Disgraceful Dinkins

DavidI owe David Dinkins a lot.

I was reminded of this debt the other day, when the New York Times ran an item headlined “Dinkins, in Book, Blames Racism for Re-election Loss.”

The story was, quite simply, this: Dinkins, who defeated Rudy Giuliani in the 1989 election for mayor of New York and was beaten by Giuliani four years later, is about to come out with a memoir in which he says the following about his 1993 defeat: “I think it was just racism, pure and simple.”

In other words, New York voters were apparently more racist in 1993 than in 1989.

As it happens, I was a New York City voter when Dinkins and Giuliani first faced off against each other. It was a time when the city was in desperate need of competent and courageous leadership. The streets were pigsties; crime levels were sky-high; prostitutes and drug merchants hawked their wares on midtown avenues without apparent fear of arrest. As George L. Kelling recalled many years later in City Journal, Bryant Park, directly behind in the New York Public Library, was “an open-air drug market” and Grand Central Terminal “a gigantic flophouse.” The garbage-filled, graffiti-covered subways had been all but taken over by gangs of thugs, causing ridership to plummet; for motorists, meanwhile, stopping for a light at certain intersections meant having your windshield assaulted by some hobo wielding a wet, filthy squeegee and demanding money. The Port Authority Bus Terminal, with its armies of beggars, pickpockets, addicts, and, for all one knew, zombies, was the ninth circle of hell, a gallery of modern urban ills at their worst. (Admittedly, it’s still not exactly heaven.) Indeed, the whole 42nd Street/Times Square area was one big cesspit of humanity, where you felt you could catch a deadly disease just walking down the sidewalk.

All this needed to be fixed, and pronto. But who was up to the task? Objectively, there was no contest.

Dinkins was a drab cog in New York’s Democratic Party machine; Giuliani was a spectacularly successful federal and state prosecutor whose heroic indictment and prosecution of the heads of New York’s five Mafia families had helped break the back of organized crime in America.

Plainly, Giuliani was the man for the job. Yet from the get-go, the media were in the tank for Dinkins. Giuliani had put high-level mobsters, inside traders, and corrupt politicians behind bars, but the media relentlessly painted him as a meanspirited, hotheaded fascist (yes, that’s the word many of them used – fascist) while depicting Dinkins (who, if elected, would become the Big Apple’s first black mayor) as a walking promise of social harmony and a mild-mannered, dignified symbol of what he himself called the city’s “gorgeous mosaic.”

It wasn’t as if I wholeheartedly trusted the media. As someone who’d been writing for almost a decade about left-wing cultural politics, I had what I thought was a very healthy cynicism about the media. But I had no clue just how actively, consummately perfidious they could be – how thoroughly prepared, in the case of (for example) a hotly contested electoral campaign, to suppress facts that might sink their candidate and to publish lies designed to crush his opponent. When virtually all of the news media at my disposal fervently agreed that Giuliani was a fascist, or at best a near-fascist or proto-fascist, it worked: I, who had not made a close study of his career, took their word for it and voted for Dinkins.

Dinkins won. And he proved nothing less than disastrous. Instead of tamping down the city’s racial divisions, he seemed to manage, with virtually everything he did and said, to intensify them. (Sound familiar?) As Steven Malanga has written, Dinkins “wholly embraced the War on Poverty’s core belief that the problems of the urban poor sprang from vast external forces over which neither they nor the politicians had much control….Accordingly, Dinkins wanted to turn the police into social workers. His police commissioner, Lee Brown, believed that cops should stop reacting to crime and become neighborhood ‘problem solvers.’” It was under Dinkins, Malanga recalls, that “the police let blacks terrorize Orthodox Jews for several days” in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. With Dinkins in charge, the worst elements of the black community felt untouchable.

On Dinkins’s watch, welfare outlays soared – as did crime. By the end of his term, his name had become a byword for utter incompetence and ineffectuality. Things were so bad, and Dinkins was so obviously in over his head, that I – like tens of thousands of others – snapped out of my media-induced disaffection for Giuliani and eagerly pulled the lever for him in 1993.

He won. And he saved New York.

This feat is the stuff of legend. His “zero tolerance” approach – which, to quote Malanga again, “cracked down on quality-of-life offenses like panhandling and public urination (in a city where some streets reeked of urine), in order to restore a sense of civic order that he believed would discourage larger crimes” – earned the wrath and condescension of professional do-gooders and the media, who accused him of being heartless, brutal, and racist. Ever since, stalwart members of that faction have dismissed or disparaged Giuliani’s achievement or attributed New York’s miraculous revival to other factors. But the great majority of New Yorkers saw the change happen with their own eyes and knew very well what had made it happen. Giuliani’s policies dramatically altered their everday lives. Rarely has a local politician made such a huge positive difference so quickly for so many.

