Talk About Politics Like The Old Days, Before the Coronavirus

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Michael Davidow, Radio Free New Hampshire

By MICHAEL DAVIDOW, Radio Free New Hampshire

An old Jewish teaching says to be silent when visiting a house in mourning. I don’t know anyone whose life has been touched by the coronavirus yet, but it is easy to imagine that I will, and quite soon.

It is also possible that your life has already been touched, in ways beyond an empty store shelf, or a week’s working from home, or a child’s anxious questions. So, I hesitate to write yet another column on politics, when our attention should be elsewhere, and our thoughts should be serious.

 Trusting that this problem will eventually recede, though, and we will eventually be able to think about other problems again: here a few thoughts, for the sake of old times.

 In particular, it is nice to see some clarity in the Democratic race, but I wonder at the process that led us here. I will vote for Joe Biden and I will do so without reservation, but I question whether he was the best candidate out there, and I question how he was chosen.

 I was particularly saddened at  Elizabeth Warren’s bragging about having driven Michael Bloomberg from the race.  She has all but claimed it as her campaign’s central achievement.

 Bloomberg debated poorly, for sure.  But the debates in which he stumbled were little more than spectacles for television. Bloomberg was a serious candidate with a serious skill set. He performed admirably as New York’s mayor.

He improved education, he improved public health, he broadened his city’s economic base. He was far-sighted and thoughtful.  He hiked taxes on the rich. He did good things for people who hated him, and who would never vote for him, no matter what he did for them — the signal mark of a leader’s character.

 Self-labeled progressives lambasted him for his record on stop-and-frisk, but their doing so ignored both the reality of urban politics (Mayor Pete, of South Bend, Indiana, with a population of several empty corn fields, had problems with his police force, too) and the particular reality of New York City during his time as mayor. And if it took him too long to admit his error in that regard, he delayed because he had always supported his cops in good faith, and most New Yorkers agreed with him for a very long time.

 Similarly, he was roasted for a history of saying vulgar things about women, but that was also a relic of past times, and most importantly, he stopped doing it years ago. It is worth noting that his life partner is an educated and successful businesswoman, of an appropriate age, and a fully modern mindset. He shows all due respect to the women he works with, advancing their careers as much as one might hope. To compare him to Trump makes no sense. The problem is not that Trump did bad things in the past it’s that Trump still does them. And if people can’t learn from their past bad behavior, and be trusted to act appropriately after they do that learning, then what is the point of any debate, any argument, any moral teaching whatsoever?

 Finally, people gloried in Bloomberg’s defeat because he was so damned rich. They wanted to assure themselves that nobody can buy office like that, and they wanted him to be humbled.  Yet Bloomberg was not looking to take any short cuts. He made his mint with hard work, he then served for more than a decade in the trenches of public life, and he then began to underwrite important and worthy causes — gun control, the environment, issues of health and education. He earned his right to run for the presidency.

 It is true that he skipped both New Hampshire and Iowa, and he relied on his money to let him do that. Yet Bloomberg is an engineer at heart. He looked at the problem and he decided that there was a new way to campaign for the presidency; he decided that television and the internet have changed how things could be done. And the truth was, he was right. Joe Biden didn’t skip those contests. He lost them badly, and he has ended up on top anyway: because campaigns are no longer won the way they used to be.  Television and the internet have changed how things can be done. We can therefore expect New Hampshire and Iowa to wither away even more, next time.  Because the secret is out: we are not that important anymore.

 And money will always have its say. Thinking otherwise is being foolish. We can only hope that we will know who Biden’s backers are, as clearly as we understood the size of Bloomberg’s bank account. The odds are we never will, and we will be left to wonder to whom he answers, as we always had to wonder about the Clinton Foundation (that’s Hillary, folks, whose backers had not just their knives out, but their forks and spoons too). 

 So, Warren was proud of herself, for driving Bloomberg away.  If that was the true measure of her candidacy, we are well rid of her efforts. 

 Now, back to the rest of our newspaper, and back to the things that matter. No more time for Mayor Pete today.

Michael Davidow is a lawyer in Nashua.  He is the author of Gate City, Split Thirty, and The Rocketdyne Commission, three novels about politics and advertising which, taken together, form The Henry Bell Project.  His most recent one is The Book of Order. They are available on Amazon.

Views expressed in columns and opinion pieces belong to the author and do not reflect those of

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