Monday, August 31, 2009

Lead or Get Out of the Way

We were duly impressed by Stuart Appelbaum's calling out of Governor Paterson for his reticence in supporting the electoral challenge to Mike Bloomberg being mounted by Bill Thompson. As the NY Post reports: "A top state Democrat is blaming Gov. Paterson for the "complete silence" of their party in challenging Mayor Bloomberg in the fall election. Stuart Appelbaum, one-time chief counsel to the Democratic National Committee and president of the large Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, also warns that the governor will be ditched by powerful Democrats next year if he doesn't give all-out support to city Comptroller Bill Thompson in his all-but-certain challenge to Bloomberg, the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent running on the GOP line."

It's about time that someone let the governor know that it's not all about him-and that the party deserves a titular head who is more than a figurine. And Mike Bloomberg needs to be challenged for his support of Republican electeds and principles; at least when it suited him to do so. No one deserves more credit than Bloomberg for the mess in the state senate this spring. Absent his enthusiastic support of the state Republican Party in general, and Frank Padavan in particular, the couping of the spring wouldn't have been possible.

The reaction of the Democratic Party to being called out on this issue, dots the "i's" and crosses the "t's" of the Appelbaum accusation: "Jay Jacobs, Paterson's handpicked state Democratic chairman, conceded he had "heard the complaint" that Democrats haven't taken on Bloomberg -- but he appeared reluctant to challenge it. "I would say my first obligation is to raise some money for a party that needs it. How aggressive we're going to be is somewhat dependent on our fund-raising," Jacobs said. Jacobs repeatedly refused to say flatly that Bloomberg should be defeated, responding to questions with phrases like, "I support the Democratic nominee," and, "The only way we get a Democratic mayor is to defeat the guy running on the Republican line."

Why the lockjaw here? Pure self interest: "Several Democrats, meanwhile, said Thompson is convinced that Paterson has ordered party leaders to keep hands off Bloomberg in hopes of forging a "neutrality pact" with the mayor to help his own election bid next year. "It's clear to everyone that David wants Bloomberg to support him, and in exchange, he's taking a dive in terms of supporting Billy," a Thompson backer said."

Reality check please. This simply underscores our observation that the power of Bloombucks dwarfs any of the muscle wielded by former Mayor Giuliani-precisely because the money, the threat of using, or withholding it, paralyzes the normal partisan instincts that we should be expected to see. As Appelbaum points out: "In the past, the state party would have [former Democratic media strategist and current Bloomberg spokesman] Howard Wolfson attacking the other side, but now there's nothing."

But the governor's strategy will not get him very far-and, in our view, will exacerbate his current slippage among the leaders of the party in New York. As Appelbaum concludes: "Gov. Paterson can't expect Democrats to support him next year if he's unwilling to support the Democratic Party this year."

More and more leaders need to demand a strong show of support for Thompson-heaven knows he sure could use it. And the thought that the governor's timidity may be race based is sad: "Some supporters of Thompson, who, like Paterson, is African-American, insisted that one of the governor's controversial race-related statements 10 days ago explained the governor's reluctance to back Thompson's campaign...A Thompson supporter called the statement "the governor's code language for why he's reluctant to support Billy: He doesn't want another prominent African-American on the scene because he thinks it hurts him."

All of which is symptomatic of a malaise in the Democratic Party-and an indication of the corrosive power of big money interests. Bloomberg, for his part, is demonstrating quite clearly that he only rises above party politics because he has purchased the loyalties of all involved. In Mike Bloomberg's world, the democratic process is simply a version of, "The Price is Right." So, apparently, for David Paterson it's now time to, "Come on down!"