Geraldo in 2001

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And yet, the derision of the opinionmaking classes aside, Geraldo's running for mayor might be one of the better things that could happen to our local political culture, a culture so stale and sclerotic?there are few creatures more temperamentally conservative than the traditional "New York liberal" who persists in defining local politics?as to make the zombie show currently passing for a presidential race appear an exercise in visionary statecraft. At least Gore and Bush have, to whatever effect, at points in their careers associated themselves with what they claimed were the innovating wings of their respective parties. With the possible exception of Herman Badillo, who's been known to think independently on occasion (particularly on education issues), and Bratton (who presents his own problems), the 2001 candidate pool is a convocation of familiar faces and tired political professionals. There's little good reason for, say, Hevesi or Vallone to be mayor, aside from that each has loitered long enough in the local Democratic Party, like the kid who hangs around the pool hall waiting to be singled out for errands by the presiding thug.

For those of us who tend to align ourselves politically with whatever phenomenon's likely to generate the greatest amount of creative dissonance, an independent Rivera candidacy sounds interesting. Rivera's meretricious, but in a flamboyant, honest way. To put it one way, he's honestly shameless. Rivera's a great character; he'd infuse entertainment value into New York's sere political landscape to an extent that hasn't been seen since the Koch era, and arguably since the Mailer/Breslin ticket of 1969. As a product of the Lower East Side, and a former Legal Aid attorney who worked closely with the Young Lords, he comes by his old-time Democratic politics more honestly and, just as importantly, more interestingly than do meritocrat professionals like, say, Mark Green. As for Rivera's unorthodox qualifications for candidacy, they're refreshing when set against the grim machine professionalism that's usually indicative of local politics. It would be fascinating to watch Rivera, a critic of Giuliani-era policing, take on possible Republican nominee and former police commissioner Bratton; even more fascinating to see him confront the Republican Badillo and Democrat Ferrer in a three-way Hispanic contest.

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