As political rebels, Spitzer and Weiner are highly imperfect vehicles; they’re both still Democrats, running in the Democratic primary, after spending most of their adult lives running for or occupying public office. But both will claim that their sins have set them free to be better, less encumbered politicians, even if they’re not necessarily better people. Perhaps scandal fatigue sets in and the escalating circus atmosphere eventually sends voters running to the most anodyne or adult figure in the field (ladies and gentleman, please welcome Mayor William C. Thompson Jr.!). Or maybe the might of institutional insiders will be magnified and labor-union get-out-the-vote field operations will prove decisive and Stringer will glide into a promotion after all. Yet Bloomberg, and Rudy Giuliani before him, have changed the way people think about city politics: New York is more Democratic in registration than ever before, but for twenty years straight, we’ve elected the candidate who appeared least beholden to entrenched political interests, no matter which party the candidate happened to be registered in at the moment. When Eliot Spitzer finally left Union Square earlier this week, he did it by himself, in a yellow cab. This might be the year voters want a comptroller, and a mayor, who is gutsy and crazy enough to go it alone.
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