New York City set to elect a local mayor for local people

September 6, 2013

Having paid scant attention – to my shame – to the race to become next mayor of the world’s best city, I enjoyed reading this concise and interesting state-of-the-race-on-eve-of-the-vote piece by Gary Silverman in the FT.

New York City (where else) is set to exit a period during which, by virtue of having successive mayors focused more on the inter/national than the local, the city’s politics have been out of kilter with the norm. Mayor Giuliani showed remarkable leadership during 9/11 and as a result became an established figure on the national stage, and his favoured successer Michael Bloomberg was naturally a ‘big picture mayor’:

Mr Bloomberg’s New York has felt less like his hometown than his laboratory.  Whether he was weaning  the overweight off sugary drinks or looking to stop  the rise of the seas, he played to a bigger audience than the mere 8m souls  traversing the sidewalks of the city.

This is, says Silverman, all set to cease:

The big story of the mayoral campaign (excluding the Anthony  Weiner burlesque) has been the unexpected rise of Bill de Blasio, an underdog Democrat who has gone out of his  way to paint himself as a crusader for the forgotten New York – the  anti-Bloomberg, if you will.

What’s more surprising than the rise of a locally-focused candidate like Mr de Blasio is the fact that it’s taken so long:

The remarkable thing is that we have had wealthy white mayors for so long in a  city that is so black and brown and poor. Descendants of European immigrants are  a minority here. African-Americans and Hispanics make up more than half the  population. Throw in Asians, and you are north of 60 per cent.

Putting aside the differences of the political systems and national geographies (which cause London to dominate the UK more than NYC does the US) and the temporary boost of the Olympics, would we say Boris Johnson is ‘naturally’ inclined to be a Giuliani/Bloomberg or a de Blasio?

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Obama: the most videoed president in history

August 22, 2013

Did you know that President Obama has an official videographer? I found out today, thanks to this NPR article.

Arun Chaudhary spent the entire 2008 campaign and the first two years of the administration filming Obama behind the scenes.

“We are definitely talking about thousands and thousands of hours,” he says, “and that’s just … my camera.”

Chaudhary and his successors have filmed Obama on the basketball court, in the Oval Office and palling around with Elena Kagan seconds before he nominated her to the Supreme Court.

How cool is that? The problem, it transpires, is that the sheer volume will, given the format, make it a nightmare for future historians to navigate:

While the material will go to the National Archives and eventually to the Obama presidential library, Chaudhary says there are crucial differences between official and casual events that make his material much harder to search.

“I could put the text of a speech into a file or something next to the video of the speech … and then when you’re searching for a specific line, it can come up,” he says. “But to actually have someone transcribe every casual conversation the president had with anyone while I was filming, I can tell you would take a long time.”

Those transcripts don’t exist, and nobody plans to create them. The behind-the-scenes footage is labeled by date and place. But beyond that, the contents will remain a mystery until someone combs through and catalogs them.

In the meantime, here’s a really fun compilation clip:


The two men in the red corner

August 19, 2013

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza thinks the fault lines of the Republican Party can be personified in the towering figures of two men: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul. A bold claim this far out… but party poll data do emphasise how neatly the Party is bifurcated. Here’s Cillizza’s main argument (full article here):

The political reality is that Christie and Paul almost certainly can’t peacefully coexist within the Republican Party — which has lost the popular vote in four of the past five presidential elections and finds itself on the wrong side of the shifting demographics of the country — because they represent such divergent views on the right way to move the party forward.

Paul sees principle at the root of the Republican renaissance, a core set of beliefs grounded in libertarian principles of keeping the government out of people’s lives and fundamentally rethinking the way American military might is used abroad.

Christie is openly dismissive of the “college professors” in the party who would rather win arguments than win elections. He is a political and policy pragmatist who is explicitly positioning himself as the guy best able to break the Republicans’ White House drought.

And this is the polling data:

Fifty-four percent of respondents believe the party needs to be more conservative; 40 percent believe it needs to moderate. On abortion, 26 percent believe the party isn’t conservative enough while 25 percent think it’s too conservative. Ditto gay marriage, with 31 percent describing the GOP’s position as too conservative and 27 percent saying it isn’t conservative enough.


Are older people deserting the Republican Party?

August 14, 2013

If they are, it would be a really big deal, not least because ‘seniors’ are amongst the voters most likely to actually vote. The Atlantic has this story which suggests it’s happening quickly and dramatically. It stems from a national survey by ‘respected on both sides of the aisle’ Democrat pollster Stan Greenberg, although a national survey with a comparatively small – for the US – sample size of 841 likely votes (in 2014).

But the drop in support does seem big even if you stick to comparing to an earlier Greenberg poll, taken at the start of 2011:

Just 28 percent of voters 65 and older had a favorable view of the Republican Party in a national survey conducted last month by the Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, versus 40 percent who had a positive view of the Democrats. That’s a reversal from a poll Greenberg conducted in early 2011, when 43 percent of seniors saw Republicans favorably and 37 percent saw Democrats that way.

What are the reasons for this? Probably a mix of reaction against Republican plans to change healthcare funding, more positive feelings about Democrats’ ability to run the economy, and ever-increasing frustration at GOP obstructionism in Congress. Interesting stuff.


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