In the race for City Hall, Bill de Blasio leads Joe Lhota by a very impressive 45 points. Reported the Times, “a whopping 87 percent of likely voters say they expect Mr. de Blasio to win.” It seems a safe bet that New York will finally have a Democrat and a progressive for mayor for the first time since the reign of Giuliberg began. But it won’t happen if de Blasio's supporters don’t show up and vote.
Back in 2001, we all thought Mark Green would become our mayor.
Before the terrorist attacks on 9/11, no one gave much serious consideration to Michael Bloomberg and his mayoral run. When he entered the race, running as a Republican, he was a novelty item, a largely unknown billionaire looking to buy his way into politics. Journalists at major magazines agreed he was just running for the publicity, and that he’d never win. Michael Wolff wrote in New York, “there is no turn of events at all, no leap of logic whatsoever, that could make Michael Bloomberg New York's next mayor… We don't have to worry.”
He was seen as prickly and uncharismatic, as an egomaniacal mogul with a bunch of sexual harassment lawsuits against him and his company, and as a mumbler who could not put his political platform into words. Explaining how he’d decided to run for office, Bloomberg told one group, "My great conundrum was, Could I be the best mayor the city has ever had?" New Yorkers simply weren’t impressed with the guy. They could see he was in it for himself. Said one constituent to The New Yorker after a Bloomberg speech, "He seems not quite able to articulate why he'd want to be mayor…other than the fact that he wants to win and he doesn't like losing.”
During his campaign, Bloomberg turned people off with several offensive statements—about women, police officers, money--even insulting Staten Island, the city’s bastion borough of Republicanism. Then the joke book came to light. Portable Bloomberg: The Wit and Wisdom of Michael Bloomberg had been created a decade earlier by the CEO’s staff members as a birthday gift. A collection of the slurs and off-color remarks frequently made by their boss, the booklet included several pages of insults against gays, Jews, and women—and, perhaps even more damaging to a mayoral hopeful, against the outer boroughs. “I make it a rule never to go to Queens,” read one, “and since that eliminated both airports, I don't travel a great deal.” In the section on women, Bloomberg is quoted, “If women wanted to be appreciated for their brains, they'd go to the library instead of to Bloomingdale's.” Referring to his computer system, the Bloomberg terminal, he was said to quip to his employees, “It will do everything, including give you a blowjob. I guess that puts a lot of you girls out of business.”
With Bloomberg already on the ropes, the joke book should have knocked him out. News of this campaign killer broke in the first week of September 2001, just before the primaries, and the story kept growing. On September 9, in the televised Republican primary debate, Bloomberg’s opponent Herman Badillo slammed him with the joke book, calling him a sexual harasser. To which Bloomberg dismissively responded, “Let’s move on.” Of course, 48 hours later, that’s exactly what we had to do. The most unfathomable turn of events had come along, and the joke book was promptly forgotten, buried in the ashes.
The terrorist attacks of 9/11 changed the way New Yorkers viewed the controversial Mayor Rudy Giuliani. In an instant, he went from being reviled to beloved. For his handling of the tragedy, Oprah Winfrey baptized him “America’s mayor,” Queen Elizabeth knighted him, and TIME magazine named him Person of the Year. In the final campaign week of the mayoral election that fall, a race already grievously disrupted by the events of 9/11, Giuliani endorsed Bloomberg as his replacement. The New York Times called it “the crown jewel of endorsements,” due entirely to Giuliani’s post-9/11 popularity, and it immediately propelled the novice Republican ahead of front-running favorite, the Democrat Mark Green.
The people of New York, frightened and traumatized, put their trust in Giuliani’s judgment, allowing themselves to be convinced that only a corporate CEO could dig Wall Street from the rubble, resuscitate Downtown, and help the city avoid financial ruin and social chaos. With the dust still hanging in the air, in a city distracted and dissociated, Bloomberg was elected mayor on November 6, 2001, narrowly defeating Mark Green 49% to 47%. Without the events of 9/11, it’s highly unlikely that Bloomberg would have come to power, and the city today would be a very different place. As one Daily News reader wrote to the paper’s editor in September 2011, "Our city suffered two tragedies a decade ago: the 9/11 attacks and the election of Mayor Bloomberg. The former tried to destroy New York City; the latter succeeded."
Tomorrow, send a message to Bloomberg and the city. However you feel about him, a vote for Bill de Blasio is a vote against Bloomberg's vision of the city, against the past 12 years of destructive policies. Make this win a landslide. Show up, vote, and let the world know that New Yorkers are ready for a different face of New York.