William F. Buckley’s The Unmaking of a Mayor is less a manifesto or memoir than a (prescient) work of media criticism, yet I’ve been thinking about it in the context of the current New York mayoral campaign. What would Buckley have said about Anthony Weiner and the rest of that motley crew (or Mötley Crüe, for that matter)? The field of Democratic candidates might even have taxed the powers of Buckley’s son, the satirical novelist Christopher Buckley. All that Sturm and Drang to throw up…Bill de Blasio. De Blasio’s motto is “Rising together.” Did Weiner have a motto?
Former New York Daily News editor Edward Kosner ran New York magazine during “the Dinkins years,” as the tag at the end of Kosner’s review of David Dinkins’s 385-page memoir A Mayor’s Life puts it. I doubt that any of us will be cracking the spine of Dinkins’s memoir — subtitle: “Governing New York’s Gorgeous Mosaic” — but I’m grateful Kosner did. Kosner observes:
Is there a connection between New York’s resurrection and the fact that it has been run these past 20 years by two mayors—the pugnacious prosecutor Rudy Giuliani and the mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg—utterly alien to the Democratic clubhouses and eyes-on-the-prize labor unions that ushered their predecessors into power?
The direct answer to that question won’t be found in “A Mayor’s Life,” the earnest, sometimes sour memoir by David Dinkins, now 86, the man whose single term (1990-94) in City Hall paved the way for Mr. Giuliani.
Kosner’s review is worth reading in its entirety. Kosner has admiring words for Dinkins, though magnanimity toward Dinkins’s predecessor (Ed Koch) or to his successor (Rudy Giuliani) is not part of the Dinkins packages. Dinkins holds himself out as a harbinger of decency and dignity, but he demonstrates the limits of good intentions. Even hindsight does not appear to have improved his vision.
Jay Nordlinger brings us back to the current mayoral campaign in his Impromptus column, with a bonus reference to Ed Koch:
I’d like to give you a couple of notes on New York City politics. I saw a sign that advertised a candidate as a “Progressive Democrat.” It’s not good enough to be called a Democrat these days — you might be an Ed Koch type, marred by sanity. You have to be a “Progressive Democrat.” You have to make it clear to one and all, “I’m a left-wing nut!”
This was really sad, and frustrating: I saw the back of a guy’s T-shirt. He was campaigning for a City Council candidate named Helen Rosenthal. On the back of the T-shirt was a blank white strip, and then the words “for Helen.” He had filled in “Indians” — “Indians for Helen.” (Indians as in South Asians, not as in Iroquois.)
It’s not enough, apparently, to say that you’re for one candidate or another. You as an individual. No, you have to speak for an entire group — including racial and ethnic groups, evidently.
Ethnic blocs have always been a factor in American politics. I’m not naive or utopian. But wouldn’t it be a better, happier, and calmer country if we could cool some of the bloc-headedness?
Okay, I’ll be the first to say it (I think): Nordlinger for Mayor!