Friday, October 21, 2005

Why I’ll Vote Republican (…just this once)

(Regretably) By Nicholas Allanach

In a little over two weeks, New Yorkers will likely reelect their incumbent Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg and—unless recent polls are incorrect, or something drastic occurs before November 8th—Democratic contender, Fernando Ferrer doesn’t have a chance of budging Bloomberg’s tight political grip on the city. Of course, what’s most baffling about the election is that this (apparently) bluest-of-blue strong holds appears so willing to vote red. Admittedly, Bloomberg is unlike most Republicans; in fact, if Bloomberg was (i.e. morally conservative, as well as, socially and economically inept) then Ferrer would at least have a fighting chance against the billionaire. However, instead of shooting effectively framed attack adds of Mike standing beside liberalism’s antithesis -“G.W” (as in the current heated race for New Jersey’s governor), Freddy, lacking ammo, must fall back on stump statements regarding “affordable housing” and “better education.” Ferrer claims, “This administration isn’t doing enough!” Unfortunately, this quote hasn't inspired New York’s jaded voters to change their minds.

But what if Ferrer is right? Maybe voters should reassess the way Bloomberg has run New York. Of course, this is a difficult argument to sell; after all, City Hall under Bloomberg’s leadership has been forced to meet a strict protocol of statistical accountability. Such shrewd tactics demand that all branches of city governance either “shape-up or ship-out.” Thus, Bloomberg’s strength is exemplified through an (almost) impeccable record; furthermore, he’s a likeable guy. In fact, Democrats are finding it difficult to find anything remotely askew with this, apparently, spotless politician. He has received the backing from labor unions, the gay and lesbian community, and N.A.R.A.L pro-choice. Why then am I (a registered Democrat) so conflicted by my decision to vote Bloomberg (other than being a Democrat)?

First of all, Bloomberg is an incredibly wealthy capitalist, which is, admittedly, more of a personal ideological gripe than a pressing concern for New York (“the capital of capital”) as a whole –or not. But even this argument is weak; after all, when the mayor was elected in 2001, he refused to accept the allocated annual salary and instead chose to be paid $1 for this opportunity. This is hardly the actions of a greedy man! Furthermore, Bloomberg is one of the top philanthropists in the country and is constantly contributing to charities and fundraisers. However, what’s bothersome about Bloomberg’s billions is that they allow him the ability to not only inundate the airwaves and streets with his message of “opportunity”, but also grants him the untouchable privilege of avoiding debates sponsored by the city’s campaign finance program. Bloomberg is scheduled to debate Ferrer on Oct. 30th and Nov. 1st, which will be interesting (especially since he avoided the first debate at The Apollo Theatre), but, regrettably, staged since the event won’t be held in front of a live audience but instead television cameras.

The other reason I’m a bit hesitant to reelect the mayor is because of his ties with the GOP. Respectfully, Bloomberg—as previously mentioned—seems to have no real connection with the Republicans except of course for purposes regarding obvious political opportunism. As most everyone knows, Bloomberg was a Democrat but changed party affiliation in 2001 after recognizing the crowded platform for the primaries. Of course, Bloomberg is still dogged by the ghost of the RNC, which he (despite some contestation on his part) did speak at and to. His contribution and welcoming of the RNC (not to mention the NYPD’s deplorable treatment of contained protesters) left some New Yorkers sour; especially, after the grievous results of November’s presidential election. However, despite my own party loyalties, I am unable to support the candidate it has put forth (if Anthony Weiner was still in the game, I would most certainly be electioneering for the Democrats and, subsequently, writing an entirely different article).

Accordingly, it seems silly for high-ranking Democrats such as Charles Shumer, Howard Dean, and Hilary Clinton to be backing Fernando Ferrer –except of course for (once again) purposes regarding political opportunism. One has to ask themselves, how much of this “backing” is merely an attempt to bolster an already embittered Democratic party? The emails I’ve received from John Kerry proclaim his support for Ferrer. However, Kerry’s pleas are written in a tone of desperation; as if we must back Ferrer because it is essential for the Democratic Party as a whole. Obviously, this line of thinking is destructive. Give me a real contender to stand beside and cease your pathetic plead for my vote!

Perhaps, the 2005 New York mayoral race can shed some light on the plight of the Democratic Party as a whole. After all, I agree with most everything Fernando Ferrer has done and believes in; what I don’t agree with is voting for a candidate based solely on party platform. Let a politician’s record (such as Ferrer’s commendable revitalization of the Bronx as borough president) and character (Ferrer is working-class and socially conscious) guide our decision as voters. Thus, the Democrats must stop saying “things can be better,” Democrats must show they are making things better and are in fact a better party. With that said, I would like to say that despite, Bloomberg’s record and impressive development plans, he must listen to his former party’s criticisms. Ferrer has stated time after time, “Mayor Bloomberg does not represent all New Yorkers.” This statement both alludes to Bloomberg’s connection with the ridiculously wealthy and to John Edward’s class dividing observation of there being “two America’s” (something most glaringly illustrated by Hurricane Katrina).

New York, like the rest of the country, is made up of both money hungry capitalists and a famished poor. How are we to bridge this divide? Ferrer has based his platform on this entirely, and his argument (that Bloomberg is making it more difficult for real New Yorkers to live here) is the number one reason I am hesitant to vote for Bloomberg. In fact, part of me is still—and probably will be right up until standing in that voting booth—torn between Bloomberg, because I think he has done a great job, and Ferrer, because a lot of me wants to really send a message to the rich. Of course, aren’t I sending a more effective message by voting for a socially responsible, accessible, and accountable mayor who has done a good job? If I’m a registered Democract that votes Republican, won’t my vote show the larger political apparatus that people are willing to support a candidate that represents the best interests of society as a whole?

With that said; what side am I on and is that side best for New York? At this point, I’ve reached a rather deplorable conclusion, which I dare say; I am willing to go back on if presented with a clearer and more convincing argument. My answer, (for now, and till Nov.8th) is that Bloomberg is best for New York. The reason I feel this way is that despite Fernando Ferrer’s concerns for the working-class and poor; he does not seem to have the power, connections, or ability to solve the problems he observes, which Bloomberg does. Fernando Ferrer speaks a truth that many (well-off) New Yorkers would prefer to not hear, that truth is that the wealthy are idealized and envied throughout the capitalists system and such wealth is often equated with virtue. It is difficult to not look at this election as the rich triumphing over the poor; however, this is the city we’ve built and the city we’ve built runs on business. By sending a message to the government that we respect Bloomberg for his system of accountability and effectively using the tools of business to make a better city then maybe others will begin realizing the strength of philanthropic deeds and genuine concern for all New Yorkers as well. Bloomberg has the tools and means to make the big changes that are necessary. Ferrer can only face an uphill battle in City Hall (if elected) and it is a battle this New Yorker, will, for now, avoid.

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