There have been many post-mortems over the last few weeks about how Michael Bloomberg, the New York City mayor, could spend more than $90 million, breaking all spending records except for presidential campaigns, and yet manage to win only 50.6% of the vote.
Despite saturation advertising on TV, radio, and in community newspapers, endorsements by all the dailies, and a nearly constant barrage of mailings and robocalls, his margin of victory was less than 5 percent.
The closeness of the race was a surprise to most observers, including the Times, whose reporters failed to take seriously a Thompson poll by the respected Garin-Hart organization, showing Bloomberg with only a 3-8 percent edge one week before the election. This poll, which turned out to be right on the money, was mentioned skeptically on the Times blog but never in the paper.
Only after the election did the Times public editor report on the paper's failure to do any polling itself -- which the editor in charge of polling now says she regrets.Only after the election did the Times media reporter admit that
The editorial/opinion side of New York media outlets were in the tank, making their endorsements foregone and muting any ability to reflect the electorate's growing discomfort with a mayor who felt the job was his for the taking.
Only after the election did the paper report how the Bloomberg campaign used the false claim of inevitability to muscle potential supporters of Thompson out of the race -- including the president himself.
Despite traveling to Jersey numerous times to campaign for Governor Corzine, who lost anyway, Obama never once stepped over the river to campaign for Thompson, a black Democrat who like himself was as an underdog who exceeded all expectations; but who, unlike Obama, didn't win.
The Bloomberg money was used as battering ram to keep potential critics quiet, including community groups and black churches, paid to the tune of millions of dollars in city contracts and/or Bloomberg's pocket to buy their support.
The media also helped propound the fiction that Bloomberg was not really a Republican, despite the fact that since 2002, 88 percent of his political contributions have gone to the GOP.
Not to mention the openly elitist attitudes that might be expected of the city's wealthiest billionaire.
In 2006, when Yankee pitcher Corey Liddle crashed a private plan into a high-rise Manhattan apartment, killing two, Bloomberg opposed any of the restrictions urged by safety experts to ban private flights over the East River, saying that, "Every time you have an automobile accident you're not going to go and close the streets, or prohibit people from driving, and this may very well be the same thing."
Only a man who owns his own fleet of aircraft would make this comparison. (Later Bloomberg would come out for congestion pricing, which would have placed restrictions on car travel in Manhattan -- but not planes.)
More recently, Bloomberg decided to raise regressive sales taxes rather than income taxes on the wealthy, because, as he put it, "we love the rich people."
He also opposed taking a stance against one of his friends, Jerry Speyer, a developer who spent $5.4 billion to buy up the middle-class enclave of Stuyvesant town, at a cost of at least three times the rent roll. The complex has 11,200 apartments, 8,000 of which are rent-regulated. Clearly, Speyer intended to hike up the rents and destroy one the last bastions of affordable housing in Manhattan.
Bloomberg"s reaction: "You always feel sorry for those who can't afford it, but those who can afford it say, 'What about me?'"
Indeed, "What about me?" should be the motto of the Bloomberg administration. The mayor has given the city over to developers, providing them with millions in taxpayer subsidies and loosening zoning, without making any plan to preserve affordable housing or build schools for all the children housed in these new developments, creating a crisis of overcrowding throughout the city.
Bloomberg also opposed legislation that would require members of boards of public authorities to recognize their fiduciary responsibility to the public rather than to him. One would think this was a no-brainer, but not apparently to the mayor, who believes that l'etat c'est lui. His administration has actually argued that this legislation might prevent the city buying up land and giving it up to private developers below its actual worth.
But perhaps the most Republican aspect of this imperial mayor is his pro-privatization bias, and his insistence in giving away precious public school space to charter schools.
Following the election, the Times reported how Geoffrey Canada, the founder of the Harlem Children's Zone and a charter school operator, called Valerie Jarrett, adviser to Obama, to ask that the president refrain from campaigning for Thompson. Canada has received millions through city contracts -- as well as $600,000 from Bloomberg's own pocket. The only education plank in the Bloomberg campaign was to create 100,000 seats for charter school students over the next four years -- and establish new "Children's Zones" in the other boroughs as well.
Unfortunately the Obama administration has a similarly corporate education agenda, supporting charter school expansion and merit pay for teachers. As Diane Ravitch has written, Obama has essentially given President George W. Bush a third term in education policy.
So where does this leave ordinary New Yorkers -- the fact that our president, the mainstream media, and the entire Democratic establishment all left Thompson in the lurch, in thrall to Bloomberg's money and mythical inevitability?
As Bloomberg himself once said, before he envisioned running for office, "Make the customer think he's getting laid when he's getting screwed." Except he didn't use the latter word, but a more vulgar one instead.