Thursday, September 15, 2005

NYC Mayor's Race A National Bellwether

We all know that 2006 will be a huge year politically, with the entire House of Representatives, one-third of the U.S. Senate and critical gubernatorial races up for grabs. But, this year, the New York City Mayor's race stands out as one to watch as a gauge of just how partisan Democrats are feeling these days and whether the Bush administration has truly motivated and galvanized liberals.

Yesterday was a big day in New York, as Anthony Weiner conceded the Democratic mayoral primary to former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who finished the Democratic contest on Tuesday with slightly less than the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff.

Weiner, a congressman representing Brooklyn and Queens, had received 29 percent of the primary vote. But Weiner did the right thing, conceding to unify Democrats in the huge battle to unseat Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "To succeed, we need focus, we need unity and a chance to make our case against him," Weiner said.

This isn't going to be easy. Bloomberg hasn't had any major, Bush-level screw-ups to throw a harsh light on his administration and can spend as much of his own money as necessary to win a second term.

"When you're running against a billionaire like Republican Mike Bloomberg, who's shown he's going to pay whatever it takes, we have to start getting behind Freddy Ferrer right away," Weiner said.

While Weiner is correct in hinting at the tough road ahead, one would hope that it wouldn't be that difficult. Cities like New York City and San Francisco are unique with their liberal cultures and the overwhelming concentration of Democratic voters. And, as President Bush and his administration have shown us with amazing clarity, the demarcation between Republican and Democratic ideology has never been more apparent – or important to trumpet.

I don't know one Democrat – and believe me, I get around – who isn't incredibly dismayed about the state of our union and angered by the direction George W. Bush and the Religious Right have taken our country. Liberals are pissed – really pissed. And in that context, it's impossible for me to see how any Democrat, anywhere, can cast a ballot for a Republican right now.

Yes, I know, Michael Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat until he switched parties in 2001 to avoid a crowded Democratic ticket. How much does that say about Bloomberg's dedication to Democratic ideals, that he can switch parties like he's changing a dirty shirt and purely for the sake of political expediency? In my view, if you become a Republican, you are a Republican – period. Once you go to the dark side, you don't get points because you once kinda, sorta wore a white hat.

Bloomberg and Bush: Cozy Together

John Kerry took New York City by over 75 percent of the vote, a reflection of the tremendous Democratic edge held throughout most of the five boroughs –despite the backward, Republican voting habits of Staten Island, which went to Bush in 2004.

New York Democrats need to turn out every day over the next two months, touch every liberal they know and convince them that now is the time to cast their ballot for someone who shares their ideals and beliefs. And, like all Republicans for the next three years, Michael Bloomberg needs to be tarred with the George-Bush brush and made to answer for every Bush policy he has tacitly – or through silence – endorsed.

In other words, Democratic voters need to understand that voting for any Republican is a vote for conservatism, which is an endorsement of George Bush and approval of the Iraq war, discrimination against gay people, elimination of reproductive rights and an emergency management agency that doesn't manage emergencies.

The Republican party is also the home of Tom DeLay, Pat Robertson, Karl Rove, John Bolton and the Swift Boat Liars. It's also the organization that donned purple heart band-aids at their convention last year to smear John Kerry's military service.

It is the party of Michael Bloomberg.

Fernando Ferrer recently drove home that point in a statement on Bloomberg's position regarding Supreme Court Nominee John G. Roberts, Jr.

"If Mike Bloomberg is concerned about keeping the United States Supreme Court pro-choice, why did he contribute thousands of dollars to George W. Bush, a Republican President, who has made it very clear he is dead set on repealing Roe v. Wade? The stakes were very clear during the 2004 election and Mike Bloomberg made his choice."

To be precise, Bloomberg gave $2,000 to Bush and $25,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2003 and $250,000 to the RNC State Elections Committee in 2002. (Source: As you can see, the line connecting a local Republican to President Bush is much shorter than you might imagine.

But the New York election in November takes on even larger meaning when viewed in the context of red-state Democrats trying to maintain faith and keep fighting in states where they are quite outnumbered by Republicans. True, they will be encouraged to see us replace Bush's Boy, George Pataki, with Democrat Eliot Spitzer in New York's gubernatorial race next year. But, until then, it will be incredibly disheartening to wonder how they are suppose to prevail in more-conservative areas, if we cannot nail down the Mayor's office in such an enormous Democratic stronghold.

It's circle-the-wagons time, New Yorkers. It's time to go beyond being angry and act. Let's get it done.