New York City lost on Tuesday when the Democratic Party nominated Bill de Blasio to run for mayor. Though victory isn’t certain, heading the Democratic ticket puts de Blasio at a strong advantage in the mayoral race, and makes his eventual victory likely. De Blasio ran as an “unapologetically progressive alternative to the Bloomberg era.” And if decades of experience are our guide, this is very bad for New York, and very unfortunate for New Yorkers.
But while the Democratic primary voters of the world’s most famous city made it clear that they still don’t know the first damn thing about economics, by rejecting serial adulterers Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, they surprised a lot of us on another front at least as crucial as big government: human decency.
Because New York City isn’t just an economic powerhouse. It’s a cultural center. While entrepreneurs can flee across state and city lines to escape its regulations, taxes and high rents, a man would have to travel far across the ocean to find refuge from Gotham’s impact on our music, movies, sports, “art,” television and, through all of that, values. See, often what freak flag flies in the Greenwich Village will soon find a comfortable home in Greenwich, Conn. As Tom Wolfe warns, “From Bauhaus to our house.”
Sex, of course, isn’t new in politics. From James Buchanan to John F. Kennedy, the elites in D.C. have a long history of turning a blind eye to behavior that the American public of the era wouldn’t tolerate for a moment. Even the presidential power of the ever-dazzling Bill Clinton was hobbled by his transgressions once they were laid bare. Now that isn’t to say that there is no road from Perdition — but it is to say that road can only be found outside the public eye, where a transgressor can focus on redemption by helping others and, for mercy’s sake, putting his family before himself for once. As The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan advised, when seeking grace in disgrace, “become a man.”
But in a stunning display of cynicism, in 2013, old-time hubris combined with new-fangled hope that metropolitan America’s morality was so degraded that blatant marital transgressions would be forgiven at the ballot box. And for a moment there, it looked like our two antagonists bet right: Mr. Spitzer won 48 percent of the vote, and Mr. Weiner was the front-runner before another spat of allegations proved just too much for the Democratic base.
And it wasn’t because of their politics, either: Their policies were at least as unsound as their competitors, and in the case of Mr. Weiner, far less unsound than the eventual victor. The same party that nearly voted God off the 2012 platform really did say “too much, you two.” As if to validate their vote, after the decision Mr. Weiner left the scene of his primary party giving the middle finger.
So New Yorkers are probably headed for an economic nightmare, but at least this Tuesday, God likely didn’t feel any more compelled than usual to turn that city into a pillar of salt.
USA Today’s headline characterized the dismissal as “Voters reject redemption for Spitzer and Weiner,” but USA Today got it all wrong. Neither Mr. Spitzer nor Mr. Weiner were seeking redemption — they were seeking power. The voters didn’t reject anyone’s redemption — they rejected their lust for power. In doing so, they sent the right signal about politics, sex, New York and redemption to all us normal folks toiling outside The City’s limits. Even in their city, even in 2013, betraying your wife is disgraceful, embarrassing your children is shameful and demanding voter approval is not asking for forgiveness.
Turns out that even in a post-twerking society, there’s still a place for exile. And judging by their wives’ absences at the end, Messrs. Spitzer and Weiner will have a lot of downtime for just that.