November 2, 2005
Has the Republican Label Become Toxic?
Anyone who knows New York City politics had to laugh at a recent
item in the New York Post. The headline read, "Stealth
politics: The secret life of 'GOP Mike.'"
The intrepid reporter had invoked the Freedom of Information
Act to obtain the daily schedules of Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who
is running for another term. Objective: Prove that His Honor,
a Grand Old Party registrant in this city of Democrats, does indeed
consort with fellow Republicans.
Much was revealed.
Fact: Bloomberg saw Bush political adviser Sara Taylor at 8:30
a.m. on May 6. Fact: Bloomberg attended a Bronx Republican Committee
breakfast on Feb. 26. Fact: Bloomberg went to a Jan. 27 fund-raiser
run by former Republican mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Bloomberg issues
a daily schedule for the public, but these meetings did not appear
With the approval ratings for the Bush administration and the
GOP-controlled Congress crashing, has the Republican label become
toxic? True, New York City is liberal for all seasons, but Bloomberg
is 30 percentage points ahead of his Democratic rival. Why would
he fret over his party affiliation, unless he thought the Washington
plague was spreading? Perhaps it is, for Republicans in places
far more conservative than Gotham are also distancing themselves
from the national party.
In Minnesota, for example, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty recently
lamented that his party is "on the ropes," and he would
be "lucky to get re-elected." And Minnesota is a state
that Republicans like to think is trending their way. In his interview
with Minnesota Public Radio, Pawlenty quipped, "I hope voters
are smart enough to know that I'm not involved in the Valerie
Not long ago, politicians in New York City could be more outwardly
Republican. It was no secret in the last three mayoral elections
that Bloomberg and Giuliani, before him, were Republicans. Only
14 months ago, Bloomberg played proud host to the Republican National
New Yorkers often elect Republican mayors to control the excesses
of their liberal city council. Similar things happen on the state
level: Progressive-minded voters choose moderate Republican governors
to rein in their legislatures, which tend to give the store away
to public-employee unions. That's why the true-blue states of
California and New York have Republican governors, as do the four
most liberal New England states -- Massachusetts, Connecticut,
Vermont and Rhode Island.
But have the crazy deficit-spending, cheap-labor policies and
corruption in Washington reached a point that the discontent is
rubbing off on even popular Republicans in moderate-to-liberal
parts of the country? It does seem strange that Bloomberg, who
has always worn his Republican ties loosely, should try to expunge
them from the record altogether.
Bloomberg should have nothing to worry about. He's won loud
plaudits for leading New York through the post-9/11 trauma. When
the local economy tanked, he did not cut services. He raised taxes.
The conservative Manhattan Institute hollered at him for that,
which only endeared him more to the locals.
The mayor knew what he was doing. The whole place was mired
in deep depression. It would have been unseemly to dismiss hundreds
of city workers, especially after so many had given their lives
at the World Trade Center.
Bloomberg became a billionaire (five times over, some people
think) by being an astute businessman. As such, he understands
that New York City is a product. You don't get customers back
by offering dirty streets and rundown city parks. The economy
recovered, and then some. With the fiscal house in order, Bloomberg
reduced some taxes.
Under Bloomberg, falling crime rates fell further. The schools
got better. While Republicans in Washington dispensed pork and
moral lectures, Bloomberg governed. He worked with unions to end
some of the city's wasteful labor practices, and he found new
places to send the garbage.
The New York Times gave Bloomberg a rousing endorsement,
even though the Democrat, former Bronx borough president Fernando
Ferrer, is not half bad. Given the sunny prospects for next week's
election, why does Bloomberg go to such lengths to hide the Republican
Something has clearly happened in recent months, and it didn't
happen in New York City. It happened in Washington. And you have
to wonder how many other Republicans across America are, like
Bloomberg, running television ads that don't mention the "R"
2005 Creators Syndicate