For All Nails #25: All Politics is Local
by David Mix Barrington
Paul Markey was a nervous man. He was about to meet the most important client of his fledgling political consulting firm, Markey Research. And this client was not only the person who could make or break his career. She was the fabulous Miriam Levine, Mayor of Brooklyn City, de facto head of the New York provincial Peace and Justice Party, the most prominent woman (all right, the only prominent woman) in North American politics, and the constant featured subject of the dime papers. Recently, they said, she had broken off with the conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the latest in a series of high-profile lovers.
Still, Paul reflected, she was a politician, and he understood politicians. He could count votes with the best of them, and now with the GC-3 he could count them faster than the best of them. And for all that the PJP talked about a new model of politics, in Brooklyn City the old model was still going strong. Miriam Levine ran Brooklyn City. She controlled the government jobs, which gave her the money to run her campaigns, the organization to hit the streets (particularly to get her candidates on the ballot under New York's Byzantine petitioning rules), and the network of influence and bank of traded favors in the provincial and confederal legislatures. FN1 Her father had set up the network back in the Dewey years, and it now worked for her though the name on the ballot was "PJP" rather than "Liberal".
"Mr. Markey -- sorry to keep you waiting." The man who spoke was the owner of this fine house with its fine view of Long Island Sound. He was a distinguished legal scholar, had briefly been Mason's Solicitor General, was titular head of the provincial party that was Markey's current client, and had a title granted by the King himself. But Sir Benjamin Anthony might as well have not been in the room. The Mayor's face was familiar from vitavision, of course, but something about her in person ...
"Sir Benjamin, Your Honor, thank you for seeing me."
"Well, we have some decisions to make and we hope you can help." That voice, that welcoming smile. This was ridiculous, Paul thought. The Mayor was forty-eight and looked nothing like the centerfolds in his Mexican magazines or the coeds at Champlain. But that smile made him feel as though he finally had the attention of the prom queen ...
"Right. Well, we've done surveys and close analysis of prior returns for the entire CNA, with particular attention to New York province."
"What's your take on the national picture?"
"I agree with most of the other speculation you've heard. The absolute worst-case scenario for Monaghan is a gain of three seats FN2. My best guess is 89, could go as high as 94. Those seats are coming mostly from the Liberals -- you're going to gain here and in Manitoba but get wiped out everywhere else." He wondered briefly if the bluntness offended her, but she seemed to like it.
"But we're right on every issue -- why don't the people want us?"
"That's the big question, isn't it. My take is that the PJP's fundamental message is that the current government is scary. You're telling people to be scared that Monaghan will get us into an atomic war, to be scared that Tim Liddy has an overhearer in their bedroom, to be scared that the big combines will ruin the economy for the rest of us."
"And so?" Her eyes were so big! He was getting distracted ...
"The problem is that Monaghan is fundamentally not a scary man. We've done some surveys where you talk to the same people over time. When tension with the USM goes up they trust Monaghan to deal with it and his numbers go up. When tension goes down they give him the credit and his numbers go up. If we had direct voting for GG he'd win in almost every district, maybe even one or two of yours."
"You think so?"
"It's always speculative to map a survey question to a real ballot, but yes. Fortunately for you, Council races are local. Didn't your father say that all politics is local?" FN3 The local issues in Brooklyn City involved whether the city should sponsor offensive public art, or whether to register Sapphic partnerships. Sapphists were a tolerated curiosity in most of the CNA, but in Brooklyn they formed a significant voting bloc ...
"He did indeed. He could tell you little details about every neighborhood in Brooklyn -- I still remember as many of them as I can. On election night he'd get the first few wards worth of real votes and tell you everything that was happening everywhere in the city. Can you do that?"
"Probably not as well as he could, no, but fairly close. A lot of what he did was integrating information and recognizing patterns. My grandfather worked in the Beliveau machine in Montreal and told me a lot of stories. In the back of the smoked-meat shop where they watched the returns come in there was an old Chinaman FN4 with an abacus, working away with the numbers. Did your father have an old Chinaman with an abacus?"
"It was Uncle Yitzy, and he did most of it in his head, though sometimes he used one of those hand-crank tabulators. What's your point?"
