Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Not in a New York Minute!

Approaching the summer solstice, Hillary Clinton is the leading POP (Party of Pusillanimity) candidate in next year’s primary elections, and Rudy Giuliani is leading in the GOP. Two New Yorkers – though, in Hillary’s case, not by birth, but by choice (of the national and state party leadership) and vaunting ambition. As if that weren’t enough, it is now more likely that, having opted out of the GOP (declaring himself an “independent”), New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will run too. It’s not a prospect to be taken lightly. He bought his present office for some 70 plus million of his own money; that leaves him billions to spare on the Big Enchilada.

This is not the place to rehearse the case against the first two; I’ve done it in earlier postings and will doubtless have to do it again and again. Nor is this the place to make the obvious case for compulsory public funding of elections and related democracy enhancement measures, such as one finds in most liberal democracies. But Bloomberg’s possible “independent” candidacy does give occasion to reflect again on the semi-official party duopoly under which our political culture suffers.

In 1992, the Texas moneybag, H. Ross Perot, found it convenient to launch a Reform Party. Perhaps the New York moneybag will follow suit. He could call his the Plutocratic Party. Whether he does or not, the conventional wisdom has it that the electorate is fed up with “polarization” and is desperately seeking “centrists.” This is also not the place to explain again what nonsense this is. But given how little space there is between Democrats and Republicans, it is worth wondering what the “center” is supposed to be.

Perhaps a fine jeweler or careful surgeon could find a space between the Democrats and the Republicans. But that’s not Bloomberg’s strength; and, in any case, the media designation is clearly misleading. The point about Bloomberg, as about Perot before him, is that, by being self-financing, he’s unencumbered by those pesky constituencies that adulterate unimpeded rule by Wall Street. Unlike Republicans, including Giuliani, he has no need to pander to the religious Right. Unlike Democrats, including Clinton, he can keep as much distance as he likes from labor and other progressive constituencies, including ones he really can’t abide – like civil libertarians. Were our ruling classes not so wedded to maintaining a stifling duopoly, a Bloomberg candidacy could, as they say, have legs. He offers them something even the most Clintonized Democrats can’t. And, having let the lunatics control the asylum for so long, the Republicans will have a hard time breaking free from their “useful idiots,” even if Giuliani, the most socially “liberal” major candidate, somehow gets the nomination. If only Blumberg were a WASP, it would be a match made in heaven. But, even if he were, the duopoly is so entrenched that it is unlikely that any “independent” candidate could marshal the requisite support – especially from the corporate media who have become the arbiters of what is acceptable in our political culture and what is only tolerated. Still, it’s not impossible that Bloomberg will run; and not impossible that he will win. Money talks – and the Mayor has more than enough of it.

It’s too soon to catastrophize. Bloomberg may have squirreled away enough to buy even this most expensive of offices, but he is still more likely than not to keep his money rather than venture a large chunk of it on an unlikely quest. What is clear is that not one of these real or pretend New Yorkers is fit for office; not for a New York minute! What is clearer still is that a Clinton-Bloomberg-Giuliani race would be a perfect nightmare. It would also squander an opportunity of a kind that has not existed for many years – a chance to break free, even if only slightly, of Wall Street’s clutches. That’s why now is the time for Billionaires for Bloomberg to get into the act. Could there be a better time too to start up Monica Lewinsky Democratic Clubs and branches of Firefighters for Truth throughout the land!

1 comment:

Elise said...

Mr. Levine,
I'm so glad to see you're alive and well! I am looking for your books, particularly American Ideology and The General Will. Amazon says they are temporarily not available. ? Do you know where I can find them?

elise knudson