In his broadside against MoveOn.org, Rudy Giuliani calls himself the "worst nightmare" of MoveOn liberals. But he wasn't always as aggressive with progressives. In fact, he ran, thrice, as a Liberal. A Republican-Liberal. Two parties, two ballot lines. Picture it, New York 1, 1993...
"They can send me a signal and vote for me on the liberal line."
That line, from Giuliani in 1993, can easily be twisted into a negative ad today.
Critics have made the point before, and it's true that the Liberal Party in New York City was not a "liberal" party per se. It was born out of frustration with corrupt and fallow Republican and Democratic parties in the 1940s, back when "liberal" meant what "classical liberal" means today. Fiorello H. La Guardia and FDR are among its more famous endorsees.
But until it nearly died in 2002, the party platform was fairly indistinguishable from the Democratic Party's platform: pro-choice; anti-death penalty; pro-universal health care; anti-school vouchers. In its later years, the party was accused of becoming a patronage mill. To some, its endorsement of Republicans like Giuliani and Al D'Amato reflected the personal prerogatives of chairman Ray Harding more than it did any particular political sentiment. Conservatives found that the name of the party confused voters, especially since, as Harding himself would say, it was not a party of liberals. (As a counterweight, actual liberals started their own third party, the "Working Families Party.")
One long-time Rudy watcher told me: "Rudy ran as a Lib-Rep because "Republican" is a bad word in New York, and it gave Democrats a chance to vote for him." The New York Times characterized Giuliani's 1993 appeal as a "non-ideological fusion" candidate. By choosing Giuliani, Harding and his Liberal Party were rewarded.
For the last eight years, the influence of the New York Liberal Party and its leader, Raymond B. Harding -- which is considerable -- has been almost entirely a function of its friend in City Hall, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Mr. Harding helped the Republican mayor win election in a Democratic city by awarding him the Liberal Party line in 1993 and 1997. And Mr. Harding has reaped his reward in access, influence and patronage jobs for family (both sons work for City Hall) and friends alike.
Giuliani advisers are quick to point out that Giuliani, in fact, was so conservative that New York's capital-C Conservative Party did not challenge his re-election in 1997.
But try explaining all of the above in 30 seconds.
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