On the face of it, the notion seems so implausible. Someone who just won the popular vote for President, a former secretary of state, United States senator and first lady wants to run for municipal office? There was a movie in 2004—Welcome to Mooseport—about a former President running for Mayor in his hometown in Maine. It didn’t do very well.
But when you dig a little deeper, the idea starts to make sense. Here’s why:
- It’s not exactly “municipal” office. New York City (including the suburbs) has a GDP of $1.33 trillion. If we were our own country, it’d make us 13th in the world.
- We’re the global capital of finance, media, fashion, publishing, diplomacy (it’s easy to forget it when you’re not stuck in traffic, but the UN is still here), art, theater, and so on. Having a global figure run it makes sense (in fact, we recently had a global figure in Mike Bloomberg, whose offices, philanthropy and tv stations span the world).
- And yet, what makes city government so much fun is its immediacy. You see the impact of your work every day, in plain sight. If you do well, there’s nothing more gratifying. If you fail, it’s painfully obvious.
- The job plays to her greatest strengths: competence and hard work. Hillary faced a challenging primary because some Democrats felt she wasn’t ideological enough. The whole point of municipal government is its focus on operations and results, not politics and ideology. As Fiorello LaGuardia said, “there’s no Democratic or Republican way of cleaning the streets.”
- The Mayor of New York City sets global policy. When Mike Bloomberg enacted a smoking ban, the entire world followed. New York City mayors have led the way on guns, immigration, climate change, and so many other issues. And the City Council isn’t exactly Congress. If you wake up with a new idea, you can enact it before lunch.
- Beyond all of the enjoyable ways to imagine exacting revenge on Trump, Putin, Weiner and so on, being mayor is fun. While our current mayor doesn’t seem to relish the job, ask Bloomberg, ask Giuliani, you could probably stand over Koch’s grave, ask him and you’d get an answer. No, it’s not the same as being President but life isn’t a zero sum game.
- Finally, the choice she faces isn’t “President or Mayor.” President didn’t work out. It was unfortunate, unfair, unusual. But it’s not the choice at hand. Is President a bigger, better job than Mayor? Sure. Is Mayor of the greatest city in the world better than giving speeches, writing books and sitting on boards? Unquestionably. She can do a lot more good and help a lot more people by directly running something than by being an advocate from the sidelines.
We need a much better Mayor. Almost every New Yorker will tell you that. And while Hillary doesn’t need us, she’d be really good at the job and she’d really enjoy it. Hopefully that’s enough.