The just-concluded New York mayoral race will serve as a shining example of why New York Democrats are becoming the Boston Red Sox of municipal politics. Despite a 5-1 advantage over Republicans in registered voters, they have managed to blow the last three mayoral elections -- the latest finding Mark Green losing to a complete political novice. Why? There's plenty of blame to go around.
Let's start at the top. Green, while you came to the table with a lot of energy, experience and intelligence, you were just too obnoxious. Yes, I know a certain amount of arrogance is a requirement for running this city, but Ed Koch leavened his with humor, while Rudy managed to convey solidarity with the white ethnic voters who made up his core of support. During this campaign, as well as all others, you displayed neither humor nor empathy. Get some of both before you try to run for anything again. A little humility wouldn't kill you, either.
Also, offering Rudy another three months made you look like a big wuss.
To Freddy Ferrer: you big crybaby. OK, so you lost the runoff. Deal with it. Instead of sucking it up and campaigning for your party's chosen candidate, you gave the most halfhearted endorsement imaginable, then sat around sulking for the last three weeks. Do you honestly think your constituents (remember them, the people you're supposedly doing this for?) will be better served by Michael Bloomberg? This guy had probably never been north of 125th Street before he started campaigning. And no, Yankee Stadium doesn't count.
To Al Sharpton: where to begin? We had such high hopes for you. During the Senate primary a few years back, you actually came off as the most reasonable person up there. You managed to sucker us all into thinking you'd matured and were ready to become a real player instead of just a gadfly. A little tip: If you want to be a kingmaker you have to actually support someone! Threatening to tell black voters to sit out an election because your horse lost is probably the most irresponsible thing you've ever done. OK, so you probably wouldn't have had much of a role in a Green administration; Mike Bloomberg has your phone number tattooed on his hand, I'm sure.
Ed Koch: Ed, why don't you just become a Republican? You seem to have bought into this church of the CEO where so many of us are attending services now. Look, I understand your chagrin with that Upper West Side liberal suspicion of any financial transaction that happens between humans without some sort of government intermediary, but you forget that business can't do everything either. Business is restricted to doing what's profitable, and some things that are necessary to a functioning society (policing, firefighting, public education, and so on) can never turn a profit. After a lifetime spent in public service, do you not get that anymore?
Rudy: I understand the bind you were in politically. You had to choose between being a New Yorker and being a Republican, and you do have your future to think about. And we all know you really, really hate Mark Green. But after your post-Sept. 11 performance, don't you think you could write your own ticket just about anywhere? You've been knighted, for cryin' out loud! You can't tell me there was any enthusiasm in your endorsement, and you can't tell me you have any confidence handing the keys to this bozo.
This brings us to the central point of this rant, which is this: Why do Republicans, who are grossly outnumbered, win so often here? Perhaps it's because they learned their lesson in 1992. Bush pere was being eaten alive by his right flank, Pat Buchanan. Ol' Blood 'n Guts kept hammering Bush right up to the election, driving all voters to the left of Adolf Hitler into the capacious arms of Bill Clinton. This sent the GOP into such a lather that the party could no longer see straight, and it mistook Clinton (arguably the most conservative Democrat to occupy the White House in the 20th century) for a cross between Abbie Hoffman and Chairman Mao. The Republicans spent the better part of eight years trying to "get" Clinton -- in the process making themselves look like Elmer Fudd getting shot out of the cannon in the rabbit hole.
But you didn't have to hit them in the head with a shovel twice. As with the anointment of Bush fils last year, they lined up behind Bloomberg, even though his sole qualification was the ability to finance his own campaign, and they cut off the oxygen to anyone trying to challenge him within the party. In fact, I considered changing my party affiliation just to support Herman Badillo, Bloomberg's only Republican competition, whom I respect and thought was a viable candidate. Too bad the Republicans decided Badillo wasn't going to get it done and instead threw all their support to Bloomberg. While I generally abhor the Republicans' policies, I admire their focus.
I can already hear you all whining, "But we're Democrats, we don't march in lockstep, we encourage debate, we built the Big Tent!" Fine, I agree with you. Debate, argue, call each other racists, or fascists, or Stalinists or liberals or whatever else makes you feel good about yourselves, but settle your hash after the primaries and support the team. Otherwise, the other side is going to eat your lunch every time.