Suddenly the dynamic has changed. New York has become the intellectual center of the fledging 2008 Presidential campaign, home of two announced candidates and another one, maybe. When, or if, Mr. Bloomberg joins the race, he will join Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Giuliani in touting their achievements in New York as a template for what they would do nationally and even globally.
Only a fool or a licensed soothsayer would have predicted such an outcome in 1992, when New York City seemed on the brink of a second fiscal, economic and emotional collapse. Those days of high crime, overflowing welfare rolls, failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and tepid leadership indicated that the revival of the Koch years was an illusion, that New York was about to sink back into the abyss of 1975, this time never to return.
That didn’t happen. Instead, New York City became, incredibly, a global model of reinvention and revitalization during the 1990’s. And, after the horrific attacks of 9/11, the city proved to be economically and emotionally resilient. Americans beyond the Hudson River, so often skeptical of, if not hostile to, New York, saw in our firefighters, rescue workers, political leaders and extraordinary citizens a defiant pride that steadied their nerves and warmed their hearts.
Now, in the second election after 9/11, not one but two Mayors of New York City are part of the national conversation, along with the state’s junior Senator. Not coincidentally, all three played vital roles in reviving New York in the 1990’s and then refocused its political discourse on finding solutions, not developing theories.
Mr. Giuliani, as the inheritor of a mess when he took office in 1994, is most identified with the city’s remarkable revival during the 1990’s. But Mrs. Clinton, as a full partner in the Clinton administration, surely played a role in creating and maintaining the prosperity from which the city benefited. And Mr. Bloomberg, of course, presided over the city’s recovery from 9/11.
All three candidates are considered Presidential material not because of the ideologies they espouse but because of the solutions they have proposed and implemented. Given New York’s reputation as home to ideological politics, whether at the clubhouse level on the left or the intellectual level on the right, it is worth noting that all three New Yorkers are post-ideological centrists who have helped their respective parties move to the middle.
Of the three, Mr. Bloomberg might well be the best candidate from New York. He has done a remarkable job as Mayor in not only building on the successes of Mr. Giuliani but adding to them. In his second term, he has focused relentlessly on long-term goals, a rare trait in a profession known for its shortsighted agendas.
Skeptics would argue that Mr. Bloomberg’s independent candidacy would meet the same fate as H. Ross Perot in 1992. But Mr. Bloomberg has a lot more money than Mr. Perot—and he has a remarkable record, too.
If Mr. Bloomberg committed to spending, say, a billion dollars on a Presidential campaign (why not?), anything could happen.
Whether he runs or not, however, there can be no denying New York’s place at the center of the Presidential race. If the candidates are talking about New York, they are talking about life in the cities of America in the 21st century. Urban America has been absent from political debate for too long. Mr. Bloomberg can and will help to change that.