Why No One Voted

I don’t usually hold back my opinions, as most of you who know me, know.  Especially when it comes to matters of public issues, political debate, elections, and general interests in the public ether.  I think debate is good.  I think well spoken opinions are good.  What I think hurts us in the political process are biased opinions that stray focus from real issues.  This is why I was relatively quiet when it came to this past election cycle in New York City.  But the election is over, and now you’re going to hear from me.  


I did talk about how important this election was – here for example.  This election cycle saw the most turnover that we’re likely to see in this City in, well, the foreseeable future.  Not only is there new leadership at the top, but half the Council are freshmen come January 1st, 2014.  And that’s what made it so important to get out and vote.  So New York City came out, right?  The issues were bubbling – Stop and Frisk, taxes, schools, teachers, fire fighters, waterfronts.  Surely people knew what they were doing, right?  


There are roughly 3 million registered Democrats in NYC.  Roughly 700,000 voted.  Roughly 250,000 voted for Bill deBlasio.  That means that roughly 1/6th of registered Democrats voted in who will, most likely, be the next Mayor.  That number gets even more depressing if you think of it in the context of the 8 million people who live in NYC.  Why is it that we’re so eager to argue about issues, to complain about cracks in the streets, to say New York is changing too much, but seemingly don’t want to do anything about it?  Well, I see a couple reasons.  


First and foremost, the crop of Mayoral candidates was flat out unimpressive.  For an open seat, something that hasn’t happened in 12 years, you would think that maybe someone would emerge who’s impressive, with a proven track record, who can inspire people to rally around him.  That person just didn’t exist.  Bill DeBlasio convinced people he was that person, but I’ll get to why he isn’t in a bit.  


It’s really easy to blame the plurality of people for not voting.  And I do.  To a degree.  But at the end of the day, you still have to vote.  You still need to waste your lunch break and go to the polling place which is disorganized and wait in line and go vote hoping to get a sticker only to find out that they ran out.  And if you aren’t inspired to do that, you’re just not going to.  Part of that responsibility is on you.  You should be engaged.  You should be informed.  But part of that has to be the responsibility of politics.  Of parties, of the City with a capital C, of the candidates.  They should inspire you to want to vote for them, you shouldn’t be berated by people like me to coax you into voting.  Voting should be a prideful act, not one you do out of shame.  


So what did NYC have to chose from?  Well we had a pervert, a corrupt puppet, a man who’s about as inspiring as watching grass grow, someone under FBI investigation, and a two faced man who spent more time parading around his Black son than talking about issues.  I don’t think I need to spend a lot of time talking about Anthony Weiner.  C’mon.  Christine Quinn has been stealing money and leveraging politics in and from the City for years, we’ve just never known because Bloomberg is really good at covering up stories.  Amazing was 100 billion dollars can do.  Bill Thompson thought it was a good idea to go on the NYPD side of Stop and Frisk to try and get White votes, assuming that Blacks would just vote for him.  The result?  John Liu, who’s probably the best suited for the job in terms of pedigree and lack of ties to special interests, stood on a platform of best practices in government, but at the end of the day couldn’t answer questions about his own campaign’s finances.  Without clarity, there were no matching funds, which meant no ads.  Bill DeBlasio rested on a platform of being tall, White, liberal, and having a Black lesbian wife, and a son with an afro.  “Mr. DeBlasio, could you talk to us about your affordable housing plans?  Have you met my Black son?  He has an afro.”  

The moment when I think disenfranchisement was most keen was at the last debate, seen here —

The Final Mayoral Debate

If you watch the debate, the only person up there talking about issues, talking about what he’s going to do change the City for the better, was Anthony Weiner.  I’ll wait for that to sink in.  If you based your decision ONLY on this debate, and your metric was 1) clear points, 2) ideas for how you’re going to address issues, 3) strength in convictions, then we would have elected a man who has a sexting addiction and a worse PR plan than Brittney Spears.  In a landslide.  Every other candidate was slinging mud like they were at a rainy Woodstock.  No one said what they wanted to do, no one said what they wanted to change, no one said how they would do it.  It was just politics in the worst way.  No wonder no one went out to vote.  Why would I lose my lunch break to go out and vote for some douchebag who just wants to talk about their opponent’s shortcomings.  


Real leadership needs to come from ideas.  Real leadership needs to come from the ability to put blinders up around the political noise that inevitably comes from running for office.  It’s not like it would be a surprise that Thomson would get attacked about Stop and Frisk.  Or Quinn on her slush fund.  Or DeBlasio on his ties to big real estate development that no one seems to think is a big deal.  Or Liu on his campaign finance.  But if you want to be the leader of New York City you need to be able to rise above that.  You think this is the last you’re going to be personally attacked?  As the leader of a City which should be a small country?  Where’s the backbone?  Where’s the integrity?  No wonder no one came out to vote.  


All that being said, some great things are happening at the local level that people need to see.  Thankfully we elected Scott Stringer as the next Comptroller.  Lord help us that 49% of people still voted for a man who used government money to sleep with prostitutes.  But that aside, Scott Stringer is going to be a fine Comptroller, and we don’t have to worry about his character.  Carlos Menchaca won his district, ousting an absent Councilwoman, adding real spirit to a rising community.  Antonio Reynoso won his district, beating possibly the most corrupt politician currently in NYC, who also happens to be a pervert who deserves to be locked up.  Some progressive campaigns didn’t win, but some did.  Some people are entering the fray and have bright futures.  Gale Brewer is going to be the next Manhattan Borough President, and I think has a real chance to do something with the office.  Eric Adams will (soon) be the next Brooklyn Borough President, giving a nice deprive from Marty’s gusto, I can see Eric bringing some real change in Brooklyn.  He’ll also get to work closely with Ken Thompson, the new Brooklyn DA, who is going to bring a new voice and new reform to the legal system.  


So is it that big a deal that leadership at the top of the City is still murky?  That only 16% of people decided who gets booed at Knicks games?  With a City Council half full of rookies and half full of tenured, powerful voices like Dan Garodnick, Brad Lander, Jumaane Williams, Melissa Mark-Viverito, is the Mayor really going to matter?  Honestly, probably not.  Think that DeBlasio is comfortable with 16% of registered voters coming out for him?  Think that no one else is thinking, hey maybe in 4 years and my controversy dies down I can make a stronger challenge?  Think that Adolpho Carrion isn’t thinking, “gee, if the Hispanic vote mobilized for me, I would win in a landslide”?  DeBlasio is going to spend the next 4 years running NYC to the middle of everything, and while he does, real change, real leadership is going to emerge from our communities, from our Councilmembers, from the rookies, from where it really needs to come from.  


If there was ever a time to be on the cusp of being involved and informed, now is the time to jump in.  The numbers were low this time around?  Fine.  But don’t make me make you vote in 4 years.  




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