Friday, October 10, 2008

Bloomberg and Washington

If you haven't read a good, old-fashioned rant lately, I would recommend Ron Rosenbaum's piece posted on Slate yesterday. As screeds go, this one is pretty angry. I actually got tired of it and stopped reading in the middle of the second page, but he seemed like he'd built up enough momentum to go for a while longer still. The subject was Mayor Bloomberg's efforts to overturn term limits in New York City. Rosebaum is against that plan.

From reading the New York papers recently, you'd think there were only three stories left in the world: the economy, how unhappy Yankees fans are because they aren't in the playoffs, and term limits. Occasionally something gets dropped in about the election, but that's mainly just to fill space if there's any extra room on a page.

Rosenbaum's point (before he launches his ongoing rhetorical nuclear assault) is that Bloomberg is running a sort of cult of personality where one person assumes all authority to deal with all the ills facing a city. He says that's the kind of thing that happens in a Bannana Republic (a phrase that isn't used much anymore), but not in New York.

Underneath all the bluster, I tend to agree with Rosenbaum. I think Bloomberg has been, on the whole, a good mayor for the city. I think that he's done lots of things to really improve New York in a forward-thinking way. However, I don't think that he's the only one who can do good things for the city. The implicit assumption in overturning term limits is that during tough times, the normal rules of our society don't matter and all that matters is finding an extraordinary person to guide the rest of us through.

I think that idea is undemocratic and unAmerican. After all, if George Washington (as close as one man has ever come to being indispensible for his country) could step down after two terms and the country could continue, I think New York will be able to muddle through without Mike Bloomberg.

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