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Hofstra Debate: Notes from an eyewitness…

Kimberly and Ian Wilder at the Hofstra debate 10/18/2010

Kimberly writes:

So, I was able to attend the debate as a friend of the Green Party. I was sitting in the special seating on the ground floor. Though, in the last row (right in front of the stand for the still photographers.)

Some impressions:

It was all very exciting. The moderators were Doug Geed and Joye Brown. Ms. Brown received an extra measure of applause – I think because she is a very progressive-minded columnist. Both moderators did an excellent job.

Even the order that the candidates sat was interesting and seemed noteworthy. The order on stage was:

Paladino – McMillan – Cuomo – Barron – Hawkins – Kristin Davis – Redlich

You might want to study the order yourself, as we did as the stage was being set up, and think about any ramifications and interesting combinations. Some that we noticed (I attended with my husband, and sat with a group of greens): Rich landlord Carl Paladino was seated next to Jimmy McMillan of the “Rent is Too Damn High” Party (though, McMillan never capitalized on his proximity to Paladino, perhaps because McMillan knew exactly what he wanted to say and didn’t want to slow down for a pointed question?).

Charles Barron of the Freedom Party was next to, and before in order, Howie Hawkins. Some Green Party leaders were worried that Barron’s position would all him to take all Howie’s points first and steal Howie’s thunder. And, that did happen to some extent. Though, Hawkins had enough to say, and enough passion to stick out from the crowd, anyway. Green activists and the Green Party of NYS have been out front on stopping hydro-fracking. Barron has taken that position, and got to say it on stage before Howie.

I do believe that Warren Redlich was blushing, and his brow was sweating at the beginning, just due to his proximity to former Madam Kristin Davis. Ms. Davis showed herself to be Libertarian-minded on many issues, and it was interesting that Warren Redlich did not affirm their agreement too much.

Note that Carl Paladino and Andrew Cuomo were not next to each other. That fact allowed for a certain sense of relief. It would be much harder to have sharp words or direct sparring between the two. Actually, Paladino was on super-good behavior for the evening. My impression was mostly that he was calmer. Though, my husband thought Paladino also seemed a little befuddled. Paladino did stumble a bit on his explanations a couple of times.

It was interesting to me that Andrew Cuomo, the Democrat, was between the two African American candidates. (It was only the pick of the draw, remember, that created this order.) I think that put some tension on Cuomo, who is a more conservative Democrat that most of the African American community would probably appreciate. In addition, Charles Barron has said before that he was running specifically as a protest candidate to Cuomo and the all-white Democratic slate. It was powerful that Charles Barron was directly next to Cuomo when he wanted to point his finger and criticize.

Of note, too, is that Charles Barron took the time to go over to Jimmy McMillan and give him a hug before the debate opened.

Jimmy McMillan is some character. As you know if you watched the debate, he was somewhat repetitious with his party name/slogan, and also dramatic, so much so that at one point the whole audience chanted “Rent is too damnnnnn high”, just like he says it. I suppose he is a charismatic leader in some ways. Though, most people did not seem serious about him as a candidate.

Another interesting part of the opening as the stage was being set was that Carl Paladino and another candidate or two were seated before Andrew Cuomo took the stage. Seasoned politician that he is, Cuomo was the first one to remember to go over to the moderator’s table and greet and shake hands with the media. (My husband Ian noticed that bit of protocol.)

Who won?

I think Carl Paladino gained some points by having good behavior and putting out one or two good ideas. But, that is only a few more points added to his very low standing with the public right now.

Jimmy McMillan won for making people pay attention to his issue. No matter what can be said of him, he got the whole audience to chant his message. I also believe that having McMillan say his piece on stage did remind people about the poor, hungry and out of work.

A Democratic friend of mine said that after seeing the debate, she would vote for either Charles Barron or Howie Hawkins. I, too, think that Barron and Hawkins supported the best policies and had the best things to say. At one point, Howie Hawkins was explaining IRV, and he said that if he could vote IRV, he would vote for himself first, Barron second, and Redlich third.

A family member of mine said that Redlich stood out the most to her. I do like Libertarian thinking on some issues. And, Redlich presented some thought-provoking points. He was also good at remembering to explain his biography in  a way that let people connect with him.

Kristin Davis got a few laughs and a few good lines in. Her answers revealed a Libertarian streak I did not know she had. I did not admire her stand on hydro-fracking (she supports it) and some economic issues. I think it was interesting that she never said that one of her issues was to legalize prostitution, though that is a big issue on her website. It seemed politically cowardly of her not to say it at the debate.

