Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Giuliani Missed His Googoos

Rudy Giuliani's failure in the Republican primaries, as an excellent piece in today's Times by Michael Powell and Michael Cooper points out, was the product of bad strategy and the lingering odor of Bernard Kerik. The ex-mayor's recent and decisive loss in Florida was also due to the absence in that state of a sufficient number of New York good government liberals, a critical element in Giuliani's political success in Gotham.

New York liberalism is anything but a monolith. Going back to the Thirties, it has always been an unstable amalgam.

One important tendency in New York liberalism when Giuliani ran succesfully for mayor in 1993, and again in 1997, was the presence of voters who might be socially liberal, but like a clean and efficient city government. Philosophically, such voters trace their history to anti-Tammany good government activists--the googoos, to use political slang.

Giuliani had a certain appeal for such voters--who can be found, in New York, in the Democratic and Republican parties. It wasn't just his relative liberalism on social issues, I think, but his reputation for running an orderly government.

History may not be kind to Giuliani's repuation for executive expertise. Reports about Kerik have undermined faith in Giuliani's judgment, and there may be more to come in Kerik's trial.

At times, in his primary speeches, Giuliani seemed to mock the very New Yorkers who were part of his municipal base of support: socially liberal good government voters. He shouldn't have. The breadth of his appeal--to moderates and even some liberals--was part of his success in New York. That couldn't be repeated in the conservative atmosphere of the GOP primaries.

No comments: