Grumbling at Green

And Voting for Him Anyway

Well, how about this one. The extension was clearly not ideal from Green's perspective, but it was better than the alternative Giuliani was threatening to pursue. The mayor's demand was this: Give me three months or I'll run against you on the Conservative Party line. This threat was made less than 24 hours after more than 40 percent of Democrats voting in the primary had told exit pollsters that they would throw the lever for Rudy if he were on the ballot. That's just Democrats talking. And it came while Giuliani's approval ratings are at 90 percent.

Clearly, his potential for mayhem in the November general election was massive. Some leading assembly Democrats believed that even if they refused to lift the term-limits injunction, Giuliani might still try to place his name on the ballot. Giuliani has since dropped that threat. But if he'd succeeded and won the most votes, what then? Would it have been a battle between the Expressed Will of the People in 2001 versus the Expressed Will of the People who approved term limits in 1993 and 1996? Anybody hear the words "constitutional crisis"? With Giuliani in his caudillo mode, anything looked possible.

That threat has since abated. But what would have been worse for poor and working people in New York? Three more months of Giuliani or four more years?

Calm down, none of that had a chance of happening. Even Ed Koch opposed the extension idea. That's why he endorsed Ferrer.

Actually Koch didn't publicly say a word about the extension until after both candidates had announced their decisions. But he had already given his opinion about a third term for Giuliani—and he was adamantly in favor of one. "I don't see any reason why people can't write Giuliani's name in on the ballot," he said on national TV on September 19. When people suggested it would be difficult to get legislative approval, given that voters had twice endorsed term limits, Koch dismissed the objections. The day before the rescheduled primary, Koch told the Associated Press, "The state legislature is like a magician. They can do anything they want. . . . They can find a way to put him on the ballot in the general election." At the same time, Koch was blasting Ferrer for running a "race-conscious . . . us-against-them" campaign. But a week later, the same man marched into Ferrer headquarters and announced how appalled he was at Green's decision to give Giuliani a longer transition. Perhaps Koch just dislikes Mark Green more than he is distrustful of Ferrer. But being Ed Koch means never having to worry about being consistent.

Well, Koch isn't the problem. Your candidate is.

Right. But you know what? People make mistakes. Making this the deciding issue in the election means tossing out a lot of other factors that still weigh heavily in Green's favor. Of the two Democrats, he is still the one who is—thus far—unbought and unbossed, the least connected to the inside dealers, the power brokers even now swirling around looking for a landing place in the next administration.

Mark Green is still the one with the 30-year history of sticking up for the little guy, of smoking out the influence of the big-money boys, the one who is such a policy wonk on federal government that he'll be best equipped to win the support the city is going to need. Does it mean we want to have a beer with him? Nope. We don't even have to like his posture.

« Previous Page