Many New Yorkers will be facing a dilemma in next week’s mayoral election. We think our mayor is doing a good job governing the city. But we loathe the national party to which he belongs.
Four years ago Michael Bloomberg used his personal fortune to fund his longshot campaign. During and since that successful run he never tired of pointing out how his billions make him impervious to the influence of special interests. A lifelong Democrat, Bloomberg had switched parties in order to run, and most New Yorkers believed that he wasn’t a “real” Republican, that he actually had his heart in the right place, and that as far as governing went he could in fact be truly independent, driven only by the best interests of the city and his own ego (hopefully in that order). And I still believe that’s true to some extent.
But personal fortunes aside, politics makes strange and sometimes noxious bedfellows. It’s common knowledge that Bloomberg spent some $7 million of his own money funding the last Republican National Convention, among whose many offenses was its disgusting political exploitation of 9-11. But as Wayne Barrett recently reported in The Village Voice, Bloomberg has also cozied up to the Bush White House in numerous ways. By merely praising Bush, for example – whether in public or at a party event – Bloomberg helps the cause.
Even though Fernando Ferrer, Bloomberg’s Democratic opponent, seems capable, we hesitate to vote out a mayor who’s running the city well. This is the second hardest job in the nation, and if we’ve got somebody good, we’re loath to boot him out before we have to. We weigh Bloomberg’s ties to the Bush administration against our own ties to our life in the city we love. In our minds, New York is not like other American cities: we tend to think of it as a quasi-independent city-state, though it is no such thing. New York City’s economy and the nation’s are interdependent, as are their cultures, but we see ourselves, sometimes obnoxiously so, as above and apart. We often feel a stronger local allegiance than a national one. Hence our dilemma.
I’m not voting for Bloomberg next week, and if he loses, I’ll be pleased. Regaining the New York City mayoralty would be a shot in the arm for national and state Democrats. But I have to admit that I will also be pleased if he wins re-election (which is almost a certainty). And I’ll be less nervous about the immediate future of this great and unique city. Does that make me a strange bedfellow with myself? In the words of that famous New Yorker, Walt Whitman,
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Some eight million, in fact.