Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mayoral Polling and the Dangers of Great Wealth

The story in today's NY Times on the unprecedented ability of the mayor to poll New Yorkers (which should be juxtaposed to the NY Post story on the Ferrer campaign's debt) points out something that everyone should be aware of: the mayor's wealth gave him the ability to plumb the depths of public opinion in such a way that it could effectively sub-divide the electorate and speak directly to their perceived concerns.

Of course this meant commercials and mailings done exclusively for different groups, a strategy that used to receive opprobrium when it was geared to various ethnic populations. This tactic, laden with cynicism, was often criticized because it was designed to tell people what they want to hear. The pitches, however, are devoid of policy content and therefore don't suggest direct remedies for the concerns that have been uncovered by the in-depth surveying. They are instead designed to generate effective symbols that create the impression that the mayor understands and empathizes with their plight.

What this indicates is that an ultra-rich candidate, divorced from the dreaded special interests, is able to use bucketloads of money to create a campaign miasma of good feeling that will generate attachment at the same time that it is freeing the candidate from any direct campaign policy promise that the electorate can hold him to.

Nothing illustrates this better than Kevin Sheekey's comment in Jim Rutenberg's Times story, "Mr. Sheekey said it was unlikely that Mr. Bloomberg would rely on the data his campaign compiled to govern during the next four years." Just so!

Finding out the concerns of voters was only done to create symbolic vehicles to manipulate them. It had nothing to do with trying to discern the electorate’s needs in order to devise good public policy. This is as dangerous as any electoral scenario where feared special interests exert excessive influence.

Essentially, we are back to the question: On what basis does Mayor Mike base his decisions? If it is on what's good for the people, where is he getting the knowledge, if not from his Orwellian polling operation?'