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How a billionaire buffoon took NYC

November 16, 2001 | Page 3

AFTER EIGHT miserable years of Rudolph Giuliani, the question wasn't whether the next mayor of New York City would be a Democrat but which one. But on November 7, Republican billionaire Michael Bloomberg walked away with a victory in one of the nastiest and most expensive mayoral elections ever.

Bloomberg, a media mogul who has never held public office, trailed by double digits in opinion polls a few weeks before the vote. Yet the arrogance, incompetence and racism of Democratic candidate Mark Green handed the election to this buffoon.

Green–who in a former life was a liberal activist trained by Ralph Nader–was the early favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer jumped in the polls after winning the endorsement of civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton.

After the endorsement, racist fliers began appearing, depicting Ferrer as Sharpton's puppet. The Green campaign promised to investigate where the fliers came from, but never did–and meanwhile continued to press a message designed to play on the fears of conservative white voters. Green eked out a primary victory over Ferrer, but Black and Latino leaders sat on their hands for the general election.

Bloomberg took full advantage of the opening. He appeared almost daily on Black radio–while Green refused invitations for on-air interviews.

Giuliani's long-delayed endorsement of Bloomberg wouldn't have been much help before September 11. But transformed into a hero by the media, Giuliani was able to turn out voters.

Bloomberg spent $60 million of his $4 billion fortune on the race, prompting Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin to write that Bloomberg "bought the office like a cup of coffee." But Bloomberg's money was only decisive because of Green's self-destruction.

That a Republican billionaire could get away with posing as an antiracist and friend of working New Yorkers is an indictment of Green's campaign–which mirrored the conventional wisdom among mainstream Democrats that candidates have to suck up to big business and slap down "special interests."

Democrats won governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia on Election Day, prompting happy talk from party leaders. But the real lesson was in New York.

Green's miserable campaign shows why the Democrats aren't the "friends of working people" that they claim to be–and why we need a real alternative to the two parties of big business.

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