open for a primary," Rangel said."

So let's get this straight. An unelected governor who has apparently lost the confidence of New York voters can't be challenged because...he's black? Perhaps Rangel has been in office a wee bit too long-and without any significant challenge in over three decades, he probably views electoral challenges in and of themselves as equivalent to the Bubonic Plague. What about the post racial era that we've supposedly ushered in with our first African American president?

To us, Rangel's warning is anachronistic, and condescending to African Americans at the same time. And perhaps he hasn't seen how Paterson is viewed by his own racial cohort: "In a sign of just how far Mr. Paterson’s fortunes have fallen, the governor now faces growing doubts from a group that has been among his most loyal: black elected officials, clergy members and voters. It is a remarkable turnaround for a man whose ascension to the governor’s office just over a year ago set off a swell of pride and joy in black communities. Mr. Paterson became New York’s first black governor and, along with Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, is one of only two in the country."

Of course, if the poll numbers continue to hover in the teens, Paterson will be shown the door by these very same folks who feted his rise. That's because if black voters are skeptical of the governor-and he doesn't get a challenge from within the party-the disaster that will befall the Democratic Party will come from the hapless Republican who will find someone barely breathing to beat the star of the revival of Weekend at Bernie's: "But Mr. Paterson must also take note of his potential competitors in a general election, like Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor. In the coming few months, the governor will be prodded by black lawmakers to take sides on controversial issues like prison reform, housing and mayoral control of the city’s public schools, and positions that resonate with black voters may prove less popular among the broader electorate."

So what's the governor doing? Well, he's surrounded himself with the core of African American leadership and has called for an investigation of the police shooting of a black officer. A needed boost from the base, but the Times could be right in that it may prop up black support, but further isolate Paterson from the general electorate-making the ascension of someone like a Giuliani possible.

We are more than a year away from the governor's race, but the fractious nature of this situation cries out for remedy-and quickly. If the Democrats have a hobbled standard bearer then its state senate majority may prove to be evanescent. Even the potential defection of just one of its members in order to run for congress, sends fear down the spins of the other senators.

So the retrograde Rangel probably needs to be less vocal here. His racialization of the loss of confidence in an appointed governor is counter productive politically, and is a throw back to less enlightened times-reflecting, perhaps, that the congressman is stuck in his own time warp; and is, at the same time, demonstrating his own obsolescent relevancy.