When New York's attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, isn't grandstanding against 80-year-olds like John Whitehead and Maurice Greenberg, he's out raising money for his gubernatorial campaign. We haven't spent much time at Mr. Spitzer's fund-raisers, but the attorney general's campaign Web site is highlighting an audio clip from one that had us shaking our head at Mr. Spitzer's audacity. "This campaign is about one thing - it's about restoring New York to the greatness that it once defined," Mr. Spitzer says on the audio clip. He refers to "The political movements that have begun here - the labor movement, the environmental movement, the women's rights movement, the civil rights movements, the anti-war movement, that is New York." There you have it, in a nutshell, every thing that's wrong with the modern Democratic Party, all in one Spitzerian sentence.
Start with the relentless pandering to special interest groups. We bow to no one in our admiration for the labor movement's role in the struggle against communism, but is the week that a union brought hundreds of millions of dollars in economic damage to the city by launching an illegal strike really the most appropriate moment for Mr. Spitzer to be singing the labor movement's praises?
Then there is the solipsistic distortion of history. We've got nothing but high regard for Theodore Roosevelt's role as an environmentalist, but to say the environmental movement began in New York ignores the roles of John Muir, who was a Californian, and Gifford Pinchot, who was a Pennsylvanian. Likewise for the civil rights movement - while New Yorkers played important roles in the heroic struggle for equal rights and desegregation, the movement began in Atlanta and Selma and Birmingham and Montgomery.
Then there is the reflexive anti-war sentiment. For Mr. Spitzer to praise New York as the birthplace of the anti-war movement - at a time when America is in the middle of a global war on Islamofascism in which our existence is at stake - is the worst kind of pandering to the hard-left moveon.org crowd.
Finally, consider the backward-looking tone and direction of Mr. Spitzer's message, which is symptomatic of a deeper sickness on the American left. He wants to restore New York to its old greatness. It is the left that has become the reactionary side in American politics. Mr. Spitzer's vision for the future is the past - the good old days of the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement and the women's movement. Never mind the pessimism - suggesting somehow that New York today is not great.
Governor Weld dropped by the offices of The New York Sun last week, and we have to say, the more one listens to him, the more he seems to have thought through these issues. We've a high regard for the other Republicans in the governor's race, especially John Faso and Randy Daniels, and we wouldn't want to underestimate Thos. Golisano. But Mr. Weld shows a serious command of the issues.
Ask about mass transit, and Mr. Weld mentions that while governor of Massachusetts, "we privatized bus lines." Some repair contracts were also put out to bid. Ask about term limits, which a poll by New Yorkers for Term Limits found 77% of New Yorkers favor, and Mr. Weld notes he is a former president of U.S. Term Limits. "I feel very strongly about term limits as a way to just stir up the pot," he says. Ask about school vouchers, and Mr. Weld says he support tuition tax credits and anything that will introduce choice and change and innovation that will challenge the traditional model. He speaks of Medicaid and pension costs as the two big enchiladas that need to be tackled in Albany, and of the advantages of a defined contribution pension program that would give public employees the power to make their own investment decisions and take their retirement funds with them if they change jobs. That would allow public employees to be part of the ownership society that is taking hold already with rising rates of homeownership in New York City.
We would love to find a Democrat who is forward-looking, optimistic, and engaged in the current debate, i.e., relevant. But it seems that every time Mr. Spitzer speaks it is class warfare of a kind that Fernando Ferrer just demonstrated goes nowhere. A governor's race between Mr. Spitzer and Mr. Weld could be one in which it is finally brought home to the public that it is the Republicans that have become the party of progress in this country, while it is the Democrats who want to turn back the clock.