Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A man whose allegiance is ruled by expedience

What the hell—right? I mean, if the late Mayor John Lindsay could jettison his Republican ties after losing the party primary while running for a second term, why can’t Mayor Mike jump a sinking ship after winning his? In Tuesday’s announcement that he is removing the epithetical (R) from his name, however, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R ?) looks less like to me like Lindsay, and more like Wernher von Braun.

To be certain, I am less upset with Bloomberg’s leaving the GOP than I was when he joined it in the first place. The fact of the matter is that then, as now, the mayor had little in common with the New York or the national Republican Party, either with regards to history or ideology. If anything, Bloomberg became more of a Republican after he was elected mayor back in 2001.

Instead, what Bloomberg saw in the Republican Party back in ’01 was an opportunity. Mike had an ambition, and the New York Republicans—already in rapid decline back then—had a need. Bloomberg had no desire to work his way through the system or wait his turn, so he switched from Democrat to Republican expressly to snag a guaranteed ballot spot he likely could not win on his own in a Democratic primary.

Mike also had money, and in the Republican primary, and most certainly in the general election, he spent it. He blitzed his opponents. By most accounts, Bloomberg spent over $70 for each and every vote he received on his way to defeating Democrat Mark Green. (He actually spent even more—over $110/vote—in his campaign for reelection.)

And so, with his loose change and his convenient change of sides, Mike Bloomberg got to be mayor. And while he has been like a breath of fresh air after the vile and nasty Rudy Giuliani, Mayor Bloomberg has hardly been a progressive’s dream (some very recent proposals for a greener city notwithstanding).

Even looking past the unchecked overdevelopment taking place in New York and Bloomberg’s less than small (or large, for that matter) “d” democratic approach to public education reform, it is hard to celebrate Mike’s run as a Republican mayor because of the support he felt necessary to lend to his new found friends. Bloomberg has given $350,000 of his own fortune to the state party and perhaps more to its candidates, and let us not forget his role as host to the 2004 Republican National Convention.

And let us not forget the preventive detentions, security clampdowns, and the more recently revealed covert infiltration of protest groups that lead up to and surrounded that convention—a style of policing that was not a so much a special case as a case study for the Mayor Bloomberg/Police Commissioner Ray Kelly regime.

Also let us not forget Mike’s not insubstantial campaign help lent to Joe Lieberman (Monomaniacal Party-CT) as the Senator fought successfully to circumvent the will of his constituents and (up till that moment) party.

In fact, it is maybe in Lieberman that we have the best object lesson for understanding Bloomberg’s de-partification (if you will). Both of these men like to brag about how their worldview extends beyond ideology or party, and, in a way, they are right. Neither man is about party because both are all about themselves.

As with Beltway Joe mouthing off almost every week on the Sunday talk shows, many of Mayor Mike’s moves can be seen as grand attempts by a lame duck to remain relevant. Or, if not relevant, at least visible—it is hard, after all, to relinquish the spot light, the bully pulpit, or even the rope line.

But, beyond the attention, what does Michael Bloomberg want? Von Braun was easier to understand—he wanted to make rockets. If he had to join the Nazi party and build V-2s to do it, so be it; if he had to become a naturalized American and make ICBMs, all the better. In the end, he was eulogized as the man who got mankind to the moon.

Bloomberg has recently aimed for the moon himself, making many ambitious and sweeping proposals for changes that will almost all theoretically come to fruition long after he is out of office—his current office. I, for one, still question whether his heart is really in it.

That remains to be seen—as does whether Mike really wants (as he currently claims) to be mayor for another 900-odd days. If not, I fear what we learn about Michael Bloomberg and what he wants will, in reality, be less about what he wants for others, and more about what he wants for himself.

(hat tip: Tom Lehrer)

(cross-posted from guy2k)

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2 Comments:

Anonymous J-Ro said...

I actually admire this in Bloomberg. I think today's political parties don't really have much of a coherent ideology going on, and they seem only good and holding and keeping power. So, if someone wants to ally themselves with a party to help their prospects, I don't see a real problem. I vote for people based on what they say they will do for their country or city, not based on what party they decide to join.

7:40 PM  
Blogger guy2k said...

I posted a response to similar comments elsewhere, and I will re-post it here:

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Party of one

“Don't say that he's hypocritical,
Say rather that he's apolitical.”

The problem with these self-proclaimed nonaligned messiahs is that they are not really interested in building a movement—they are just interested in promoting themselves.

Ross Perot’s millions couldn’t buy him one electoral vote, and his “party” quickly disintegrated after Perot and his money lost interest. Will Bloomberg be different? I actually doubt it.

The only question I have is whether an independent Bloomberg run steals more votes from Democrats or Republicans. If an independent Bloomberg opens the door for another Republican, well, may he rot in hell.

On the other hand, can we at least assume this move shuts down Mike’s cash pipeline to state Republicans?
----

I will also add as per your desire to vote for people for what they will do: as is cited in the piece above, there are many reasons to believe that Mayor Mike will do the wrong thing were he to become President Mike.

4:35 AM  

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