OPINION: Spitzer’s problems: Not just sex
I don’t know much about Scott Stringer other than the fact that he’s the borough president of Manhattan. I also admire many of the things Eliot Spitzer did as attorney general and governor, such as aggressively prosecuting Wall Street malfeasance.
Nevertheless, I sincerely hope that Scott Stringer trounces Eliot Spitzer in the Democratic primary for comptroller. And it has nothing to do with sex, either.
If being married and either having alleged affairs and/or allegedly patronizing prostitutes disqualified officials from the political arena, it wouldn’t be just Spitzer who would be liable. It would be half the politicians in the state, going back to Jimmy Walker in the 1920s and forward to Franklin D. Roosevelt, Congressman Fred Richmond, Rudy Giuliani, Vito Fossella, former Governor David Paterson, former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, Bill Clinton — and I’m sure they aren’t all!
No, patronizing prostitutes isn’t the only reason to not support Spitzer. (Interestingly, when Rachel Maddow asked Spitzer whether he thought prostitution should be legalized, he refused to answer the question.) For me, it’s also what I see as his disrespect for the political process.
You see, politics is a profession as much as anything else. People who want to become involved in the political process or want to have political jobs usually begin by volunteering to work for candidates or for political clubs, or working as consultants if they have some sort of expertise. They go to meetings and spend hours petitioning, campaigning, making phone calls, sending out letters and more. People who do these things are the usually-uncredited “foot soldiers” of politics.
Eventually, if they work hard enough, these same people may get themselves appointed to a staff position by an elected official. Eventually, they may decide to run for office themselves –but only after meeting with party leaders, potential backers, civic associations, unions, local businesspeople and other interested groups.
This is exactly what our friend Eliot Spitzer hasn’t done. Again, there are many things I admire about the former governor, but from the very beginning, he basically bought his way into office using huge amounts of his father’s money. It seems to me that this is what he is attempting to do now, after almost every Democratic politician in the city has endorsed Scott Stringer.
I am not privy to the Spitzer campaign, but as far as I know, Eliot Spitzer hasn’t done a lot of outreach to the political clubs, to small businesses, to neighborhood civic associations to unions, to local officials, to the aforementioned foot soldiers. His petition-gatherers weren’t even volunteers—they were paid workers. Perhaps Spitzer hopes that he can use his fortune to buy his way into the comptroller’s office, but my intuition tells me he’s wrong.
Let me tell you about another wealthy man who decided to go into politics. His name is John Catsimatidis, the head of the Red Apple/Gristede’s grocery chain. For years, he raised funds for other political candidates. Then, when he decided to run for mayor, he met with local Republican leaders and elected officials. He may be a billionaire, but he’s also a team player. That’s why I respect him – although, as a Democrat, I disagree with many, if not most, of his positions.
I earnestly hope that Eliot Spitzer, especially if he becomes the nominee, will do something that will make me revise his opinion of him. Until then, he’s not my favorite.
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