Friday, September 09, 2005

The bankruptcy of New York Democrats

New York City's mayoral election is this year. The good news for Democrats is they get a chance to elect one of their own as mayor for the first time in 12 years -- here in this city where they outnumber Republicans by 5 to 1. The bad news is that incumbent Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be the walk-away victor in their own Democratic primary if only he could enter it, according to the latest polling. Ouch.

At a debate among the Democratic contestants this week a newsman was rude enough to ask about this: Hey, why do your own party's voters prefer him by so much over all of you? Eric Fettman covers their astute responses.

As a New York Cityer, I can tell the real answer (which Fettman notes): Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani before him have focused on quality of life issues: reducing crime, cleaning the streets, cleaning up the public parks and making them safe, improving the public schools so more students actually graduate from them, and the like. This plays to the citizenry, what voting citizens actually want.

Yet not one of the four contending Democrats has anything at all to say about any of that, each is instead playing to the wide local menagerie of narrow Democratic special interest groups. And every single one of them has promised to increase spending by a billion dollars a year or more (some by a lot more) which means raising taxes by as much (here where the citizenry already pays more in taxes than anywhere else in America) to buy the votes available through this subsidy, that social spending program and all these unions. Plus there's the standard heavy Democratic dollop of race politics, of course.

Now take a moment and think about this, it seems really extraordinary.

From Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York for generations produced the leaders who shaped the future of progressive Democratic politics. And why shouldn't it? New York City is the nation's center of business, finance and media, home to more liberal university faculties than any other city in the nation, and 5 to 1 Democrat.

Yet New York's Democratic political establishment now can't produce even a single candidate capable of winning its own mayoral primary!

(While it is currently producing a gubernatorial candidate running on the strength of his daring exposé investigations of radio payola and restaurant bathroom attendants).

What's happened?

Here's a thought: Maybe nothing. Maybe New York is still showing the future of progressive Democratic politics.