It comes down to reality
And it’s fine with me ’cause I’ve let it slide
Don’t care if it’s Chinatown or on Riverside
I don’t have any reasons
I’ve left them all behind
I’m in a New York state of mind.
– New York State of Mind, Billy Joel
Forget about Obama, whose state hasn’t produced a notable politician since Lincoln. New Yorkers are on the prowl now, and unlike the good-feeling-but-devoid-of-details policies advanced by the junior Senator from Illinois, the competence cavalry have rallied in New York and they’re loosing the dogs of war. This is an exciting time to be an American, and not just because Mr. Obama feels that the presidency is an entry-level political job.
It doesn’t happen all that often that a number of politicians from one state explode on the scene all at once. While the early notables of the US were all Virginians, the people that shaped the first half of the twentieth century were New Yorkers of the like of the Bull Moose and FDR. But since the days of the Roosevelts and Al Smith, few notable New Yorkers rose to the national stage (the notable exceptions are Nelson Rockefeller and Mario Cuomo). But in the last few years, not one, not two, not three, but four New Yorkers have dominated the national stage.
Unlike the ideologues that dominate political discourse and the prevaricators that dominate political practice, these up and coming stars all have an aura of taking no garbage. While potentially vindictive, New York politicians (since the days of Gouverneur Morris, at least) have always been known for the indefatigable (and sometimes, admittedly, obsessive) pursuit of what they believe to be right. Could any other state give us the likes of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony? I think not. In quintessentially American fashion, though, New Yorkers are also known for a certain compromising pragmatism that’s sorely lacking in today’s political discourse (at least when issues don’t fall into the “indefatigable obsession” category delineated above).
Rudy Giuliani, a leading Republican candidate for the Presidency, is the first New Yorker on everyone’s mind these days. Contrasted with clueless incompetence of President George W. “My Pet Goat” Bush, Mayor Giuliani’s take charge attitude on 9/11 earned him the title of “America’s Mayor.” A micro-managing a-hole (ask any of the schools chancellors he’s canned) with a penchant for marital infidelity and police thuggery Rudy may not be an ideal human being, but rest assured, if he ever met Osama, he’d punch him clear in the face. Repeatedly. And then break out the tire iron.
Hillary Clinton is the next New Yorker on the front page of the national news. But she’s not from New York, you might say? How could New Yorkers vote for her? Trust me, if you had seen her opponent, the spineless boot-licker Rich Lazio, you’d be punching your ticket for Hillary as well. But the New Yorkers I know have grown to love her. Her opponents caricature her as a ruthless bitch, which sounds just fine to the New York ear. An heir to Clintonian pragmatism, but with a will of steel, and an inner circle of merciless operatives, she’s become a New Yorker through and through.
Elliot Spitzer, New York’s newest governor, better known as The Scourge of Wall Street, made his name bringing the Captains of Finance to their knees as Attorney General of the State of New York. With Bush’s SEC was too busy sleeping on the job, Mr. Spitzer, attacked Wall Street with the ferocity of a starved rottweiler confronted with a T-bone stake. Lawsuit after lawsuit told Big Finance that the little guy had a new champion and that they’d better watch their conduct or else face the consequences. After cowing Wall Street, Mr. Spitzer is on to a tougher job: eviscerating Albany’s culture of corruption and incompetence. And to be honest, he’s doing a pretty good job.
Mike Bloomberg, New York City’s current mayor rounds out the list of influential New Yorkers. He’s deciding whether or not to run for President… as an independent. And yes, he can afford that. He’s really stinking rich. But what makes a technocratic Jew, with fluctuating political loyalties (he’s been in both parties and is currently in neither) think he can be president? First, he’s an incredibly competent mayor who lacks Giuliani’s baggage. Second, because he’s willing to take the lead on the one political issue national politicians refuse to touch: gun control. As someone who’s completely unafraid of the enemies of freedom known as the National Rifle Association, he’s launched a crusade against illegal gun sales, using private investigators to crack down on these criminal gun dealers and drag their sorry behinds into court. Since the NRA has tied down the hands of the ATF and FBI with their dark legislative sorcery, Mr. Bloomberg has become America’s most effective defender against gun violence. He is utterly without fear — and this is why New Yorkers wonder in hushed tones whether or not he will run for president. He doesn’t look like a Bull Moose, but if there is a man who can win an independent bid for the presidency, it’s Mike Bloomberg. And though they might not say it, New Yorkers would love to see him try. In a three-way Mike/Rudy/Hillary race, I’m betting he’s the one who will carry New York State. And that would be exciting.
The Angry New Mexican has had long-standing ties to the Empire State, knows plenty of New Yorkers and is downright excited by this new batch of New York politicians. (God knows New Mexico could use a few that are anywhere near as good.) Perhaps it’s only fitting that since New Yorkers lead the country from good to great in the early 20th century, they’ll be taking the country from great to awesome at the beginning of the 21st.