Jewish World Review Nov. 8, 2001 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- AS unbelievable as it sounds, a Republican has been elected Mayor of New York City. As Mark Green's candidacy died, with him has died the political fortunes of the white liberal - the people who have dominated New York City politics for three-qiuarters of a century. Ever since LaGuardia's days as Mayor, white liberal Democrats have run New York City. But no more.
The reason white liberal Democrats are losing their grip is the juxtaposition of two realities: 1- To win a Democratic Primary, a white liberal must defeat a black or Hispanic challenger; and 2-to win the general election, he must try to win back the minority voters who backed the candidate he defeated. The election of 2001 illustrates the increasing difficulty of managing both tasks.
Green ran poorly because he only broke even among Hispanics and could not generate any kind of a decent turnout among blacks. Having defeated Freddie Ferrer by linking him to Al Sharpton, he could not retrace his steps and win the minority vote by the margin a Democrat could usually expect to garner. When Bloomberg masterfully exploited the bitterness of Hispanic voters by running a negative TV ad showing Green attacking Ferrer, the white liberal Democrat could not stem the resulting hemorrhage of Hispanic voters.
It was déjà vu all over again, as Yogi says. In 1997 Ruth Messenger alienated the black vote by winning the Democratic nomination by against Al Sharpton in the primary. But, having turned off the black community in the primary, she could not then attract their support ; with any kind of decent turnout in the general election.
As Andrew Cuomo faces off with Carl McCall in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary, he would do well to study the lessons of Green and Messenger. If Cuomo beats McCall, will he be able to attract black votes and a black turnout after he has achieved the nomination over the corpse of their favorite son. Will a white Democrat's nomination be worth having if he gets it at the price of alienating the minority voters on whom he must depend in November?
In the future, the Democratic Party will only be able to win when it nominates minority candidates. Whites will not be able to win both the primary and the general elections. If New York moves to nonpartisan elections, the white liberal may be able to come back. If not, his day is over.
Across the Hudson, we witnessed the Republican equivalent of this dilemma. Schundler won the Republican primary as a right winger by defeating Bob Franks, a moderate GOP Congressman. But, having alienated the moderate Republicans he needed to win the general election, he fell victim to Democrat McGreevey in the final contest.
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