For President In 2008 Race,
Look To Bret Schundler
Originally appeared in the New York Post on Monday, July 19, 1999
By William F. Buckley, Jr.
PERHAPS because of the
seeming eternity of Mr.
Clinton's reign, interest in
his successor focuses narrowly, whence the Bush,
McCain, Forbes, Buchanan, Alexander business. Still, every
now and again one hears the
question asked, "Is there anybody out there on the horizon
who is interesting for the day
after tomorrow?" That would
mean, let's say, the election of
2008. That assumes eight
years for the GOP; or any of
the other variables, including
four years GOP, four years
Democratic or even eight years
Attention is attracted (in the
case of this observer) to Bret
Schundler. He is the mayor of
Jersey City, which lies just
across the river from Manhattan. It is to New York City
what East St. Louis is to St.
Louis. Or rather, that is how it
looked when 10 years ago Bret
Schundler was elected mayor.
He is a young man (40) whose
beginning in politics was a fascination with the cause of Sen.
Gary Hart, then contending for
the presidency. What
Schundler decided, after close
observation of the politics of
the '80s, was that the effects intended by the Democratic contenders weren't being realized. His insight is interesting and plausible. It is that ideologically motivated politicians tend to get their satisfactions from the enactment of congenial
legislation and from the money spent on idealistic purposes, but not, really, from the results achieved.
That is pretty plain viewing to many observers who recall that the war on poverty was formally launched about $2 trillion ago without any apparent effect on poverty. So that the satisfaction got by those who enacted the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson was
less in alleviating poverty than in adopting measures designed to alleviate poverty.
Bret Schundler left home in New Jersey and did college work at Haifa University in Israel, then on to Harvard from which he got his degree. Sometime after his adventure with Sen. Hart, he went to Wall Street and succeeded. He looked for an opportunity to
try out his new political visions and lo! the Democratic mayor of Jersey City was carted off to jail, leaving a vacancy. Against the advice of all the pros, Schundler submitted his name and committed his personal resources to the campaign.
Jersey city had last seen a Republican mayor during World War I. It is a city with a preponderant vote among ethnic and racial minorities. More than 30 percent are black, about 30 percent Hispanic, about 10 percent Asian. Schundler won with the extraordinary
majority of 69 percent. The figure is emblematically interesting given that George W. Bush became an overnight presidential favorite after winning 69 percent of the
vote in Texas, with a considerably smaller minority vote about 43 percent) than Jersey city.
How on earth does a conservative Republican get over two-thirds of the vote in a city
two-thirds minority? Schundler s too modest to say that this is
a tribute to his own skills. He uses the old refrain, coined two generations ago by Harry Truman. He talked sense to the people.
Schundler is lyrical in his
argumentation. On the matter of schools, he declines to be diverted by ideological arguments or fanatical interpretations of the First Amendment.
What he says is simply that
nobody is going to stand in the
way of parents who desire to improve the education of their children. What about the leaders -- one gives Rep. Charles
Rangel as an example -- who are prominent black politicians and tough opponents of any government money going to private or parochial schools? His answer: The disputes are largely terminological. Money, could go directly to the student, as in the GI Bill.
Or it can be given as a tax credit to the parents. The opposition will crumble, up against genuine prospects for improved education. The backing. of Charles Rangel dissipates up against proved advantages to the children of his constituents.
What is especially refreshing about Schundler is his confidence in his own approach. Those who are battle-weary over decades of arguments about vouchers and taxes and welfare overloads are arrested by the directness of his approach. But how to discourage
somebody elected and then reelected by majorities hardly seen since the Bolsheviks stopped re-electing themselves all but unanimously?
Schundler reminds seasoned observers of the usefulness of pretty basic observations, such as that parents want the best for their children. Look for him in 2008.