Mark Winston Griffith
Politicians Need Love Too
The neediest politician I ever met was Bill Clinton. Fourteen years ago, at his administration's announcement of the Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) fund in the Rose Garden, Clinton grabbed me and practically forced me to shake his hand because I was getting ready to walk off his long receiving line.
It so happens, at the time, Clinton was taking a beating in the press. I didn't particular like the guy, but he was the first president to recognize the importance of community development financial institutions. As an activist and journalist I got such a kick out of publicly punking politicians that I almost didn’t even notice that the leader of the free world actually needed me.
God knows, politicians have let me down more times than the Knicks in the playoffs. So it comes with some embarrassment for me to admit that sometimes politicians we don't care for should get our love anyway.
Take Corey Booker, the mayor of Newark. For weeks now the New York Times has been reporting on the self-cannibalization of Newark, a city in which Booker, a black Rhodes Scholar, has been derided as an uppity sellout and has been blamed for Newark's economic woes and crime almost from the moment he stepped into office. Even as the City suffers through the execution style shooting of four of Newark's brightest, many are acting as if Booker pulled the trigger himself, while hardly skipping a beat to organize a recall movement. Whatever Booker's transgressions have been, the guy at least deserves an opportunity to heal Newark; if there was ever a town that needed to stop undermining it's own political leadership, it's Newark.
Let's be honest, it bugs most of us when politicians we dislike or are on the other side of the political aisle actually do the right thing. Some New Yorkers have shown an amazing amount of political maturity in supporting Bloomberg when he has implemented progressive policies, relatively speaking.
At a time when the sitting president considers public criticism to be an act of treason, it's easy to be cynical about calls for political unity. Some politicians are simply not worthy of our trust. But hopelessly evil and ignorant figures aside, it takes a highly evolved form of citizen action, and perhaps a naïve belief in the larger good, to endorse and praise the actions of a political figure who you have habitually opposed.