Useful stupidity

It occurred to me today that an unsung hero of the recent vote allowing gay marriage in New York State might be former Republican candidate for governor Carl Paladino. Those who remember Mr. Paladino mainly from his weirdly homophobic stump speech might think that odd, so I’ll explain.

Politics is very much about perception. Our elected representatives like to look as though they are on the correct side of an issue, where the definition of “correct” depends, of course, on their constituency. But absolutely nobody likes to be seen as a bad guy.

Paladino, who is really more of a businessman than a politician, made an impressive timing blunder in a well-publicized speech during his campaign for NYS governor. The theme of his speech, “Gays are not equal”. unfortunately came mere days after a vicious anti-gay hate crime that had sickened the citizenry.

Within days Paladino, realizing he had been given very bad political advice, had disavowed his own speech, but the damage had already been done. By the time the election had arrived, Paladino was left looking, at best, politically clueless. His loss to our current governor, the Democratic candidate Andrew Cuomo, was dramatic.

But one effect of this sequence of events, I think, was that when Cuomo went to the State Assembly to lobby for votes, had political cover for voting in favor of Gay marriage. After all, nobody wanted to look like Paladino, who had managed to blunder into becoming the poster child for hate and intolerance.

So in effect, Paladino’s speech was an act of very useful stupidity, which ended up bringing about an outcome that might never have been possible without him.

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