I suppose if you add up the figures and statistics, it may be Andrew Cuomo who “won”, by being the front-runner who did okay, and did not make any big mistakes. Though, putting him on the stage made him admit in front of all the progressives, Green Party members, and Freedom Party members that he wants to cut taxes and cut services. Cuomo says he wants to get tough on “waste, fraud and abuse”. Though, I believe that A. “waste” is a lot less onerous than fraud and abuse and B. What Cuomo calls “waste”, some of us might call the collective’s duty to the poor.

It was interesting, when we came out of the debate hall, a reporter questioned one of my friends. He asked her which candidate she thought won, Cuomo or Paladino. My friend tried to say that she thought that neither did spectacularly good or bad, but that the third party candidates made it interesting, and were able to present solutions that were “out of the box”. The reporter pressed her to choose between the front-runners. He finally said, “So, if you had to bet, would you bet on Cuomo or Paladino.” I found his line of questioning to be childish and unethical. And, I thought it was funny that he was talking in terms of gambling. Because, choosing between a Democrat who wants to cut taxes and services and a Republican who wants to cut taxes and services seems like a choice as empty and unpromising as gambling.

I thought there was something about Cuomo that seemed kind of languid and over-comfortable, like royalty deigning to be among the common people. His posture and attitude really rubbed me the wrong way. I also thought it was telling when Cuomo said that he hears the most complaints about property taxes, so he finds them the most oppressive of taxes. To me, that just means that he is mostly hanging around, and mostly listening to, people who are homeowners. And, that is all well and good, but there are large swathes of people who will never be in that category to own a home, or to have the Governor’s ear. Cuomo’s comment seemed revealing to me about the fact that he is lucky enough to swim in a world of class privilege and white privilege. And, I think that he does not even recognize how this privilege shapes his world-view and political strategy.

I wonder if Cuomo was moved by listening to Jimmy McMillan, and thinking about the people McMillan lives around — people who are jobless, hungry, and needing their rent to be lowered?

And, a special note: Hydro-fracking is a big deal, and something for New Yorkers to think about it. I felt really bad that with the certain time-lines and order, and one candidates sly explanation of the process, it may not be clear to people that hydro-fracking involves shooting CHEMICAL-LACED water into the shale to extract natural gas? It is not just water, it is water with chemicals. And, that can’t be good for our environment, our water supply, or our health. Carl Paladino, Kristin Davis, and Warren Redlich all seemed to support hydraulic fracturing to some extent. Andrew Cuomo is playing the politicians trick of saying that we should “study it first”. Howie Hawkins and Charles Barron both made bold statements against hydro-fracking.


8 Responses

  1. […] Hofstra Debate: Notes from an eyewitness… […]

  2. Now that I had a chance to sleep on it, I am even bothered more by the Newsday reporter’s line of questioning. Our friend made a thoughtful response about the 3rd party candidates bringing up issues that the 2 corporate candidates ignore. Ellis Henican of Newsday recently called attention to this calling Hawkins and Redlich ‘bright fellows” with “serious concerns” This is worthy of exploration. Unfortunately the corporate media has absolutely no interest in issues. Elections to them are like selling a soft drink. It’s all about how much marketing money they spend (often in the corporate media) and what market share they are polling at. The media often feigns interest in wanting an issue driven campaign and government, but their reporting shows what they really want.

    Also Charles Barron’s response on same-sex marriage was lame. He said his party has no position on it. OK, Mr. Barron, then what is your personal position on it?

    Paladino’s question “is this the rebuttal?” almost ranks up their with Perot VP candidate General James Stockdale’s “Who am I and why am I here?” for befuddled responses. Actually it exceeds it because Stockdale was posing an academic question which he went on to answer. Paladino just paused again and seemed totally lost.

    • Mr. Ian,

      Many thanks for your comments. (And, your insights which had been included in the article I wrote while you went to sleep last night!)

      I don’t think you understood the Paladino reply about the rebuttal. Warren Relich tried to point out a very telling, character/philosophy issue about Paladino. Redlich had just asked Paladino why he – as a conservative Republican type – had donated to the campaigns of some prominent Democrats such as Hillary Clinton. Paladino stopped to ask if it was a rebuttal while he stalled. Then, he decided not to address the question. Largely, because there was “no excuse” under the paradigm he tries to sell voters.

      The real reason is probably twofold:

      Paladino does not have so many political scruples, nor philosophical integrity, and he probably donates for strategic reasons (Redlich actually suggested Paladino was trying to “buy something”.)

      But, also, as many of us activists know, the difference between a right-wing Republican and The Clintons is not that much.

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