"Up in Burlington I've got a really good abacus called a GC-3. When you throw the right information into it, guided of course by the instincts of good political people, you can spot new patterns. We're just starting to see the implications." Come to think of it, those same dime papers suggested that Her Honor was a secret Sapphist herself! Could that be, with all those lovers, and with those eyes? But according to the Mexican magazines you couldn't always tell, and according to that article last month they sometimes changed preferences ... Now he was really getting distracted. Time to pull out the pretty charts.
"Here, here's our projections for the whole CNA. And here's the same chart but all the districts are the same size."
"Hmm ... I like the first one better -- a lot more white FN5 on it."
"That's because these two ridings in Manitoba, which you're going to win, each have more land area than the whole N.C. On this chart they're shrunk down to the same size as your three seats in Brooklyn, which you can barely see on the first chart."
"That must have been a lot of work to make the second one."
"Actually that's the beauty of a calculator. It did all the arithmetic to decide how to shrink each district in a few minutes. Then it printed the chart itself. You know how a telecopier puts down each drop of ink so the new piece of paper in Brooklyn looks exactly like the old piece of paper in Burgoyne? Well, the instructions where to put each drop don't have to come from any real paper at all -- they can just be numbers that the calculator thought up itself."
"GC-3 ... That's General Computing in Burlington?"
"Right. Actually the color printing thing was worked out at Arthur Labs, but everyone's working together. That's why I located my firm in Burlington. The people who know how to work the GC-3 best are mostly students from Champlain, and people who have been with GC or Arthur. The company gives us a lot of help, too -- they're just itching for these color charts to become a regular thing in business presentations."
"I can imagine there's a lot of money to be made, and I wish you good luck. In the meantime, what about my Council races in the province?"
"Ah, yes. You asked me to work out the best conditions for electoral pacts with the PC and with the Liberals. First, there are seven of the twelve New York seats off the table."
"My three, Brady's three in New York City, and Ciepelski in Black Rock." FN6 The provincial organizations of the other two parties were also controlled by big city mayors. Monaghan's friend Anderson Brady liked to play the British aristocrat but ran his city as ruthlessly as Levine ran hers.
"Right. For the other five, with no deal you get Long Island, the PC gets Oneida, Mohawk, and Endicott, and Albany-Champlain's a toss-up FN7. I don't see much basis for a deal with the PC, unless you could convince them they have a shot at the western seat if you drop out there. But the Liberals are your spoilers in all three of the races where you're behind. I'd say offer them Endicott, where they should win if you drop out. Then you drop out in Black Rock, which doesn't mean anything, and ask them to give you Oneida, Mohawk, and Albany-Champlain."
"Suppose I don't want them to give me Albany-Champlain?" Oho, Paul thought. Vernor Dean FN8 was a maverick even in a maverick party, and you wouldn't think he'd be any special friend of the Mayor, but ...
"I suppose you could ask for them to drop out on Long Island instead. But that's going to be sort of an obvious snub, isn't it? And he still might win the seat."
"I think I can handle the likes of Vernor Dean, though it's nice of you to worry. So you think we can shut out the PC outside of New York City?"
"Depending on Dean, yes, if you don't set it up for him."
"And what do you think of the distinguished Chancellor Dean?"
"Frankly? He's a weasel. He was always on his high horse about the malign influence of government money in our calculation center and Arthur Labs, but he was always first in line to get his cut for his own private budget. And I have nothing against Mason, Your Honor, but Dean takes the anti-military thing a little too far. There are good people in our military, and in most places they're doing the right thing. Do you trust the Mexicans?"
"Well, my foreign policy is directed mostly at Manhattan and Anderson Brady. Mexico's a long way away, and I just think we're spending too much money on scaring them with troops and ships when we've already got the damned Bomb. But you're right, that's no reason to run against the troops themselves -- that's plain wrong and worse, it's bad politics. Enough about Dean. What's a nice Jewish boy like you doing carrying around a name like Markey?"
"Ah, ... it used to be Markievich -- my grandfather wanted to fit in with the boyos in East Montreal FN9, I guess. But how could you tell?"
"You think a Jewish woman doesn't know right away? Shul or Temple? FN10"
"Temple, since right after our family left Russia." He noticed that he was no longer particularly nervous at all. It seemed that talking shop with a charismatic woman was just talking shop, after all. He began to hope that he had secured a valuable client and, just maybe, even made a valuable friend ...
Forward to FAN #26 (30 November 1972): In Birmingham They Love the Guv'nor.
Return to For All Nails.