Monday, December 14, 2020

Why Does Anyone Want To Be Mayor of New York?

As a public Max Rose fan, I was happy to see he's apparently bouncing back from his 2020 re-election defeat and pursuing a run for mayor of New York City. The re-election defeat was disappointing, but it should not be a career-ender -- along with Joe Cunningham (SC) and maybe Kendra Horn (OK), Rose's 2018 win was probably among the biggest upsets of the last midterm and was always going to be difficult turf to hold onto once the blue wave inevitably receded. So I'm glad he's getting back on the horse, though I suspect it will be a crowded field and (to the extent anybody cares what I, a non-New York, thinks) I'd want to give everyone a chance to make their case.

But really, my main reaction when I read Rose's announcement was to wonder why anyone would want the job of New York City mayor? From my vantage point, the mayor of New York appears to the official home base of political no-win situations. There are a million-and-one interest groups, a barely functioning bureaucracy, all the challenges facing any urban center (but bigger, because New York), all with just enough influence to be blamed but not enough to actually hold responsibility.

I mean, look at de Blasio. I remember when he first ran for the post, he had a progressive-populist left (remember when the NYPD literally turned their backs on him? That'd be progressive gold if it happened in 2019 instead!). Now, six years into his term, everybody hates him. He almost impresses in the degree to which he's forged a cross-city, cross-ideology, cross-everything coalition united around the core conceit of despising Bill de Blasio (the pandemic isn't helping things, but this dynamic predates that). De Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was rich enough that essentially nothing mattered about his tenure, but it certainly didn't end up helping him one whit when he ran for President this year. And before that we have of course Rudy Giuliani, who managed to take a gift-wrapped political present as "America's mayor" and parlay it into perhaps the most embarrassing presidential campaign of my lifetime (and following that ... well, we all know where that story goes). Who on earth looks at that history and thinks "me next!"?

To be clear: I'm glad that there still are talented figures who want the job. It'd be far worse if they didn't; a place like New York needs and deserves smart, ambitious politicians who are willing to tackle the myriad problems it faces as the biggest city in America. And there's an alternate universe where mayor of New York is considered a real prize.

But boy oh boy, count me as glad I'm not one of the candidates for the job. Whoever ends up emerging out the other side as the next mayor of the Big Apple, wish them luck, because I'll bet they need it.

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