Cannato's subject, and the subject of the book, The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and his Struggle to Save New York, from which, apparently, the piece was distilled, is the former Republican mayor of New York. But the larger subject is Wonderboy's national scale of ambition and solutions of the same ilk as the ill-fated Lindsay's.
It's a wonderful article.
"Remember John Lindsay? Fewer people do these days. The late mayor of New York was a national figure in the 1960s, as likely to be seen on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson as he would on the streets of the city. The tall, handsome Republican epitomized a new era of liberal politics that many hoped would transform not just the city, but also the country.
Yet the reality of governing soon swamped Lindsay and his idealistic dreams. His idea of New York as "Fun City" turned out to be a bitter joke, as the streets became dirtier and more dangerous, businesses and residents left, and the city lurched toward fiscal insolvency. When Lindsay left office at the end of 1973, New York was continuing its steep decline, his political career was over, and he faded into obscurity.
No one can blame Lindsay for all of the city's problems. He was a decent man who attracted a lot of good people into government. He ran a relatively honest administration. He was an active spokesman for cities and cared deeply about their survival. Yet he failed to stop the city's decline and to rejuvenate New York, thus breaking promises he made in his 1965 election campaign."
I certainly recall Lindsay, although, at the time, I was a young midwesterner. It is, ironically, just as Cannato wrote, that I remember Lindsay on Carson, or being lampooned by the comic.
"The original urge to celebrate Lindsay now undoubtedly was tied to the hope that the presidency of Barack Obama would usher in a new era of liberalism—in which Lindsay would perhaps be seen in a different light. What the organizers of the exhibit failed to anticipate was that by mid-2010, many of the shortcomings of Barack Obama would look suspiciously like the failings of John Lindsay.
Lindsay represented a new kind of liberal politics, a top-down coalition of affluent white liberals, young people and minorities that was less attentive to the needs of the working- and middle class. This has come to mark the modern Democratic Party (which Lindsay joined in 1971), but has too often proved to be a weak governing coalition.
Like Mr. Obama, John Lindsay had a messianic quality. He was the shining knight sent to slay the city's "power brokers." Sure of the rightness of his policies, Lindsay spoke in moralistic tones. But he could be prickly and thin-skinned and quick to impute base motives to political opponents. Well into his mayoralty, he continued to blame many of his problems on his predecessor. "
Wow, is Cannato on target here, eh? Whether it is healthcare, energy, or banking, Wonderboy may as well have suspended the first amendment, so often does he demand that those who disagree with him shut up. Imputing, as did Lindsay, purely political motives to anyone who publicly disagrees with our new black Messiah. And then there's that blame thing. The other evening, Wonderboy was at it again, carefully claiming that the government's MMS service was 'captured' for a decade- no more, no less. Meaning only during President George W. Bush's term of office.
How convenient."Lindsay promised an activist government to meet the needs of New Yorkers. That meant more spending, and more taxes to pay the bills—Lindsay created the city income tax and commuter tax. In his second term, the economy slowed and New York lost 250,000 private-sector jobs, but spending continued and the number of city workers swelled. As revenues dried up, short-term borrowing increased. In 1975, the city nearly defaulted on its loans. The dreams of an activist government came crashing down in a mountain of debt."
This is just too perfect, isn't it, as an analogy to today's federal government? Spend, spend, spend like there's no tomorrow, no matter how many private sector jobs are lost. Nevermind, we'll hire them as federalistas, and make them union, to boot!
"For many New Yorkers, the dream had faded much earlier. In February 1969, a snowstorm brought the city to a halt. It took days to clear the snow from the residential streets of Queens.
The public frustration over the slow snowstorm cleanup was a symbol for larger frustrations with Lindsay: that he was out of touch with the concerns of average New Yorkers and that an administration that promised transformative change could not perform basic functions of city government.
One has to wonder whether the BP oil spill is President Obama's snowstorm."
Again, wow! And Wonderboy's recent attempts at damage control don't appear to be working. He wants to try to show he's in control, but he really doesn't have a clue about what's going on with the undersea oil gusher. And everyone knows this.
"The book on Barack Obama is far from closed. Yet the current spotlight on Lindsay reminds us of the troubles that befell an earlier charismatic liberal who promised an energetic government and enlightened leadership, but who left New York deeply polarized and struggling with debt."
Sobering, isn't it? Cannato is remarkable in recalling and framing this now-nearly-forgotten, smaller scale example of Wonderboy's reckless approach to politics and 'governing.' If you could call it that.
Of course, unlike New York City, which had to be bailed out by the MAC, a sort of receivership of the city until it could pay its bills, there is nothing on the planet large enough to rescue the entire US economy, which are the stakes Wonderboy has gambled in just over a year's ineptitude in the White House.