Freddy’s Progress

There are a handful of classic campaign cycles: the frontrunner implodes; the comeback kid. Anthony seems like he’s enjoying a textbook version of the latter, and at just the right time.

Freddy‘s campaign, which looked for a minute like the former, has in retrospect passed out of the realm of typical political cycles entirely and into of religious framework.

The Ferrer campaign comes right out of one of the more austere versions of Christianity. It’s been a kind of political mortification in which — rather than skipping from triumph to triumph — Freddy has made slow, deliberate progress from humiliation to petty humiliation. This can’t have been a fun year for the candidate.

First, of course, was his appearance before the police sergeants, in which he was clearly caught off guard, and his confused response on the Diallo question caught on tape and replayed endlessly. That segued into his hooting by the members of the National Action Network, an intensity of public mockery few candidates ever face.

That pattern put Freddy into hiding for the summer, wisely staging his public events at the distant ends of subway lines. He got to enjoy none of the glamour of the frontrunner (though his retreat did stem the bleeding).

But the real humiliations have come from so-called friends. The first was the Times endorsement, an almost sneering piece of writing that compared the candidate unfavorably to an “inanimate object.” To rub it in, this was a great political gift, which he is required to hang on a placard around his neck whenever he crosses over a river into Manhattan.

And then, Sharpton. Of course he made Ferrer and his aides beg for the endorsement he gave so energetically in 2001. And he made them keep begging until it was, perhaps, too late. And then, of the 365 days in a year, the Rev. would be available only on one: 9/11. To guarantee that the endorsement would come with a scolding, and that not one of Freddy’s victories could arrive without a slap in the face.

Even today, with the endorsement already leaked, Sharpton kept them hanging. Ferrer’s press secretary didn’t send out the updated schedule announcing a 1:30 event until 11:42 a.m. The event was to be remarks after lunch at a Harlem restaurant. But then Sharpton didn’t even arrive for lunch until 1:30, keeping Ferrer and the press alike waiting.

Sharpton was, no doubt, actually very busy. Still, it’s hard not to see an edge of sadism there.

Freddy’s the only Catholic in the race, so perhaps he understands the necessity of putting up with this strange progress. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Mortification is both “an expiation for past sins and shortcomings” and “a means of curing bad habits and implanting good ones.” His party does seem to have forgiven him the failure to rally on its behalf in the last days of the 2001 election. As for his bad political habits — the next two, or eight, weeks will tell.