“Today the real problem is the future.”
—Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, sometime between 1955 and 1976.
As the mountains of mailers and earnest faces and voices on the airwaves remind us with increasing frequency, it’s the political campaign season again here in the big city. Though he claims not to be “running against anyone,” the man with the most money is waging a saturation-bombing attack. Polls show that most folks find his daily reminders “annoying,” but what does he care? He says that he’s “too busy being mayor” to watch TV, and presumably someone else picks up his mail. Meanwhile, less recognized faces are crying out for name-brand recognition.
It all could and should be very exciting, a time for vigorous debate. But if there’s a buzz right now, I haven’t felt it. The last time around, there was a semblance of action. Anthony Weiner shook up the mayor’s race, and Norman Siegel ran a spirited campaign for Public Advocate. This time out, only a handful of candidates are willing to even criticize the man with the most money. Proponents of “The Untouchable” one’s term-limits overhaul claimed that the way to get rid of entrenched politicians is to beat them at the ballot box. That argument is as credible as any election-year plan to fix the MTA.
Four years ago, such was the level of excitement that someone who shared the same name as the disgraced FEMA director, Michael Brown, received more than 35,000 votes for Public Advocate, while a figure named “Damon Cabbagestalk” garnered nearly 10,000. For all of our sake, let’s hope that a few more than 45,000 New Yorkers go to the polls on September 15th. Otherwise, we may unwittingly perform a miracle: making the first Mayor Daley a prophet.