No, it wasn’t racism that lost Dinkins the 1993 election. It was realism. He won in 1989 mainly because the media, thrilled by the prospect of a Great Society-style administration helmed by a black guy, painted Giuliani as a Mussolini in the making. Four years later, Dinkins went down to defeat for one reason: New York, under his governance, was very clearly headed south, and fast. If New Yorkers owe Dinkins anything, they owe him thanks for opening their eyes to the fact that without a massive policy turnaround, New York could easily become another Newark or Detroit.

And I, too, owe the man a debt of gratitude. He woke me up, once and for all, to the unmitigated perfidy of which even the most “trusted” big media are capable; he made me realize that even if every major news organ in the country labeled somebody a racist or fascist or anything of the kind, I was duty-bound to look into the facts myself.

Fascist, indeed! I would never fall for that one again. For that, then, Mr. Dinkins, muchas gracias.

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  • UCSPanther

    Let’s see: A mayor who tricks people the first time around with his charisma while getting a free pass from the media and defeats a competent contender, then screws up royally and gets defeated by said competent contender the second time around.

    “Dat’s Waycist!”

    Nothing like reality to spoil the progressives’ fantasy….

    • Supa Brutha


      • OfficialPro

        yes we all appreciate having spelling corrected, but the guy was evoking the voice of Emmanuel “Webster” Lewis.

  • OfficialPro

    There’s a holdup in the Bronx
    Brooklyn’s broken out in fights
    There’s a traffic jam in Harlem
    that’s backed up to Jackson Heights
    There’s a Scout troop short a child
    Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild!
    General David Dinkins, where aaaaaaaaaaaaaare youuuuuuuuuu?

  • Seek

    As someone who had his car in Manhattan broken into twice in 1988 — in a single evening! — I lived this as well. I was from out of town, but if I could, I would have personally put Giuliani in the mayor’s office. Thanks for an informative and right-headed article.

  • handsomedan


  • m4253y

    racism, yes, that is the stuff apparently the cape town and Detroit are made….stupid, fat, lazy, money-grubbing thieves of colour who rode the horse into the dirt on the way to the bank

    • OfficialPro

      Affirmative Action has removed any semblance of Merit in any sort of employment hiring standards. This now also applies to Elections, as people will now elect people utterly and provably unqualified for DOG CATCHER, which has given those who benefit from AA a huge sense of entitlement. Dinkins doubtless thought he was ENTITLED to be Mayor, because 1) he’s black, 2) he’s the black candidate, and 3) the job should AUTOMATICALLY go to a black man, in his mind.

      • Supa Brutha

        Blacks have a higher average IQ than whites, which is a proven fact and is taught in every Black Studies program in this country.

        • Rufus Malik Panther

          Preach it ma 85 IQ Brutha!

        • OfficialPro

          Blacks have a higher consumption rate of Grape Drank which lowers academic performance.

          Black Studies courses are fraudulent, invented by Marxist White Jewish Devils [/sarcasm about the white jewish devils thing, but it’s a fact, a white ‘Jew’ invented this crap you believe so whole heartedly]

          • aquataine

            Officious, you claim is also invalid! Judaism is a faith not a race and I enjoyed growing-up in a Jewish/white working class area.

          • biilyjoe

            That’s exactly correct (I don’t think it was a white Jew—more likely” multi-cultural affirmative action” liberal communists of both colors) ; read what happened last year to those supposed “studies” classes at Univ of North Carolina—African professor being prosecuted (black secretary had to resign/retire ) because he used taxpayers money for afro-am courses—no meetings or classes just write a paper, paper never gets marked , automatic B or A grades given. There was a rush to get into that program ! guess what, it’s been going on at almost every university in our country since the 1970’s or a little sooner.

        • aquataine

          Suzerain not, your fallacious claim cannot be supported.

        • Katherine McChesney

          Actually black have an average IQ of 85.

        • biilyjoe

          try reading white studies programs (western civilization) ; you might get the real truth.

      • m4253y

        Spot on!!!

    • biilyjoe

      and they’re still doing it big time. Cut the handouts and stop stealing and wasting middle class taxpayers money , democraps !!!!

