The Bloomberg exit
V Gangadhar: The Bloomberg Exit. What kind of changes can new Mayor di Blasio bring about? There would be no letup on security measures. But the halt-I-shall-shoot approach would be changed, particularly in predominantly black and poor areas. New York is the most wonderful city in the US and even the police would like to change its image of being the most trigger-happy.
What kind of changes can new Mayor di Blasio bring about? There would be no letup on security measures. But the halt-I-shall-shoot approach would be changed, particularly in predominantly black and poor areas. New York is the most wonderful city in the US and even the police would like to change its image of being the most trigger-happy.
Bill de Blasio. Does the name ring a bell? Not for many Indians. Di Blasio is the newly-elected Mayor of New York city and takes on a tough, thankless, high-profile job which commanded a lot of attention from the national media. His most difficult job was standing in comparison with a celebrated predecessor, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who quit office after a reign of 12 years.
The Mayoral contest was one sided, the Republican rival Joe Lhota was nowhere in the picture American Mayors and Governors, though saddled with tremendous responsibilities, seldom attract the same attention as Senators who deal with international issues. The chairman and members of the Senate Foreign Relations or Defence Appropriations Committees wield much clout and their views are often sought by the President. Governors and Mayors wield influence in their States.
Some of them who had more distinguished careers and were driven by personal ambition even tried for the White House. Republican governor of California Ronald Reagan won the race for the White House and even retained his seat for a second term.
In the 1960s New York’s governor Nelson Rockefeller was the vice presidential candidate but was handicapped by the extreme pro-war views of his senior running mate Senator Barry Goldwater, of Arizona, whose threats to bomb the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons scared the voters so much they voted en masse for the Democratic party candidate, Lyndon Johnson, who was pitchforked into the contest after the assassination of President John Kennedy.
Senators and governors, according to the American system, have better chances of winning party nominations for the ultimate job. Hillary Clinton was a highly visible, articulate First Lady whose views often influenced White House policies. Yet Clinton took pains to complete a two-term Senate job as a Democrat before taking the plunge.
A Senator’s job finely tuned up preparations for the White House job. But politics is not just about winning elections and getting plum jobs. Both the Democrats and Republicans realized these could be achieved with united party work and a dedicated White House staff. The party had to stand united, funds collected, sops promised to those with personal ambitions, political scandals suppressed, the media won over and so on. No wonder, the job of managing a party campaign began attracting more and more top Business Management school graduates.
But nothing would be achieved without that rare quality, ‘political acumen’.
Sometimes such relationships cut across party affiliations. When Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, the Governor of Texas, John Connally was seated alongside and it was rumoured that though a Republican, Connally would play a key role in the Kennedy re-election campaign in 1964. But that did not happen though the Governor did help out the campaign of Lyndon Johnson. Richard Nixon enjoyed the support ofGovernor Ronald Reagan and Reagan, when he finally contested for the White House job in 1980, found ready backing from Nixon, despite the stains of the Watergate scandal.
Such mutual support is effective even today. When large parts of the US were devastated by tornados and floods, one of the worst-affected States was New Jersey. While touring the State, President Obama, sharing umbrellas with the State’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, lauded his fighting spirit and dedication in organizing relief work. The round-the-clock TV coverage of the camaraderie between the governor and the president did not go unnoticed. Along with di Blasio in New York, Christie retained his New Jersey governorship and could make a White House bid in 2o16.
Bloomberg was a Republican billionaire and it was remarkable he won the Mayoral election three times running. Normally, New York had the reputation of a truly liberal state with no discrimination against the coloureds. Yet Bloomberg triumphed due to certain historical events. As the city lay bleeding and in ruins after the World Trade Centre bombings, it was the Mayor who worked round the clock offering the people hope and redemption.
Spending millions from his own pocket, Bloomberg promised the people that funds would not be a problem for additional security, acquisition of sophisticated arms for the police and an all-out war against criminals and lawbreakers. New York came under a siege mentality but no one complained. Bloomberg got full backing from President Bush.
But there was a backlash. The New York cops became trigger-happy and the victims were mostly blacks. Boys and young blacks were targeted on the grounds they were carrying firearms which could vitiate the atmosphere. The killers were always the White cops who were never prosecuted. New York’s white middle classes and wealthy classes did not appear to mind. Bloomberg’s arms reached out to other sections. The tough measures included health, sanitation issues. The Mayor banned the sales of large size bottles of sodas with very high sugar content from theatres, football games, arousing the ire of caterers and advertising lobbies.
The US was running scared and felt only such tough measures could save them. While the impact of 9/11 could not be forgotten, the Bloomberg mentality paid no heed to easy availability of handguns which resulted in the deaths of hundreds and thousands of Americans in schools, malls and parks. Nothing could shake the stranglehold of the National Rifle Association whose only slogan for any crisis was ‘Guns, More Guns’.
The inherent violence in the American system had to change. Former Mayor Bloomberg was right on many counts. But his one-way kind of thinking could not solve American problems but create new ones.
What kind of changes can new Mayor di Blasio bring about? There would be no letup on security measures. But the halt-I-shall-shoot approach would be changed, particularly in predominantly black and poor areas. New York is the most wonderful city in the US and even the police would like to change its image of being the most trigger-happy. A beginning could be made by prosecuting the trigger-happy cops who shoot unarmed people just on suspicion of carrying guns.
Drug addiction is another menace; here too juvenile drug addicts should not be treated on par with confirmed drug barons and their men. Finally, compassion and counseling may prove successful where brutality failed.