Eliot's Ashes

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Eliot Spitzer's cakewalk to the New York governor's mansion may not be the most gripping political drama of our time, but it does offer comedy in the form of Malachy McCourt, the Ozzie Canseco to Angela's Ashes author Frank McCourt's Jose. McCourt is running for governor on the Green Party ticket, and in a profile of the candidate, The New York Times' Clyde Haberman makes much of the detail that he's the only candidate currently writing an introduction to a new edition of Dubliners. More to the point, he looks smashing in a boa, as you can see at right, in a still from his performance as Bella Cohen in some Bloomsday on Broadway production of yore.

Haberman picks up, but doesn't follow, an important thread of the McCourt candidacy, noting that Republican candidate John Faso, whose hope of beating Spitzer is no better than McCourt's, at least gets to debate him. "On that stage," Haberman writes, "you will not find Mr. McCourt or other candidates whose names may mystify you as much as some of Joyce's prose: John Clifton of the Libertarian Party, Maurice DeLuca of the Socialist Workers Party and Jimmy McMillan of the bluntly named Rent Is Too Damn High Party." It would be nice to see the Grey Lady and other major papers pay more attention to the incredibly shady dealings that keep third parties out of debates all over the country; hell, it would be nice just see them mention that third parties exist as anything other than comic relief.

At least in comic relief terms, McCourt, the last of the great stage Irishmen, delivers like Barry Fitzgerald teaming up with Bing Crosby for a remake of The Exorcist. His platform includes planks to drop the nickname "Empire State," turn the National Guard into a civilian environmental corps, and tax gum out of existence because it "makes people look stupid, and they spit it out." Ominously, some of his crazier plans (such as declaring sugar a controlled substance and making an individual cigarette the same price as a gallon of gas) sound like the kind of ideas that stand a real chance of becoming law under Spitzer himself. On the other hand, I just took a look at McCourt's filmography, and have found that in addition to appearing in such boatloads of blarney as The Field, The Devil's Own, and Ash Wednesday, McCourt has appeared in some pretty great movies: The Brink's Job, Larry Cohen's Q, and Reversal of Fortune (playing "Englishman"). That's a record of real achievement, so if I were in the State Formerly Known As Empire State, I think I'd have to support Malachy McCourt, for a real change:

"The inculcation of fear is the essence of American politics," Mr. McCourt said. "Fear and the evil of your opponents—what awful, dreadful, less-than-human beings they are, until elected. Then they say, 'We have to get behind them.'"

He recalled a quotation from Thomas Corwin, a 19th century senator from Ohio: "Never make people laugh. If you would succeed in life, you must be solemn, solemn as an ass. All great monuments are built over solemn asses."

If you have no moral issues about circumventing Times Select, here's the full article.

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  1. “It would be nice to see the Grey Lady and other major papers pay more attention to the incredibly shady dealings that keep third parties out of debates all over the country; hell, it would be nice just see them mention that third parties exist as anything other than comic relief.”

    The attitude towards third parties in the US comes from the common, unnuanced tendency of Americans (and other Westerners?) to see everything as being a dichotomy even though most things are continua. EITHER you’re Republican OR you’re a Democrat. EITHER you’re black OR you’re white. EITHER you’re gay OR you’re straight. Most people are uncomfortable with people that don’t fit into the neat little binary boxes that society has created for them. So they deny our existence because acknowledging us would be devestating to their convenient little worldview.

  2. ….attitude towards third parties in the US comes from the common, unnuanced tendency of Americans (and other Westerners?) to see everything as being a dichotomy even though most things are continua. – andy

    Our system of elections produces dichotomies of the “I won/You lost” variety. Elections in many other parliamentary democracies that use some form of proportional representation produce continua as their results.

    In point of fact, the electoral system in New York is actually more liberal, by this criteria, than that of most other U.S. states. New York allows cross-endorsement. Candidates routinely run as Republican-Conservatives or Democratic-Working Familes. Before he pulled out of the race, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld was planning on contesting for the New York top post, as both a Republican and a Libertarian.

    So rail all you want against false dichotomies, and if you are criticizing the freeze-out from debates of “minor party” candidates, I’ll rail along with you. At least New York allows the unofficial official parties to create some leverage.

    Kevin

  3. Oops. Forgot to comment on the younger Mr. McCourt. According to his memoirs, he once financed a trip to India by participating in gold smuggling. Now, whether I should believe any of the more entertaining stories in his books is one question. That he even thought that a good idea to relate to the rest of us makes me feel warmly towards him.

    Before any of the anti-immigrant crowd gets in an uproar, remember that, MMcM, like his brother Frank, is a native of Brooklyn. Don’t let the blarney fool you. When the family moved back to Limerick the local kids called them “Yanks.”

    Kevin

  4. Sheesh, all Frank does is write a few books and now he’s more famous than Malachy? Here in NY, Malachy McCourt has been known for decades as a radio talk host, bar owner & tender, stage & soap opera actor, rugby referee, and communist. “Cunt-face, SIR!” “Get stuffed!”

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