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These Little Town Blues

These Little Town Blues

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

As of this writing, the race for Nassau County executive is too close to call.

But seriously, who really cares? All the action is in New York City, where I spent an even four decades of my life, and where, for the first time since 1985, I was not able to cast a vote for mayor yesterday.

I’ve previously detailed my adjustment to small-town life, but this is the first citywide election since my ambivalent exile from the five boroughs (I can still hear Marty Markowitz say fuhgetaboutit). Working in Manhattan, I still have a strong interest in the city’s politics and fiscal condition (commuter tax, anyone?), so It felt strange to watch Election Day go by without having a say in the outcome.

Some argue that journalists should never vote in the elections they cover to avoid being partisan. “When you’re assigned to a candidate for senator or governor, oftentimes you ride in their van,” writes Mike Allen in the Politico. “When they’re tired, you’re tired. When you’re hungry, they’re hungry. When they’re sick, you’re sick. I just wouldn’t feel right about hanging out with — and writing about — a candidate after rendering a secret thumbs-up or thumbs-down.”

But that sounds more like a social consideration than an ethical one. The fact is that journalists, as necessarily analytical people, will inevitably form an opinion about which candidate is better for the job, even if they keep it to themselves, and whether or not they express that preference in the voting booth. So who is really served by abdicating that right? There is a bigger problem with journalists who hang out too much with candidates and their staffs getting too cozy and eventually losing the desire to ask tough questions. But that’s another story.

I had my opinion about who was the better choice in this election, but in the end the only outcome I really prayed for was that the victor would be readily apparent in time for our new Tuesday night deadline. In the end, it was nearly 11 p.m. when we felt comfortable that the Bloomberg wins story would hold up and we wouldn’t end up with a reprise of Dewey Defeats Truman.

Having now covered five New York elections for The Jewish Week, I can say that this was the least exciting of them. While Mike Bloomberg has created some Jewish controversy in the past with his political alliances and appointments, in the end the referendum on his tenure came down to the question of whether it was nice to use his power to extend term limits. While still more exciting than Nassau County politics, that’s a relatively boring campaign issue.

And given how raucous and divisive some of those other New York issues tend to be, there is something nice to be said about that.

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