MAYOR WILLIAMS A CLOSET REPUBLICAN
[from May 2002 issue]

PRIOR EDITORIALS ARCHIVED HERE


Nah--can't be! Or can he? Who knew? Well, if he's not a Republican, he's sure acting like he wants to look enough like one so that he might be in a better position to land a job with his good buddy George Bush--you know, the guy our mayor likes to let us know he's on such good terms with.

Of course, what's got us really hot under the collar is this bit with stepping up to the plate for Maryland Republican representative Connie Morella, who happens to be very powerful with regard to District affairs by virtue of her senior committee assignment in the Republican-controlled House.

There is no denying that Mrs. Morella has been a good friend of the city and a supporter of moving us in a progressive direction. We know Mrs. Morella from a former career and can vouch for all the good things the mayor says about her; she is truly a fine person and a fine public servant.

That said, she still is a Republican Congresswoman representing (at least until recently) a Republican--albeit reasonably liberal--Congressional district in Maryland; she is not our Congressional representative. Our person in the Congress is the incredibly dynamic and creative Eleanor Holmes Norton who represents a majority registered-Democrat electorate. But, thanks to the Republican-controlled House, our elected representative has no vote and will have none until the Republicans get booted out of control. Our Congressional Delegate did have a vote--albeit not total, but not insubstantial as is now the case--until Newt Gingrich and his cabal took over. And, things won't change back until the successors to his gang are booted!

We are not alone in observing the obvious: That any help given toward ensuring the re-election of even a single Republican incumbent in the forthcoming elections jeopardizes a fighting chance to see the Democratic Party regain control of the House of Representative; and until that happens, the District's taxpaying citizens will continue to be snubbed. It is this assisting in our snubbing by the mayor that has us and so many voters so outraged.

The mayor seemingly does not understand what all the angst is about. On April 24th, at the height of the controversy, the Washington Post reported that the mayor's spokesman, Tony Bullock, observed that some party loyalists were overreacting. Well, it's not been just some few party loyalists--it's been large numbers of insulted citizens. Bullock, according to the Post, said, "It doesn't mean that he's not a proud Democrat. . . ." We disagree. In fact, we think the mayor's loyalty to the Democratic Party is very suspect. We do not sense that the mayor has ever been very comfortable around the party's traditional labor-based core constituency, much of which is reflected in this city's voter demographic profile.

The mayor justified his heavy-hitting on behalf of Mrs. Morella as necessary because of the influence she wields over DC affairs in the Congress and it is therefore critical to make sure that the city's leaders maintain good relations with her, yada, yada, yada. But that lame justification simply demonstrates how out-of-touch the mayor is with political realities. Mrs. Morella is the consummate politician and she understands these things. She would never, in a million years do anything to "retaliate" against the best interests of this city just because the mayor might carry out his political duties as any good politician would do. To paraphrase the Mob, it's nothing personal, it's just politics!

Ultimately, though, there is nothing that we can do to rectify this insensitivity to the voters, and, by itself, the flap is small potatoes. But it is symptomatic of larger failures; it's part of a pattern of not being tuned in to the need to be more than a technocrat mayor. No doubt we can be grateful that we have more competent and bright leadership at the top than we did in the past, but just because the mayor is better than what preceded him, does not mean that he should ignore these more subtle areas of political and human interaction and understanding.

The mayor may be safe in his job for a second term, but there are some terrific possibilities working their way up the ladder at this very moment who are likely to be serious challengers four years hence. We are watching them with eager anticipation because it is within that younger group where we see real promise for outstanding civic leadership in the not-too-distant future.