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Albany, Year Two. Suspend the Disbelief

Albany, Year Two.  Suspend the Disbelief

By Stuart H. Brody

Originally Posted, Winter of 2008 at http://www.empirepage.com/whataboutupstate

            In movie parlance, the term “Suspend the Disbelief” refers to the process by which a moviegoer refrains from judging whether the action on screen is believable.   Even though what is unfolding could never happen in real life, the viewer pretends it is.    This act of faith is rewarded with a big helping of old fashioned Hollywood inspiration.  Classics like It’s a Wonderful life, the Wizard of OZ, Singing in the Rain, Casablanca, or the Majestic  are lost on viewers who sit there saying:  “that could never happen.”   If you want to feel good at the end, you have to “suspend your disbelief.”

Politics is not that different.  The political term for suspending disbelief is the “Honeymoon.”  This is where normally attack-minded politicians withhold their criticisms of the new kid on the political block.  You see, politicians, like most human beings and moviegoers need to feel uplifted too.  Deep down, most of them understand that politics can become a terminal disease without a healthy dose of inspiration every once in a while.    So, their act of faith is to suspend the forces of gridlock:  gratuitous attacks, self-righteous indignation and shameless self promotion. 

Eliot Spitzer burst on the political scene like—well—a movie star.  After eight years of story book success,  the sequel– his tenure as Governor–was a big story.  Day One was an anticipated event, like a star-studded opening night.  Spitzer’s rivals–political leaders whose luminescence dimmed under the bright light of Spitzer’s national stage—lined up like fawning critics.   The Honeymoon was underway.

Then came a twist in the plot that no one could have imagined.  This political heavyweight lost a few rounds,  the steam roller ran out of steam, the reform express ran off the tracks.  What happened defied belief, not just suspended it.  Close the curtain.  Act One, Day One ends in chaos

Curtain Up:  Year Two, Act Two.  The Governor picks himself up, dusts himself off and goes at it again.    This time with a conciliatory State of the State, upbeat State of Upstate, and level-headed budget message.   At this point,  most of the audience is hoping that year two/act two will unfold differently.  Those who believe in the future of good government are holding their breath.   Yet we know with grim predictability that some will raise their voices in rebuke;  that politicians who could win credit for a strong supporting role will instead act like unhappy viewers booing mid way through the movie.

Call it tragedy or comedy, this plot is as thick as it gets:  unless the hero rights the ship of State,  it will sink further into the muck of self interest.   He may not be your hero, but Spitzer is on an epic quest.  You see, he actually believes that a fair and proper balance among the stakeholders in the murky tug of war that government in New York has become can be restored and that the ship can be righted.  For added plot interest, this protagonist—or antagonist if you prefer–is one of the few people to show up in Albany in a long time with the courage to try and right it.     And if you like suspense, the well being of millions of New Yorkers hangs in the balance.

A happy ending is far from guaranteed,  but one thing is certain, the outcome depends not just on the leading man, but on us, the viewers .  The least we can do is stay put in our seats and give the story a chance before walking out of the theatre.

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