Monday, February 25, 2008


I grew up in a Democratic state (Massachusetts) that often elected Republican governors. I now live in a Democratic city and state (New York) where Republican mayors and governors are often elected, and where, God help us, Al D'Amato won three terms in the Senate.

And now I'm watching Muslim Garb-Gate, and anger embodied in (and embodied in some of the reaction to) that Saturday Night Live "bitch is the new black" sketch, and I'm seeing the future in the past.

New York Times, November 7, 2001:

...The lifelong Democrat [Mark Green]'s mayoral hopes ended sourly yesterday with his narrow defeat to Michael R. Bloomberg, the wealthy [Republican] businessman....

Some of Mr. Green's narrow failure reflects ... his tendency to irritate many party faithful who should have been in his corner.

... Democratic infighting no doubt hurt Mr. Green with black and Latino voters. He did not do as well with them as a classic Democrat usually does -- in part because of the animosity of the Rev. Al Sharpton and Fernando Ferrer. They were furious over harsh tactics that Mr. Green insisted were not his doing....

New York Times, October 3, 1993:

It was, some say, a nasty case of political poisoning. Last year, the Democratic Party saw three of its most seasoned, well-known politicians, Robert Abrams, Geraldine A. Ferraro and Elizabeth Holtzman, climb into the race for their party's nomination for a seat in the United States Senate. The Democrats had Bill Clinton's coattails to cling to. The Republican incumbent, Alfonse M. D'Amato, was believed to be vulnerable. Party leaders could taste victory.

Then the ugly realities of New York politics turned up like the cancerous underbelly of a dead fish. The campaigning turned muddy and the candidates turned on each other. In time, three ambitions were dashed and, it has become clear, three careers derailed. Instead of another Democrat in the Senate, the party lost three of its best hopes to vicious infighting, residual bitterness and combat fatigue....

Once Ms. Holtzman began broadcasting advertisements directly attacking Ms. Ferraro for ethical lapses, and even implying possible links to organized crime, it changed not only the nature of the primary race but even the mood of the general election that followed.

So angered were many voters over the nature of the ads and the ugliness of the charges that when Mr. Abrams traveled upstate in his race against Mr. D'Amato he was accosted by his own supporters as having cynically played along with a destructive smear campaign.

Ms. Ferraro tried to strike back at the time by charging that Ms. Holtzman's ads and the more general attacks constituted a slur against all Italian-Americans.

In another race, those charges might not have seemed so shocking, but the unusual presence of of two well-respected women on the ballot gave the primary an unusual and delicate dynamic. Some voters believed that only one woman should run to capitalize on pro-female sentiment in a season touted as the "Year of the Woman." Many of those voters backed Ms. Ferraro because of her name recognition won during her run for the vice presidency with Walter Mondale....

Remind you of anything?

At this moment I can't see any way that many of the most energized supporters of the losing Democratic candidate won't sit out the general election in a huff. In that case, John McCain may as well ask his pal George W. to let him come in and start measuring the White House drapes.

Stop it. Just stop it.

No comments: