New Yorkers once overwhelming told pollsters they wanted Bill Clinton as their Mayor.
Now, it looks like they might just get what they wished for. Sort of.
Mayoral hopeful Mark Green is looking more like Bill Clinton every day. Rather than being "Rudy-lite," the moniker Freddy Ferrer has assigned to his opponents, Mark Green has become "Clinton-lite." He has the celebrity quotient without the scandals. The centrist demeanor without the pandering. Yet.
Mark Green has created his own form of triangulation.
This is worthy strategy for the upcoming primary, but a possible pitfall if Mr. Green ends up in a race for City Hall with Mike Bloomberg, a true moderate and a man not beholden to special interest groups or unions.
Mr. Green has already encompassed the celebrity-allure of Clinton. On Wednesday night the Public Advocate held a star-studded fundraiser at Town Hall featuring speeches and performances by everyone from Warren Beatty to Jewel.
But more importantly, Mark Green has mastered the skill of getting New Yorkers to believe he is the centrist of all the Democratic candidates.
Judging from recent polls, itís looking like next weekís primary will yield a run-off between Freddy Ferrer, the angry, impassioned liberal, and Mark Green, the even-tempered moderate.
Mark Green has been busy convincing New Yorkers he is the moderate in this race and has played the triangulation strategy well.
With Mr. Greenís foremost competitor, Mr. Ferrer, moving to the left by his own will, Green easily pushed Peter Vallone, the worthiest of the Democratic hopefuls, into the right corner. Instead of letting him take credit for all he accomplished by working with Mayor Giuliani, Green has gotten the public to associate Vallone with any negative aspects of the Giuliani years.
And in classic Clinton mode, Green has chosen the two issues that concern New Yorkers most Ė crime and education Ė and turned them into his own.
With public safety, by many accounts the number one issue among voters, Mark Green has attached himself to Bill Bratton, the implication being not only that he will re-install Mr. Bratton if he is elected Mayor, but that he has always endorsed the policing techniques that drove crime down to record lows over the past eight years. By aligning himself with the former Police Commissioner, Green hopes voters will only remember his previous rants and lawsuits against the NYPD as necessary, not as the excessive spectacles they truly were.
Donít buy this act. With Mark Green as Mayor, weíll see a police department barely recognizable from Rudy Giulianiís Ė in all the wrong ways. An increase in funding, perhaps, but also an increase in our taxes, and an increase in quality of life crimes. Green may have toned down his rhetoric towards the NYPD, but the same sentiment is there in euphemisms like regular in-service diversity training, Permanent Independent Police Oversight Board, and Deputy Commissioner for Police Integrity.
Mark Green has also been advocating for eliminating the Board of Education, and for having the Schools Chancellor appointed by and beholden to the Mayor. His position papers and press releases are peppered with the word "accountability" and for teachers, he advocates for a system of "performance review with consequences." Again, ideas that reflect so many the Giuliani Administrationís consistent positions.
Could this really be a new and improved Mark Green?
Possibly, but the truth lies in what happens after the primaries. What will Mr. Green do when the teacherís union, the life-blood of the Democratic Party, decides to throw their support in his direction under conditions? Will he stand up to them and still continue to push for legislation in Albany to change the system?
And what will he do after the run-off, when Freddy Ferrer is no longer a threat, and Al Sharpton needs to attach himself to a candidate? Itís doubtful that Mr. Sharpton, one of the stars of this campaign, will drop out of sight. Heíll lobby Mr. Green to highlight his issues, and itís unlikely Green will fight him; heíll want the votes that Sharpton can reel in.
Once in the final stretch to City Hall, presumably in a race against Mike Bloomberg, Mark Greenís current tactics will have worn thin. If heís not able to unite Bill Bratton and Al Sharpton, if he canít reach a compromise with Randi Weingarten of the teacherís union, Mr. Green will have a hard time living up to his other pet slogan Ė uniting all New Yorkers.
Recently, Mark Green wanted to know which Freddy Ferrer was talking when he criticized Bill Bratton. He noted that Ferrer had kind words for Bratton in 1996, and suggested that the two Ferrers should debate each other.
New Yorkers should demand nothing less of the Public Advocate; they should know which Mark Green they are really voting for.
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