Monday, January 07, 2008

A Liberal Dose of Bloomberg

In yesterday's NY Times the paper analyzes the Bloomberg boomlet from the standpoint of the mayor's ideological positioning; and finds that the mayor's political views puts him squarely in the center-of the Democratic Party: “If you put him on the national Congressional spectrum,” said Jacob Hacker, a political scientist at Yale University, “he would be in the middle — of the Democratic Party.”

The Times story also points out something we've said before: the mayor's philosophical bent, were he to be elected, will cause a great deal of blowback from conservative forces that are more prevalent in the country than they are in liberal NYC. As the Times puts it: "But judged strictly on the issues, it is hard to discern the grounds on which Mr. Bloomberg might midwife a new kind of fusion politics, even if he wants to."

This point is underscored by the hearty Bloomberg shout out from the DMI's Andrea Batista Schlesinger who told the paper (with an observation that finds the Drummer in unusual agreement with our own view of the mayor): “He may not have an ideology about political parties, but he definitely has an ideology about government — that it has a progressive role in our lives,” said Andrea Batista Schlesinger, executive director of the Drum Major Institute, a New York-based liberal research group. “The idea that he’s some kind of middle-of-the-road candidate doesn’t do justice to his own values.”

Precisely so, which means that Mayor Mike is gonna have to do some fancy-an no doubt expensive-foot work in order to distract the voters away from his core beliefs. To say that Bloomberg is wealthy enough to resist the allure of lobbyists and special interests does not alter the fact that his world view is an anathema to many Americans-and if the Schlesingers of the political world are the mayor's cheer leaders then you really can't stray much farther from the views of mainstream Americans.

The only discordant note we found in the well done Confessore analysis at the Times, was his musing about the way the mayor has at times straddled conservative as well as liberal views: "In areas like education and poverty, some experts say, Mr. Bloomberg has blended traditionally liberal and conservative policies with notable success. In city schools, for example, he has pursued greater centralization, stringent performance accountability measures and merit pay — the last of which has few adherents among Democratic candidates — while sharply increasing teacher salaries. He has proposed a new, nuanced definition of poverty, something liberals have long supported, while starting a pilot program that offers cash incentives to the poor to attend school or job training, a policy that echoes the thinking of some conservative scholars."

This analysis doesn't really hold up well, since the mayor's pay to behave approach to poverty has been ridiculed by conservative scholars; and his educational policies-and their relative poor success rate-has drawn criticism from across the ideological spectrum. The NY Sun's defense of the Bloomberg candidacy from a more conservative angle, emphasizes tort reform and a more muscular approach to certain foreign policy issues. Yet that too fell rather flat with us. Andrea Batista Schlesinger is closer to the mark on the mayor's true political sensibilities.

Which isn't stopping all of the speculation; as the NY Daily News' Kirsten Danis writes yesterday about the "buzz" surrounding the mayor's western swing this week; and the NY Post's Dave Seifman begins speculating about the mayor's successor in a special election if he runs and wins! If it were up to the NY press core the mayor would announce his intention to run immediately-yet in today's NY Post, Harry Siegel offers a more sober view of the mayor and his prospects; one that critiques the lack of media scrutiny of a chief executive who, "has alchemized a record of mediocre accomplishments into a rep as a highly competent, unideological reformer worthy of the presidency."

We're hopeful that a Bloomberg run would lead to more Siegel-like scrutiny of a rather unclothed emperor. Run Mike run!