Eliot Spitzer played his comeback the right way, by not seeking a promotion. Ex-governor, ex-attorney general, he must have felt that it was a comedown to seek a lesser, municipal-level position. Nevertheless he knew that to get back in the game, it didn’t make sense to ask the people for a better job, or even a lateral move. He has to go down in order to get back up. Insofar as anyone who is trying to get elected can be considered humble, Spitzer has humbled himself.
If Anthony Weiner had swallowed his pride and run for his old council seat in the 48th CD, being vacated now by his successor Michael Nelson, he probably would have won in a walk. Or he could have waited a year and sought an open assembly or state senate seat. Then he could have worked hard and redeemed himself instead of becoming a laughingstock. His political career is now over.
Isn’t that why everyone loves John Quincy Adams? He lost his re-election bid in 1828, and got himself elected to the House of Representatives instead, serving eight terms with distinction. People like seeing a politician accept disgrace.
The reason why City Council Watch is so fascinated by the Spitzer phenomenon is the extent to which his campaign gainsays all the conventional wisdom. Look at a list of Scott Stringer’s endorsements. He has 10 US representatives, 10 state senators, about 25 assembly members, 15 council members, all the clubs, all the unions, the WFP…not to mention the media…and he is losing. Scott Stringer is surely going to lose, probably by 10 points or more.
So what does that say about the value of all those endorsements? Every campaign season all the candidates go hat in hand to the various political organizations and bow obediently, make the right noises about paid sick leave or charter schools, accept the money and count the votes. But when an insurgent such as Spitzer comes in and encourages the electorate to buck party discipline, it threatens to break everyone else’s rice bowl.
So when the New York Post whines “It’s Embarrassing” (the Post is embarrassed?), what they are really saying is that Spitzer’s successful candidacy is inconvenient for the smooth operation of the machine. If only Spitzer were also melting down like Weiner, then everyone could congratulate themselves for not being perverted egomaniacs, and the charade of political respectability could continue.
The effort by the Stringer campaign to make their candidate attractive, cool noch, has taken on ludicrous, even parodic, aspects. Did you know he once was part owner of a bar? Did you know he is vaguely connected to a raunchy photographer of louche celebrities? Have you seen the picture where he is standing awkwardly next to a starlet? The very effort to point to Scott Stringer's latent sex appeal unintentionally emphasizes his almost disturbingly eunuchoid presentation.
The establishment is desperate for Stringer to win, and is doubling down on their bets, because they know that, however unfortunately our system is structured, if Stringer wins, they already own him, and if Spitzer wins, they have to start the negotiations from square one.