Friday, October 17, 2008

Astro-turfing with the Eternal Mayor

As Liz B points out, the mayor has begun to utilize his resources in a stealth campaign to create the impression that his end run of the electorate has strong support-particularly in the minority community (we're guessing that if you call the National Action Network and ask for Al Sharpton, you'll be told that he can't be disturbed because, "He's in negotiations"): "There's an unusual degree of secrecy being employed by people showing up at City Hall to work on behalf of, or show their support for, Mayor Bloomberg's term limits bill...At today's Council hearing on term limits legislation, a number of people showed up with signs that indicate they support Bloomberg's theory that changing term limits will give voters more choices at the polls in 2009.
They profess to be "Democrats for Choices," but they have steadfastly refused to tell reporters their names and also won't say if they were paid to show up at City Hall."

And Liz links to the Politicker that makes the following observation: "Almost all of the crowd appears to be with the same pro-legislation group, holding what looked like professionally printed signs with slogans like "Democrats for Choices" and "Elections Are The Real Term Limits" and "If We Can't Choose We Lose." No one in the group would identify themselves, name the group or, for that matter, speak to me."

A real grass roots group, one whose members won't talk to the press, unlike any such group that we've ever known; usually, the task of organization involve controlling the message from community folks eager to get their aggrieved message out to whoever will listen. This is another example of the dishonesty of the mayor-and the way in which he uses his wealth to subvert genuine democratic practices.

In fact, if you examine the congestion pricing campaign, you'll see just how the mayor's money was used to gin up support for the tax; groups that had previously been as poor as church mice, all of a sudden were transformed into advertising engines with hundreds of thousands to spend on television pitches. The same is true for the issue of school governance, where the foundation grant is being utilized as a weapon-with the stick of withholding monies is wielded deftly by the mayor's minions. For all of those-calling the NY Times editorial board-who have inveighed against the corrosive power of money, there is no more abusive example than the mayoralty of Michael Bloomberg; all in the service, Stalin-like, of creating an image of the benevolent father.

The mayor is so totally self absorbed that he really sees himself as the embodiment of the popular will-now where have we seen that before? As the NY Daily News tells us, "At a Times Square appearance this afternoon, Bloomberg insisted most New Yorkers support his plan for changing limits now without a public vote, saying a city charter review commission could revisit it in 2010. "The opposition we're seeing is a handful of people who are very strident and are working very hard. They write 1,000 letters to one City Council person, and then the City Council person says, oh, everybody is against it," Bloomberg said. "The public is in favor of doing it this time, and then having a referendum down the road."

Kinda like "L'Etat C'est Moi," isn't it? We get a bit of the flavor here of the imperial Bloomberg disingenuousness; acting as if the enticed crowd is simply part of a spontaneous out pouring of love and affection for, well, you know who:

"Asked at his Q-and-A with reporters earlier today about whether his administration stacked today's Council term limits hearing - perhaps even going so far as to pay people to show up - Mayor Bloomberg said: "I can tell you the people I met on the subway on the way up here certainly weren’t paid - at least not by me. I assume they all work for a living but in that context. " "Look, we’re out there trying to campaign. We've got to get as many people to come and testify. Both sides of any of these controversial things. When you have a hearing, you try to get people to come." I will say, I've made calls to people and asked them to come and testify and every single one of them said, 'I’d be thrilled to come,' because people want to continue, I think, the job that the City Council's been doing and the job that the other end of City Hall (has) been doing and they don’t want a change at this point in time." "We’re going through some very difficult times and it's not the time for a learning curve."

Oh please! The mayoral money machine is open for business; and let's remember that Mike Bloomberg came into government at the time of city's worst crisis-something that the current economic meltdown can't really be compared to. In spite of the fact that 9/11 was "not time for a learning curve," the city survived this rich novice-and will survive whoever succeeds him.

Let's hope that this crass display of self service will be the beginning of the deconstruction of Mike Bloomberg as a benevolent and effective leader. If you look closely there's not all that much there there.