OFF THE GRID

Could Carl Paladino Really Win?

Sep 22, 10 | 8:06 AM   byMichael Wolff
Get posts from Michael Wolff via email (Sample)

Follow him on Twitter @MichaelWolffNYC

The biggest fight in politics is between the norm and something else.

There’s official, socialized, dress-for-success, acceptable manners, know-all-the-right-people stuff, and then there’s the other—the uncouth.

There’s Andrew Cuomo and then there’s Carl Paladino.

The latter is a rude, nasty, semi-literate seeming buffoon. The former has, at various points in his career, been considered rude and nasty, but never a buffoon. Now he is smooth and controlled. In fact, one of his big career accomplishments is to have become smooth and controlled. So it must be irritating and confounding to have to even make the case against someone like Paladino, who doesn’t at all care about the most basic requirements of political style and etiquette.

Theoretically, Paladino doesn’t have a chance.

And yet he is already so much more acceptable in his grossness and loucheness, and fascinating for it, than he was even just a little more than a week ago.

Paladino is quite an original. He’s well beyond even the declared eccentrics in this race, the anti-masturbation Christine O’Donnell, in Delaware, or the start-your-own-militia Sharron Angle, in Nevada—and even the ultimate against-the-establishment star, Sarah Palin. They are, with a little critical interpretation, self-styled new voices, however inarticulate. Paladino is a proud thug.

His identity is all aggression and nastiness and pugnaciousness and know-nothing-ness. He is the personality type that would-be politicians have always struggled in heroic Pygmalion fashion to escape from. You could not be Carl Paladino and be a politician. Or at least you could not be Carl Paladino and be the face of politics. You could be in a backroom. Indeed, Carl Paladino is—or used to be—everybody’s great fear of what politics really is.

Now he’s out front—and only six points behind the entirely reconstructed, even artful, Andrew Cuomo.

Clearly, there’s a theme here about authenticity and not. Carl is the real thing and Andrew is a confection.

It is worth pointing out that, heretofore, the confection is what we’ve wanted. Not just because of the demands of media, but of basic civility, too: Politicians represent ritual and propriety as much as anything else.

Not this year.

It’s not even that they represent anger and disruption. More, they represent a punchline. Nobody takes Carl Paladino seriously. We laugh at, not with. Carl Paladino is a clown, everybody understands.

But in that sense, he’s not offensive, he’s liberating.

If I were Andrew Cuomo, I’d be confused about how to handle this, too.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.

COMMENTS
You need to Log in to Newser to comment. Don't have an account yet? Sign up now!
18 comments
RECENT POSTS
Oct 20, 10 | 1:52 PM

I Have an Afghanistan Solution

Oct 19, 10 | 9:28 AM

The War in Afghanistan Is Over

Oct 14, 10 | 10:22 AM

How to Tax the Rich

Oct 6, 10 | 8:54 AM

Founding Fathers Version 2.0

Sep 30, 10 | 11:40 AM

Here's Why Google Needs To Buy Twitter Immediately

FeedRSS
ABOUT

OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

NEWS FROM OUR PARTNERS
Other Sites We Like:   The Street   |   MSN Living   |   PopSugar Tech   |   RealClear   |   24/7 Wall St.   |   Biography   |   Barstool Sports   |   OK!