Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former MTA chief Joseph Lhota are now the two major candidates for mayor of New York City. Democratic runner-up Bill Thompson conceded on Monday in favor of party unity (and with New York Governor Cuomo's "blessing"). Third runner-up Christine Quinn followed suit on Tuesday, standing with full smiles beside de Blasio and Thompson on the steps of City Hall.
But it's impossible to think that a candidate who was criticized so severely by opponents on his inability to lead could be supported by those same opponents a few months later, all under the guise of party unity. Is it really worth sacrificing a campaign platform and political ideals to promote a false sense of solidarity?
After all, it was Christine Quinn who said in early September that de Blasio would "say anything depending on whose votes he's trying to get." Also she doubted his ability to raise taxes to pay for a universal pre-kindergarten.
It was Bill Thompson who said, "This election is about credibility. Why should the people … believe you, Bill?" All that has apparently changed now. "I am proud to … throw my full support behind [de Blasio] and I ask every single person who campaigned for me, supported me and voted for me, to do the same thing," Thompson said after conceding.
"I trust Bill de Blasio," Quinn said on Tuesday. "I think he'll be a terrific mayor, and I urge all New Yorkers to make sure they not only vote for him in November, but they work for him between now and November to make sure he gets elected."
Do these former candidates think voters are really dumb enough to fall for this?
It's not rare for politicians on the same side to disagree. Political discourse may be rife with talk of "unifying the Republican message" or "getting the Democratic political house in order," but people are allowed to have differing opinions on tackling federal debt, minimum wage laws, welfare programs, or the Middle East. These issues are complex and cannot be solved with one homogeneous solution backed by every member of a political party. Nuanced opinions give moderate voters a better chance to vote for someone actually believe in and not someone who will just give in to party rhetoric.
So when mayoral candidate Bill Thompson comes out and says, "There's nothing more beautiful than Democratic unity," we must think twice about the legitimacy of his words and the legitimacy of de Blasio's candidacy. If Thompson didn't consider de Blasio credible just a few weeks ago, how can we?
In an ideal world, candidates like Thompson and Quinn would have just come out and said, "Listen New Yorkers, I don't think you made the right choice choosing that guy, even though he's a Democrat. I have much better ideas on how to move our city forward but unfortunately, that's not what you voted for."
Then again, if politicians could actually speak the truth, Newark Mayor Cory Booker wouldn't have come under fire last year for calling President Obama's campaigning tactics "nauseating" on NBC's Meet the Press. He did, however, regretfully release a video clarifying his support for Obama.
More importantly, political parties would see a hit to their finances and contributions should the party take an every-man-for-himself stance instead of unifying under one message. It is for this reason that endorsements by losing candidates are a customary practice in politics, and is even looked down upon when it doesn't happen. In the end, the party banner is stronger than the individual opinion.
But we live in a state of political polarization where decisions can't be made because politicians refuse to reach across the aisle, and because politicians can only depend on the support of their own party members to see any chance of success. If we are to change that, it's time to cut the act and consider the idea that "Democratic unity" is really not the most beautiful thing of all.