Several weeks ago, I was Tweeting at the Roosevelt Institute, supposedly one of the last hold-outs of progressive political values anywhere in New York State, the way that things are going. I even sent them an e-mail, or filled out the e-mail Web form, or something, I might have even left them a voice mail, but I moved on, because I can't even begin to think about how much outreach I have done to try to roll up my research for Roots of Betrayal : The Ethics of Christine Quinn into a larger narrative about the corruption of progressive politics sensibilities in New York City. Meanwhile, fast forward to today, and what do I happen to see on Huffington Post ? A fellow from the Roosevelt Institute writing a blatantly shallow, identity politics piece, advocating for Christine Quinn's campaign. I jammed my arms up into the air and asked God, "Why ? God, Why ?" We're talking about a City Council speaker, who unilaterally overturned term limits, which were adopted by voters twice through voter referenda. Voter referenda were one of the primary gains made during the turn of the last century during the Progressive Era. This gave voters a way to directly participate in a government that had, back then, become beholden to industrialists and was prone to corruption. Remember learning about meat packing scandals ? Remember learning about corporate trusts ? Remember learning about crack downs on union organising ? Sound familiar ???
One of the other important gains during the Progressive Era, one that we can all appreciate right here in New York City, was the passage by the state legislature of the Tenement House Act, which regulated the size and conditions of apartments. Prior to its enactment, slum lords were putting up apartment buildings that skimped on windows, livable space, and other necessities, like indoor toilets and fire escapes. In the last year, you might remember Mayor Bloomberg trying to give us poor folk a hard sell on trying to live in new micro apartments as small as 250 square feet ! Christine Quinn, a former advocate for affordable housing and tenents' rights, remained mum as Mayor Bloomberg violated the very essence of the Tenement House Act. I could go on and on about how Quinn has been undermining the progressive political advances we made during the turn of the last century. Eventually, according to the history books, progressive political sensibilities gave way to Roosevelt's New Deal, which gave way to LBJ's War on Poverty and his vision of a Great Society. Fast forward to today, during the last vestiges, we hope, of the Bloomberg-Quinn era, and you see what's left of our progressive heritage is now in tatters, and somehow Ellen Chesler, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, would have you believe that Christine Quinn deserves your vote, just because she's a woman. Ms. Chesler had the audacity to write, "Chris Quinn has been a powerful agent of progress and change." How do progressive political sensibilities get to the point that they are openly undermined by Bloomberg and Quinn today ? By the corruption of those last standard-bearers of this ideology.