Federalist Chutzpah

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

So there is no ambiguity, I am not among the fans of the current governor of the State of New York. I eagerly await the next statewide election so as to vote against the incumbent David Patterson. From my perspective, Governor Patterson has been a dismal failure and an incompetent chief executive. It just does not appear that Patterson has the mindset or perspective to guide the State of New York into the future.

But now comes the President of the United States, Barack Obama who is interfering in New York State politics and advising the Governor not to run for re-election. Whether Governor Patterson runs for re-election is a personal decision that he and his constituents get to make. It is patently wrong for Federal officials to stick their noses into State politics. We the People of the State of New York get to select our next governor. That decision will not and should not be made by the President of the United States.

We all recognize that Governor Patterson ascended to his office by accident. Eliot Spitzer was our elected choice to run the State of New York. Alas, but Mr. Spitzer got caught with his pants down and resigned in disgrace. I personally do not think that his having patronized a prostitute was a good enough reason to abandon his office, but that choice was Mr. Spitzer’s and he chose to leave office. In doing so, the Lieutenant Governor immediately assumed the mantle of Governor and has run the State since. My memory fails me as to for whom I voted in the Lieutenant Governor’s race in the last election but I am absolutely sure that I didn’t care who won because I had no expectation the governor’s office would be vacated and the lieutenant would be elevated to office.

There are two separate and distinct political systems in this country. There is the federal government with its octopus tentacles reaching out into every nook and cranny of civil life throughout the land. At the same time, each state has its own political system with its own micro laboratory experimenting with how to better the human condition. As Americans, we are both citizens of our respective States and are citizens of the nation titled United States of America. They are not the same system and each has its own exclusive sphere within which it operates. Each system has to respect the decisions made by the other and the citizens of one have to be honored in the political choices that are made within each.

New York does not have the same political system as Utah, Mississippi, or Hawaii. It is not the place of any federal government officials to homogenize our political system and intervene in who we select as governor or what political rights and privileges we accord our citizens. There is great danger in crossing the line that separates these two political powers. Our safety and our rights are protected by having distinct and unique spheres of political influence. This was the intention of our nation’s Founders and should not be violated today.

I fully understand why President Obama has expressed openly that Governor Patterson should not run for re-election. It is clear that New York’s governor is widely unpopular and in the next election, is unlikely to regain his office. The overriding issue seems to be that President Obama, a Democrat, wants to assure that New York’s governorship remains in the hands of a democrat. Any Republican running against Mr. Patterson has almost a guaranteed win. If Governor Patterson steps aside, then the thinking is that a stronger more popular candidate for the Democrats will emerge and create a real race for office. Presently, the apparent crown prince for the Democrats is going to be Andrew Cuomo, New York’s Attorney General. The Republicans seem to have Rudy Guliani coming up as their candidate for governor.

While politics is a bloodsport with a zero sum outcome, it is the decision of State Democrats to decide whether they want Governor Patterson or Andrew Cuomo representing them in the general election. It is patently unfair and wrong for the President of the United States to be dictating democratic politics here in New York.

And it aint a Black thang, neither. Some hay has been made that because he is New York’s first Black governor, President Obama should not be targeting Governor Patterson to quit after his term. Our nation’s first Black President is telling New York’s first Black governor to quit his office at the end of his term. Race is not a card to be played in this game but the ultimate irony does not elude me. Of course, both chief executives have wives named ‘Michelle’ and maybe we should let the first wives club battle this out. It is just as ridiculous.

Whether or not New York Democrats bring Governor Patterson into the fold as the party’s candidate in the next election is our choice. The federal government already has too much power and too much reach into the lives of the residents of the various States. President Obama already has too much on his plate, from health care to two wars to a twelve trillion dollar national debt. What we as New Yorkers don’t need is to follow the President’s path toward financial disaster. Our State is already a fiscal mess and I will hold responsible all those currently serving in office. What I will tolerate less is for New York to be dragged into the same quagmire in which our federal government currently finds itself drowning.

If Andrew Cuomo is to be the Democratic candidate for Governor, then let New York’s Democrats make that decision through normal processes such as the primary system. While I am not going to vote for Governor Patterson should he be the candidate, I am even less likely to vote for a candidate selected by the President of the United States.

Separation of Powers is a fundamental element of our nation and part of our system of checks and balances. It is simply not the place of the President to be making decisions for New Yorkers who will be our candidates for governor. There should be tension between State and Federal governments. By hand selecting the candidates, New Yorkers are at risk of losing our identity as residents of the State and instead just merging into a nation of holdings instead of separate States.

Tell the President to worry about his own problems and let us New Yorkers resolve our own political debates. To do otherwise would be a surrender of that which makes us unique and a leader among States as to politics and policies. It takes an intolerable deal of gall and chutzpah for federal officials to determine local and State politics.

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