There’s an amusing, fascinating article here in the Times meant to capture Team Bloomberg’s collective musings about who should succeed Mike Bloomberg. It’s broadly believed that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has supported Bloomberg avidly enough in recent years to earn his de facto blessing, though there’s been a persistent backbeat of stories suggesting he’s not really that into her and pines for someone else to come in the race.
The list of someones in this piece is entertaining and broadly ridiculous, featuring a cast of characters who stand out either by their lack of connection to New York politics or even the city itself. So first off, media mogul Mortimer Zuckerman, who is sort of like Bloomberg, if you squint one eye and look to the side, only vastly less appealing. The article is worth reading if only for the titanically un-self-aware quotes from Zuckerman himself.
“A lot of people have talked to me about that possibility,” Mr. Zuckerman told the Times. “Bloomberg’s] not the only person.”
And then there’s Ed Rendell? Mayor of MSNBC daytime. Now this is interesting since Rendell was Mayor and actually governor. Just in another state. So that makes perfect sense.
I’ve followed New York politics for 25 years. I lived nearby in college. And I’ve now lived here for real for 8 years. But in almost every sense I’m a neophyte to the city’s politics. My political mind still lives in DC or in the country at large. New York is just where I live more or less apolitically with my family. I can’t say I have a lot of complaints about Bloomberg’s mayoralty. And from a distance what’s struck me most about it is that his mayoralty has basically pulled the plug on a certain kind of politics in the city. Sort of a weird big time-out.
Not that there’s not politics, of course. There’s loads of it — most of which I don’t know enough about. But it’s nothing remotely like what I remember in the Koch or Giuliani years — the angst and fury and polarization. So by sitting on the city with almost unimaginable amounts of campaign money, governing in a pretty competent fashion and being both a nominal Republican detached from the city’s organic politics and also holding various positions that would be too far left in national Democratic politics, somehow he’s been able to do it.
In ancient Greece and the Italian middle ages sometimes the different factions in a city couldn’t stop their wars so they invited someone in who wasn’t tied to the place at all and put him in charge for a while to calm things down. It seems kind of like that to me sometimes, though really things seemed to have calmed in the city and that’s what made his reign possible.
But now all that organic city politics is starting to bubble back up with Bloomberg leaving. And everyone on the wish list as chronicled by this article seems chosen precisely by their lack of connection to the city’s politics, or maybe even to the city itself. Ed Rendell? Why not Tony Blair? Or maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger? The whole thing amounts to lopping off the executive level of the city’s politics and bidding it out to fairly competent commercial managers, McKinsey consultants.
Zuckerman probably said more than he knew when he told the Times, “If I could be appointed, I’d probably be serious about it.”
Next Up: The Joe Lhota candidacy, testing the proposition that Democrats in New York City are so moribund that even a Republican with no money (in plutocrat terms), no charisma and no base in city politics can become mayor from the powerbase of the MTA.
Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.