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Summer of ’69: Norman Mailer and Jimmy Breslin’s campaign to liberate NYC
|Last Edited||Craverguy May 08, 2009 02:17am|
|Media||Weekly News Magazine - American Conservative, The|
|News Date||Monday, May 4, 2009 06:00:00 AM UTC0:0|
|Description||Forty years ago, my father wagered that he and Jimmy Breslin, two non-professional politicians, were better suited to save New York City than any career pol on the scene. So with Mailer for mayor and Breslin for city council president, they squared off in the 1969 Democratic primary against four standard-issue liberals. (Pop quipped of one, “I can’t get a grasp on a mind this small.” His campaign manager, Joe Flaherty, called another “eternally starched” and dismissed a third as a “municipal Lazarus.”) Echoing the student slogan raised during the Columbia University crisis of the previous year, “No more bulls--t,” they ran to rescue a “spiritless” city turned into a “legislative pail of dismembered organs.” |
Something vital had been lost along the way—a sense of place, of verve and nerve and wit. They were out to get it back, niceties of the political game be damned.
Their vision was as bold as their odds were long—20-to-1 by my father’s estimate. But if New Yorkers took the bet, the shock to the system would provide enough momentum to make New York City the 51st state. Freed from its “marriage of misery, incompatibility, and abominable old quarrels” with the remainder of New York state, the city would reap a windfall of money and liberty sufficient to save it.
Pop figured, “The startled legislators of Albany and Washington would be face to face with a mighty fact: the bitterest and most apathetic and disillusioned electorate in the United States had spoken in a thunderous affirmation—they wanted Statehood for themselves.” He foresaw the city, its independence secured, splintering into townships and neighborhoods, with their own school systems, police departments, housing programs, and governing philosophies. In some areas, church attendance might be obligatory, in others free love mandatory.
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