Sunday, October 4, 2009

Politics as usual

Tom Robbins details it very well in this piece: Bloomberg claims he’s above politics, but that’s bullshit. Gold-plated bullshit, but bullshit nevertheless. How’d he get on the Republican line? An open primary? Of course not. He met privately with the five Republican county leaders. If that’s not old school politics, what is? Does anybody know what the GOP got in exchange? I’m guessing GOP state senators, for some, won’t be hurting for more Bloomberg money to stymie progress in Albany…. Meanwhile, the Independence Party, a local cult run by Lenora Fulani which is also listing Bloomberg on their ballot line, got money, pure and simple.

And the term-limits repeal? You may remember that the excuse for that was the economic crisis; but as Robbins notes, based on Joyce Purnick’s new biography of the Billionaire Mayor, Mike and friends were trying to figure out how to run for a third term well before the crash. The plutocrats (Murdoch, Zuckerman, Kravis, Parsons, Speyer, Rattner…) wanted Mike to stay in charge. The one billionaire who might be a problem (evidently, democracy has decayed to such an extent that it’s now an intramural contest between rich guys) was Ron Lauder, who had bankrolled term limits to begin with. Bloomberg and Lauder met -- again, in private, like the big, bad political hacks of old -- to cut a deal. Lauder agreed not to fight the repeal effort in return for getting a seat on the Charter revision commission. In Latin, they call that a quid pro quo, and in the days of Boss Tweed they might have called it back-scratching, gold plated back-scratching. NYPIRG and Common Cause thought it was a violation of the City Charter’s conflict of interest rules, but those rules are for mere politicians....

Robbins doesn't get into this, but what Bloomberg means when he says he’s different from old school politicians is that he’s not beholden to “interest groups,” conglomerations based on class, neighborhood, ethnic, religious, or racial affinities, or groups that might act as an alternative base of power to the corporations and plutocrats, like municipal unions. But isn’t beholdenness in some ways precisely what democracy is about? You’re elected to represent people and their interests, to be beholden to them. “The technocrat” is of course supposed to be above that, yet no one wields power in a vacuum. It’s just that the technocrat’s “interest group” is tiny: Bloomberg is one with the leaders of the finance, insurance, real estate empires, as well as the media monopolies and mega developers. He’s the personification of the ruling class. I know that’s a very unfashionable term, but what else are you going to call it?

He’s above the petty corruptions of featherbedders and hacks, but completely a piece of the corruption of democracy.

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