Thursday, October 15, 2009

Fear and Loathing

Errol Louis has an interesting take on the mayoral race in today's NY Daily News-especially for all of us wishful thinkers. Louis believes that the race will tighten in the closing weeks, and here's why: "Leadership of a city is also about projecting - and protecting - civic virtues like honesty, inclusion, humility and compassion. That's where Bloomberg is vulnerable, and why the race for mayor will surely tighten in these final weeks. The mayor has brazenly purchased the shallow loyalty of too many people and organizations to credibly pass it off as a genuine referendum on his mayoralty. The roster of the bought-and-paid-for includes the Republican and Independence parties and a seemingly endless crowd of preachers and nonprofit managers who suckle at the bosom of Bloomberg's private largess."

And the Bloomberg support is, as the News writes elsewhere, a mile wide and an inch deep: "Mayor Bloomberg's campaign may look unbeatable - but some insiders see troubling signs that he could be tossed out of City Hall. They fear lingering voter anger about term limits, low-turnout primaries, passionate anti-Bloomberg Democrats and complacent Bloomberg supporters could combine to create the biggest political upset of a generation."

Which is why the third term wannabe is spending millions to attach challenger Thompson-a tactic that could well backfire: "I'd be worried," said one of the mayor's prominent backers, who fears moderate pro-Bloomberg voters won't bother voting Nov. 3 if they assume the mayor will win."If you're just a voter who kind of likes Bloomberg, you don't come out," this backer said. "If you hate Bloomberg . . . you come out."

And those attack ads just might be counterproductive: "That has prompted Bloomberg's campaign to fire back with attack ads against Thompson - giving the controller more exposure than he could ever afford with the $3.8 million he has spent on his campaign. "The negative ads give Billy credibility, and I think they give him recognition among voters," said one experienced political consultant and Bloomberg backer..."You've never seen that with them. The fact that they're doing that means that they have to be nervous," said another veteran Bloomberg ally. "They have a problem. And I think turnout could wind up very low."

And by attacking, Bloomberg undermines his ersatz "above politics" persona-and reinforces the city for sale nature of his tenure. As Louis points out: "I'm not out there buying votes," Bloomberg said, drawing snickers. Thompson eagerly seized the high ground. "It's a matter of right and wrong," said Thompson, repeatedly invoking the shabby, shameful maneuvers through which the mayor abolished the term limits law. "Mike Bloomberg lied to the people of New York City."

So what we can expect is Bloomberg going for the lowest common denominator-a shameful strategy for the city's richest man, and a two term incumbent to boot: "Expect the final weeks to feature a heavy dose of negative campaigning by Bloomberg. He has spent about $65 million trying to increase the thin majority - about 53% of voters - who tell pollsters they will vote for him. The idea is not to make Thompson voters switch to Bloomberg. The real aim of negative campaigning is to make undecided voters so cynical and disgusted that they stay home, enabling the mud-thrower's people to carry the day."

Mudslinging has its drawback, however, and the News underscores this potential problem: "The mayor's campaign on Wednesday released a minute-long Internet ad that used footage from Tuesday night's debate to paint Thompson as a liar running away from his record. "You've never seen that with them. The fact that they're doing that means that they have to be nervous," said another veteran Bloomberg ally. "They have a problem. And I think turnout could wind up very low."

And for the Bloombergistas to call out any one else for lying, when the mayor's third term effort is itself built on a blatant falsehood, raises hypocrisy to an art form. We'll give Louis the last word on this: "I do not recall anyone calling the Mayor a liar to his face in public before.
And the mayor had no answer. "They have lost absolutely nothing," he said of New Yorkers whose votes for term limits he nullified. And Bloomberg promised not to run for a fourth term, seemingly unaware that he has no credibility on the issue. After more hammering from Thompson on term limits, Bloomberg threw in the towel, bluntly advising people who feel all that strongly about his double cross to pull the lever for Thompson."

Seems like good advice to us.