Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Even With All That Money

Mike Bloomberg has spent a load of money to convince New Yorkers the current economic crisis makes his re-election a dire necessity-but a funny thing has happened on the way to the coronation; the voters are not all that enthused over the prospect: "Despite generally broad approval for the job Michael R. Bloomberg has done as mayor, a majority of New Yorkers say that he does not deserve another term in office and that they would like to give someone else a chance, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Cornell University and NY1 News."

This is most unusual-striking in its counter-intuitiveness. While most seasoned observers anticipate a Bloomberg cakewalk-we've been in that cohort for a while-there is the beginning of what we believe could turn out to be a counter movement of average voters disillusioned by the mayor's spending, and disgusted by his engineering of the over turning of term limits.

And the dissatisfaction is generated by the question of Bloomberg's stewardship of the city's economy: "With anxiety rising over a difficult economy, few surveyed have a lot of confidence in Mr. Bloomberg’s ability to lead the city out of the recession, a troubling sign for a mayor who cited his financial acumen as the rationale for his undoing of the term limits law that otherwise would have forced him from office."

Which might mean that the mayor's vaunted "Five Borough Economic Plan," is laying the proverbial egg with jaded voters-and that their just waiting for a spark to jettison Third Term Mike. And New Yorkers aren't seeing the mayor's accomplishments very clearly-even with the million of dollars of image burnishing: "And though Mr. Bloomberg has sought to elevate his image nationally and internationally as a bold-thinking mayor with a record of innovation and results, New Yorkers in the survey struggle when asked to identify any particular achievement of his tenure. More than a third of those polled could not offer any answer when asked what was the best thing Mr. Bloomberg has done since he became mayor almost eight years ago."

All of this is understandable to us, since we have long argued that the mayor's achievements exist more in the minds of the real estate elite-and with the media toadies-than they do in reality. But, even more significantly, there appears to be a growing voter fatigue with Mike Bloomberg-something that is likely to be exacerbated by the media saturation bombing: “I think the city’s needs change as time goes on,” said Deborah Fantera, an architect who lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. “And I also think there’s a complacency that happens when someone has been in their position too long.”

All of which underscores the fact that, absent the money, Mike Bloomberg would be headed in the direction that Governor David Paterson has already hurried toward-poll purgatory. Which means, as Michael Wolff points out, that the mayor represents the purest example of a politician who has bought his office-fair and square: "Michael Bloomberg is in the most existential of political positions: Most voters, according to a recent poll, don’t want him, and yet are unable to defeat him. A majority believe New York City is going in the wrong direction, and a third of respondents could not name anything Bloomberg has done in his 8 years in office. Nevertheless, he faces no significant opposition in November’s election.This is, of course, because of his money. You can hardly find a purer example than Michael Bloomberg of a politician who bought his job."

The defining moment? The fact that Bloomberg used all of his upfront dough-as well as his behind the scenes cash and influence, to simply change the rules for his own benefit: "The first big thing against him is that he changed the rules. The law limited a New York City mayor to two terms. Michael Bloomberg used his financial muscle to make sure everybody who might have opposed his bid to change the law, would not. And they didn’t. He changed this law in such an extra-political fashion, without even a concern for democratic appearances, that he must have known he was going to lose some love. But he had to change the law to keep the job, so you take your lumps, I suppose he figured."

But some of the voters who are paying attention to all this really believe that there is a definite need for a change-dissatisfaction is in the air. If this trend continues, the expected Bloomberg blitz may actually fizzle; but whether a Bill Thompson can ride this wave is by no means a sure thing.