The first time I ever met Anthony Weiner was the Spring of 2005, when I was a sophomore at NYU and he was running for mayor. At that time, he was in fourth place, unknown citywide and running behind former Bronx BP Freddy Ferrer and two candidates who are already almost completely forgotten, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Manhattan BP Virginia Fields.
Weiner was going around the city, giving brief policy addresses that almost no press showed up to. That day he was at NYU Law to talk about the city’s budget process. I happened to ride the elevator beforehand with him and his then-communications director, Anson Kaye, which was immensely exciting for my 19-year-old political nerd self.
As the doors close, Weiner turns to me, without introducing himself. “Excuse me, I have a question for you,” he said. “If I were to use the phrase ‘like a Kabuki dance,’ would you know what I was talking about?”
"Sure!" I said, eager to show off. "With the masks and the…" and I made some whirling hand motions.
"See, Anson!" Weiner yells. "I told you they’d get it!"
Weiner goes in to do his presentation, and there’s maybe thirty people there. He opens with this: “Every year, the budget process between the city council and the mayor is like a Kabuki dance.” And he looks right at me. For the next seven years—until well after his resignation because of the sexting scandal—I was a big, big Weiner fan. I heard him use the Kabuki theatre line two other times. And what do we find in his tendentious piece in today’s Daily News?
"Although this is all Kabuki theatre, this quadrennial mating dance between the gubernatorial candidates and apparatchiks of the Independence Party, the WFP and the Conservatives, is treated as serious business."
Anthony Weiner might overuse this line, though it’s an occupational hazard of politicians to repeat themselves. But he’s also the most naturally gifted New York politician of his generation. He’s not a deep thinker, he’s just very good at politics. One thing he understood—the reason I loved him for so many years—is that you don’t talk down to the voters. My campaign slogan is “Bringing the Party back to Brooklyn,” and my recent consultants were quite insistent that it should instead be “BRINGING THE (democratic) PARTY BACK TO BKLYN.”
I’m just under a week into using my campaign brochure, and so far everyone seems to be getting my slogan just fine the way it is. (Like Kabuki theatre, there’s not that much to get!) As my friend said about the other slogan, “If you handed me that, you’re in effect saying you think I’m a complete idiot.”
Most of the time I have a disagreement with someone else who works in politics about strategy, it comes down to them saying something like, “You’re not wrong, but if you do this it could be misinterpreted.” I think the public is smart enough to figure me out.
I’m very comfortable staking my political career on the notion that voters are not the complete idiots many politicians treat them as. I pledge to run a bullshit-free campaign. Please call me on it if I slip.