New York Governor Kathy Hochul in 2019. Photo: Mark Lenihan/AP/NBC.
Cathy Hochul of New York plays smart, very smart. As governor, she rose to the top spot in state government. Before that, she played second fiddle to the orchestra under then-Governor Andrew Cuomo. It really hasn’t been easy for her. She defied most of the New York political conventional wisdom. She was governor of Niagara-Buffalo, which went against the old wisdom in the state that “you have to come from the five boroughs.” She is the first woman to hold the highest office, and not only has she attained this high office, she has not left it. Not only is she a woman, but she demonstrates that she knows how to wield power and then keep it. This raises the question of sexism in New York state government. Why did it take so long to install and retain a woman in the top executive position? She will run again and win again in the New York Democratic Party. Maybe it’s just lucky that it came on the heels of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who himself shows absolutely no signs of political resurgence, and who left us with an appreciation of Hochul, her feminine perspective, and her abilities compared to Andrew’s.
Is this new to our politics in New York? The answer is yes. One reason for this is that men considered in the public mind capable of running New York are few and far between. Maybe I’m stereotypical, but I find that in politics, women in power set goals that are achievable and doable. When I talk to voters and women in office, I hear language that centers around the achievable in social policy, rather than the traditional bull excrement language of lofty promises. It’s almost like a sigh of relief after Hochul took office. Take it for what it’s worth, Hochul is one to inspire confidence. However, there is always the risk that people will get bored with the political language of this administration. After all, much of what we hear from politicians, and especially from those who have previously been mired in bureaucracy, is political stuff that many find boring. The people who give us this language find it safer to bore us than to stimulate us. In this society, we have come to expect to be stimulated and resent it when we are not. This is why so many politicians hire speechwriters who are in so many ways nothing more than glorified entertainers.
When people expect to be entertained, they will often be disappointed. Why? Because in order to succeed, politicians must satisfy several groups that together will form an electoral majority. If even a small fraction of the population leaves the group that elects politicians, individual politicians will lose their offices, and that means a loss of salary, privileges and prestige. So our politics, like everything else, is too often shaped by the same kinds of people who give us movies and popular music, as opposed to people who think about providing the best life for us all. Is this what we want?
Governor Hochul faces some risks. One is that for an audience that cries out to be entertained, it cannot and will not be the entertainer. This may be tempered by her gender, but it also addresses the plea for entertainment. Honestly, there are real challenges here. We know that the egotistical Donald Trump sees himself as an artist. Perhaps that is why the media pays such constant attention to the former president, who regularly fills our newspapers and radio broadcasts. On the other hand, Hochul seems to have achieved a very good position that leaves people in awe of her competence and decency.