William F. B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.
A co-worker stepped into my office 20-some-odd years ago, fresh off a honeymoon.
"You'll love my husband," she gushed. "He's a real conservative . . . he hates everyone!"
She was right -- about her husband hating everyone, that is -- as they soon divorced. As for her primary observation? It brought a smile to my face, I'm ashamed to admit, because I knew what she meant. The angriest Republicans are so often mistaken for the most conservative ones.
Which leads me to Carl Paladino.
Paladino is the angriest political figure in New York today. Once the Rev. Al Sharpton halved himself and mellowed for television audiences, the Buffalo businessman snatched the mantle. Paladino is spitting mad. At everything. In person he can seem gentle and polite -- old world even -- but press a microphone to his face or a pen to his hand and he quickly twists himself into a knot of purple apoplexy.
Anger has served Paladino well in western New York, where economic frustration is palpable. His black and orange "I'm Mad as Hell, Too, Carl" lawn signs in his 2010 insurgent race for governor struck the right chord in a region that feels betrayed by time and by politics. In Paladino, many found a champion willing to spend some of his own fortune to rage at The Man. But all that rage and all that money garnered Paladino just 33 percent of the vote statewide. The 2010 election was such a blowout for Andrew M. Cuomo that incumbent and competitive Republican candidates down ballot -- including brilliant state comptroller candidate Harry Wilson, on whose campaign I consulted -- were defeated in the landslide.
Now Paladino is threatening to run again. He says he has no interest in running on the Republican Party line, just on the Conservative line. It's his play to deny both parties a unified ticket next year in an effort to get what he wants -- revenge against Republican leaders in Albany for their various and protean transgressions against him. If Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb aren't fired from their posts, Paladino fumes, he'll wreak havoc on Republican and Conservative electoral chances next year, guaranteeing Cuomo a second term and potentially placing the Senate majority irretrievably in the hands of liberal Democrats.
What's conservative about that?
On Monday, Paladino launched a preposterous attack on Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who's being talked about as a potential gubernatorial candidate for 2014. Paladino called Astorino, on whose campaigns I've consulted, a RINO (Republican-in name-only), which is as exhausted a term as it is inaccurate about Astorino. But to Paladino, who was a registered Democrat until 2005, any Republican official who isn't hyperventilating mad is a RINO. In other words, the only acceptable Republicans are unelectable Republicans.
Something is increasingly clear in Republican politics: The most successful and electable conservatives -- the Ronald Reagans, Chris Christies, and Scott Walkers -- are the competent ones, not the loud angry ones.
Sometimes the angriest man in the room is just the angriest man in the room.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a columnist and a Republican political consultant.