Wednesday, August 06, 2008

THE OLIGARCH AS POPULIST. Gazillionaire Tom Golisano, a frequent independent candidate for Governor of New York, has a PAC fueled by five million dollars of his own money. New York Republicans, whose balance of power in the State Senate is thin, are shitting bricks over it, and a candidate in a Democratic State Senate primary is calling for investigations because she suspects Golisano of colluding with her opponent. Talk about your Operation Chaos.

The last three times he ran for Governor, nobody took Golisano seriously. Even in the Corzine-Bloomberg era, he was considered a crazy rich guy playing at statesmanship. "Unlike Michael Bloomberg, whose millions were backed up with a discernible political philosophy [? -ed.], Mr. Golisano seems to believe that wanting to be Governor is enough reason to be handed the position," said the New York Observer in 2003. "New Yorkers realize, of course, that he is a clown."

Maybe so, but given the three-ring circus of our current politics, from the slimefest at of the Presidential race to the accidental Governorship of David Paterson, Golisano may yet turn out a clown prince. He may have figured that, while merely investing in campaigns didn't do the trick, it might be worth a few mil to position himself as a lone do-gooder venturing into Albany's den of thieves. It's a win-win situation for him. If he backs losers, the ensuing bad governance will be something he tried nobly though in vain to stop; if he backs winners, the ensuing bad governance will be a great disappointment to him, and a sign that Albany must be reformed root and branch.

This is the wave of the future. Our country is as rotten as a Minneapolis bridge, yet our politics is more of a clown show than ever, with tire gauges and celebrity slurs instead of squirting flowers and slapsticks. The more completely these matters are devoted to symbols rather than issues, the more obsolete Parties become: they're less political entities than production companies as it is, distinguished mostly by proprietary image banks that convey "toughness," "compassion," or what have you, the way MGM was once associated with glamour and Warner Brothers with action pictures. In the wasteland of 2010 Golisano may well be able to offer his candidacy to whatever party is desperate enough to take it, and win.

UPDATE. Fixed typo.

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