By Tom Allon
Once upon a time, not too long ago, politics was considered an honorable profession where high-minded people toiled to serve the public.
Today, there are still many elected leaders who go into politics for the right reasons and go on to accomplish significant reforms that help society.
Then-President Bill Clinton helped balance our nation’s budget, cut crime dramatically and achieved significant welfare reforms, the latter two having a lasting impact on our society. He presided over the greatest economic boom and longest period of peace in our nation’s history.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo accomplished a lot in his first few years in office, fixing the state’s budget woes, overseeing the passage of a long-overdue marriage equality act, achieving significant gun reform policies and now investing more in education.
Clinton and Cuomo are master tacticians and who know how to twist an arm or throw an elbow to carry out their goals and agenda. Both work well behind the scenes in the backroom dealings that produce consensus for their agendas. The all-time aficionado of political coercion, ex-President Lyndon Baines Johnson, paved the way for this muscular type of governing.
Here in the tri-state area, we recently witnessed two ends of the spectrum: one flawed form of muscular politics led to a scandal, and another case led to a victory in forming a team of like-minded city leaders.
In New Jersey, we have seen the saga of “Bridgegate” and the stunningly stupid shenanigans of Gov. Chris Christie’s inner circle. As an example of “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” we see how petty revenge and a feeling of invulnerability can lead some to perpetrate stupid actions.
Whether Christie’s long and dramatic apology will save his political career remains to be seen. If he knew, he’s toast; if he didn’t know, as he claims, then one has to question whether he has the management talent to even contemplate a run for president.
Over the river, we recently witnessed a tectonic shift in the power grid when Mayor Bill de Blasio outmaneuvered the borough party bosses and got his favored candidate, City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), elected as Council speaker, the second most-powerful office in city government.
Some protested that the mayor should not have interfered in this process, but those critics forget that politics is a blood sport and every leader should do what they can to get their allies in positions of power.
De Blasio, like his predecessor Mike Bloomberg, now has a close ally heading up the Council, and this will make it much easier for him to implement his agenda of bridging the inequality divide.
Mark-Viverito is a smart, determined and ideologically compatible partner for the next four years, and we’ll see how much she can help de Blasio make New York a successful liberal experiment for the rest of our country and the wider world.
The lesson in all this: Fight hard, fight fair and then things will probably start falling into place to implement your agenda. The great leaders don’t lose sight of this.
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.