Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Two Levels of Politics

From Machiavelli to Carl Schmitt and Murray Edelman, political theorists have been pointing out that politics exists on two levels: one dramatically and emotionally public; and the other transactional, calculating and far from public view. And, it is often the case, that while the public gets an emotional payoff from its "involvement" in the political process, others get real tangible benefits.

So it is with Mike Bloomberg's great deception; the attempt to extend his term, not for any personal benefit but for, what else, the greater good of the public. Extrapolating from this disingenuous premise, Bloomberg continues to mislead about the intense personal interest he has in his own maintenance of power. Sara Kugler's analysis is right on:

"Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he wanted a third term in City Hall, the billionaire businessman has sought to portray himself as having no role in the fight to change the term-limits law _ but that isn't exactly the case. Bloomberg and his aides have in fact been engaged in an organized outreach campaign with influential New Yorkers, hoping to win their support for the effort to change the law and give officeholders the option of a third term. It began weeks ago, but Bloomberg has consistently gone out of his way to downplay his involvement. "I don't think this is something the mayor should be involved in," he said last week."

It's kinda like when he wouldn't respond to the question about what party's ticket he would run on-"This isn't the time for politics," he dead panned. Increasingly, however, his self serving, and overtly political power play is becoming hard to camouflage. The following pablum increasingly has folks blanching: "The following day, as opposition began to take shape and organize, Bloomberg again cast himself as an outsider too busy with managing the city to engage in political battles, despite having single-handily started the fight himself. He said he had duties that are "a lot more important than term limits that I've got to worry about today," like a firefighter memorial service and meetings about the city budget."

As the battle heats up, and the focus is on Mike the Egotist, we'll see just how well his thin skin holds up to the public scorning. But the one guy who could really light a match to all of this-the Reverend Al Sharpton-is uncharacteristically quiet; we sense a negotiation here-and given Al's avarice and the mayor's wealth, we see an emerging Master Card moment: tangible politics at its most lucrative.