Buzzfeed Brews interviewyesterday was revealing, and not just because Buzzfeed Editor Ben Smith asked him why he didn’t use Snapchat to send pictures of his penis.
The interview further demonstrated Weiner’s lack of impulse control: He rages against anyone who stands in his way, whether that’s in his political interest or not.
To the untrained eye, this can make Weiner look like a populist. But populists hate the establishment because it mistreats the masses. Weiner just hates the establishment because it mistreats him.
Take a look at who Weiner complained about yesterday and why. He went hard after The New York Times, repeatedly calling their coverage “lazy.” He says they’re biased against him because he’s not focused enough on trying to win their endorsement.
He criticised the city’s Democratic party establishment, saying they haven’t won a mayoral race in 24 years because “we didn’t deserve to win” and have been too beholden to liberal constituency groups, including public employee unions.
He even complained that Nancy Pelosi helped to doom his congressional career by trying to “drag” him in front of the House Ethics Committee over sexting.
All of these are weird complaints to lodge when you are trying to win a Democratic primary. Of course, the real problem with all these entities isn’t that they’ve been bad for New York City but that they’ve been bad for Weiner.
And he really went after Mayor Mike Bloomberg, which isn’t surprising in a Democratic primary. What is surprising is his single-minded focus on the term limits issue. He even said he might not be able to support Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D) in a general election because of her support for the change that allowed Bloomberg to serve a third term.
Of course, supporting term limits is a winner with Democratic voters. But for most New York City Democrats, it’s just part of a broader set of complaints about Bloomberg, along with stop and frisk and a perception that he has been overly focused on the interests of Wall Street and already-wealthy New Yorkers.
For Weiner, the term limits issue is personal. He was the runner-up in the 2005 Democratic primary for mayor and a likely Democratic nominee in 2009. If Bloomberg hadn’t gotten his third term, Weiner might well have been elected mayor in 2009.
Weiner hates Bloomberg for one reason: Bloomberg is the mayor and therefore Weiner is not the mayor.
The funny thing about Weiner’s pique at Bloomberg is that his policy agenda is a pretty good fit for Bloomberg fans. Weiner, uniquely in the Democratic field, talks extensively about the need to reform public employee benefits to control costs and make the city’s budget sustainable. Like Bloomberg, he talks about his independence from unions and other interest groups as an asset that will let him put the city’s residents first.
Weiner’s policy agenda is reasonably friendly to real estate development, as Bloomberg’s has been. He’s favourable toward charter schools. He even took a measured line on stop and frisk, later saying he would appeal the part of Monday’s federal court ruling that imposes a federal monitor on the NYPD.
And when Smith teed up an opportunity for Weiner to take a swing at the Wall Street and real estate interests that back Bloomberg and have largely lined up with Quinn or Republican candidates, he took a pass. That’s probably because, unlike the unions and the Times and the Democratic party establishment, these groups have been more likely to ignore Weiner than to attack him.
If Weiner could set his personal pique at Bloomberg aside, he could have positioned himself as the heir to the mayor’s centrist political legacy. But his personality doesn’t allow him to do so. He’s too focused on hating anyone who stands in the way of his ambitions.
A single-minded focus on your own ambition is likely to imbue you with hate for the establishment. But it doesn’t make you a populist, which is why Weiner hasn’t connected with the people.
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