March 30, 2004
The Great Bloomberg Party Switch of 2004
BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
Remember those commercials when a Honda was "the car that sells itself"? Well here is a Honda for New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg: The Democratic Party. What a buy it could be, bearing in mind that the sale ends August 30th, the day the Republican National Convention begins at Madison Square Garden, the world's greatest arena.
Although the polls have improved for the mayor over the last three months, the albatross of his administration remains -- more people feel he is doing a bad job than not. That, and at the end of the day, people just don't seem to appreciate his aura of a bloodless technocrat.
It's an unfortunate political reality for the Mayor as he seeks re-election, that most voters won't go to the polls bearing in mind what could have been, because he's got a great argument to make that the city could have been a total disaster without him. New York, the domestic focal point of the war on terror, has weathered an unprecedented mixture of municipal challenges on his watch. His efforts could even be characterized as heroic, but no matter how many millions he spends on television ads, he will always be more Richie Rich than Rudy Giuliani.
In the media capital of the universe, the two termers, those Mayors with staying power, tend to be drama queens, and Bloomberg is the antithesis of agitation and titillation, the antidote to excitement. Being a self-made Billionaire means going about your business without having to apologize to anyone, and the Mayor doesn't, so he makes few friends, and wins the hearts of few voters along the way. So what.
Not having to apologize to anyone means that he wouldn't have to apologize to the Republicans should he bolt their party this in the fall.
Lets suppose for a moment that Bloomberg's mayoralty isn't the greatest act of charitable public service in the history of mankind, and that he is in fact an ambitious politician. His political future would hinge first on his re-election (no sure bet), and then perhaps, on the prospect of distinguishing the indistinguishable - himself - by broadening his appeal.
There is a great way for the mayor to move closer towards both those goals in one fell swoop. He could return to the Democratic Party, where he resided before deciding to run for mayor, and where the positions are far more consistent with his policies and beliefs.
For reasons that escape no one, the Republican Party has chosen to hold its convention in a state that they have next to no chance of winning in the 2004 Presidential Election, in a city that they have absolutely no chance of carrying. In New York's 8th Congressional District, where the twin towers stood, George W. Bush received 18% of the vote in 2000, and chances are that in 2004 he won't do that well.
Not content merely to wrap themselves in the American Flag at every turn, the Bush Administration has also chosen to wrap itself in the memory of New York City's darkest day, September 11th, 2001. They have certainly not chosen to wrap themselves with a banner of federal financial support for the city. Extracting support from Washington has proven harder than drawing blood from a stone, or oil from Iraq.
The Republican Party will also not choose to highlight Albany's support for the city. For three terms, Governor Pataki has remained remarkably consistent in his approach to the boroughs, leaving them to fend for themselves while funneling the funds they generate to the rest of the state. The relationship between the Republican Party and New York City is a one way street -- all take and no give.
For good measure, it is also important to note that the Bush crowd winces at the moderation which is the hallmark of celebrated can-do New York Republicans, like Nelson Rockerfeller, Jacob Javitz or even Al D'Amato. To be labeled a Rockerfeller Republican in today's GOP is to receive a kiss of death. And Mike Bloomberg? For starters, with his smoking ban, support for gay marriage, and his tax increases, he's to the left of a good many Democrats nationally.
From the President's perspective, as he eyes the convention, all of this must make Mayor Mike seem like a very convenient fool, except that Bloomberg doesn't strike anybody as the foolish type.
With the eyes of the world watching, (and a 2012 Olympic bid pending) The Republican National convention is sure to provide a defining moment for Mike Bloomberg, one way or the other.
Amidst a highly contentious political atmosphere this fall, the GOP will come to NYC to present a vision for the country and the world which most New Yorkers reject outright. Then there is the Bush Administration's actual record, which is an abject horror to at least half of our bitterly divided nation, to say nothing of untold millions the world over.
Mayor Bloomberg may very well soldier on, taking center state and playing the role of diligent host, or even Bush apologist and antagonist, at a time when the politics of protest threaten to engulf the convention, if not the entire city. At that point it might be instructive for him to consider that Richard Daley, the omnipotent Democratic Mayor of heavily Democratic Chicago, never saw his reputation recover from the fallout Democratic Convention of 1968. And Mike Bloomberg ain't no Richard Daley.
On the other hand, the Mayor could also take the opportunity to seize the day, as every Mayor should, and stand up for his politics and for his city, "the capitol of the world" by saying, "enough is enough," and declaring himself a democrat once again.
He would endear himself to his fellow Democrats from sea to shining sea, becoming a national leader within the party overnight by delivering a potentially fatal blow to a President many feel has it coming. In overwhelmingly Democratic New York, he would go a long way towards consolidating party support behind his strong record of accomplishment, and towards sewing up his re-election. Maybe Rudy Giuliani might be tempted to come out of retirement to challenge him as a Republican, but the mayor would be in good stead, and after all, you have to beat a king to be the king. It's all upside for Democrat Bloomberg.
Republican Bloomberg? At least a million protestors. A convention mess of his making. Out of step with his New Yorkers when it matters most, at a critical moment in the nations history. Potential successors taking numbers. The possibility of a Democratic President pulling out all the stops to beat him in 2005. The continued cold shoulders from Albany and Washington. A nice pat on the back from President Bush, to be sure. Still, it doesn't sound like much of a future.
Maybe he should buy the Honda.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
Articles in the BuzzFlash Contributor section are posted as-is. Given the timeliness of some Contributor articles, BuzzFlash cannot verify or guarantee the accuracy of every word. We strive to correct inaccuracies when they are brought to our attention.
otherwise noted, all original