In October of 2008, Mayor Michael Bloomberg successfully persuaded the City Council to change the law governing term limits so that he could run for a third term in 2009. The speaker of the City Council at that time, without whose support the change would not have been possible, was Christine Quinn. This law did not make national news and barely resonated beyond the political elite in New York as most New Yorkers who were thinking about politics in late October of 2008 were paying more attention to the prospect of the presidency of George W. Bush coming to an end, and the likelihood that an exciting Democratic Senator for Illinois would get elected president in early November.
Fighting jihadist terror and being at war with Islam are, of course, two different things that can remain distinct from each other. The Bush and Obama administrations both went to great efforts to try to make it possible to maintain this distinction. Nonetheless, official statements that the US is not fighting against all of Islam and even the reality that Muslims enjoy more religious freedom in the US than in almost any other country in the world, something which both Presidents Bush and Obama have pointed out while in office, will be very easily overshadowed if this Islamic Center is not allowed to be built now. It has become almost a cliché to point out that the current Republican Party would have rejected Dwight Eisenhower or Ronald Reagan for being too liberal, but the debate over the Islamic Center suggests that they would reject George W. Bush on these grounds as well.
The mayoral election of 2009 does not look like it will be as exciting as any of those great campaigns. Instead incumbent mayor Michael Bloomberg will likely get reelected for a third term without much difficulty. While we New Yorkers can lament that we are not getting the great drama we like to see in our mayoral election, there might be a broader message in this election for both major parties. Bloomberg, while registered as an independent, has been an on and off Republican since he first ran for mayor in 2001, and will be that party's nominee again this year. New York is, of course, a heavily Democratic city, but if Bloomberg wins, for the first time in our history, we will have five consecutive terms of Republican mayors. To look at it another way, the last time the city elected a Democratic mayor was 1989 a year when Barack Obama was a law student; the Soviet Union still existed; and a blackberry was a fruit. Further, there have been not one, but two terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center since a Democrat was last elected mayor of New York.
In the last few weeks the Republican Party has gone back to its base by nominating a right-wing extremist with reactionary views on a range of social policies. They have sought to represent John McCain, of all people, as an agent of change in Washington, tried to build an appeal to voters based on the notion that they are the regular Americans and the Democrats are out of touch elitists, accused Senator Obama of being a sexist for using a common figure of speech and more or less lied about their records and that of their opponents.