  • herb benty

    I’m from Canada, watched “In Memorium”(narrated by R.G.) and I’ve admired him ever since. What is written in the article reinforces my attitude. Doesn’t the above story show All that the Right is way better than the Left?

  • quousque

    The city of 8 million people was falling apart, but on the cover of Daily News he looked so cool in his white tennis outfits.

    • JDinSTL

      Can you imagine anyone actually buying his book?

  • Ellman48

    “The story was, quite simply, this: Dinkins, who defeated Rudy Giuliani
    in the 1989 election for mayor of New York and was beaten by Giuliani
    four years later, is about to come out with a memoir in which he says
    the following about his 1993 defeat: “I think it was just racism, pure
    and simple.”

    Consider how much time and effort went into analyzing why John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 lost to Obama in the Presidential Elections. It was conservatives who were trying to figure out how Obama could have been re-elected with perhaps the most dismal record of any President in our history.

    But the Progressive Left always has a very simple explanation when it loses an election, especially when their candidate is black: it was racism, pure and simple.

    • OfficialPro

      Leftists have always been about Intentions over Results. Results don’t matter, because they have gooooooooooooooooooood intentions!

  • http://libertyandculture.blogspot.com/ Jason P

    When Dinkins was mayor I would occasionally watch his press conferences on the city’s tv station, wnyc. When ever he disliked a tough question, which was often, he say to the reporter “you wouldn’t ask that question if I was a white mayor.” The press, even in NYC, was better in those days and they’d persist only to be accused of racism again and again.

  • James

    NYC got lucky and dodged the Dinkins bullet. Had it not, he would have become another Coleman Young, the long-term black mayor of Detroit who drove that once great city right into the gutter. Unfortunately for Detroit, the smart people just left the city and took their votes with them, leaving Coleman and his voters to wallow in the mire they themselves created.

    • biilyjoe

      Left the city ?—they took their children (ones who had them in public schools fled first if they could afford to), sold their homes at great losses, and FLED for their lives —as they did in every major northern city in the 1950’s, ’60’s , and 70’s. Let’s be real.

  • Christopher Riddle

    This bunch doesn’t get their way?That’s called”RACISM”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • CrazyA$$Cracka

    Blacks and liberals are like little children: they start calling names (e.g., “racist,” “bigot,” “homophobe”) when they’re outmaneuvered.

    • Supa Brutha

      Says the lily white racist.

      • DJC_46

        It is lily-white, supadumbazz.

      • OfficialPro

        it is fact that once black communist/socialist/democrat people gain positions of power, they feel ENTITLED to keeping it whether they are qualified or not, whether they deserve it or not. Entitlement Mentality is a bad thing. Mayor Dinkins thought he was ENTITLED to be mayor a second term, which is why he cried ‘racism’ when he wasn’t re-elected.

        It’s not racism to vote out an incompetent, irrelevant, immaterial piece of s***. Whatever color they are, failure should NOT be rewarded. That’s how cities (like Detroit) turn to sh**!

  • Softly Bob

    Right and Left? Right is called ‘right’ for a reason, because it’s right. Perhaps we should use some of the Liberal and Marxist wisdom, take a leaf out of their book, and start re-defining things and renaming things.
    I propose that we start using the terms right-wing and wrong-wing!

  • glennd1

    I worked in NYC for the entire time of both their Mayorships and the difference was simply astonishing. Dinkins and his crowd claimed crime and violence and the thug culture that was all too common on the streets was unstoppable. Giuliani simply said, why not enforce the law?

    My breaking point came during the second Rodney King verdict. People in midtown were so scared most of the offices closed up early and people went home. After Crown Heights, we knew Dinkins wouldn’t protect us. Me being a stubborn Irishman, I refused to capitulate, worked my full day, went to my favorite pub for an after work beer and went home. But I was so angry that day. The fact that I knew Dinkins wouldn’t protect us and that midtown Manhattan could just shut down out of fear, well I knew something was wrong.

    Within a few years of Giuliani, the streets were substantially different. The lowlifes and miscreants were much less aggressive, it was as though they knew that if they acted up they would be dealt with. The transformation was nothing short of miraculous.

    The worst part? All the liberal idiots who were proved wrong and benefited tremendously from Giuliani’s efforts now talk about his time as mayor as a time of tremendous repression and abuse. What a bunch of frauds.

    • Supa Brutha

      Crawl back into your cave, white devil. You are a racist.

      • OfficialPro

        ROFLMAO! All you got when Glenn presents you with FACTS, is simply name calling? That means you got NOTHING except your empty head full of non-facts and race baiting.

      • acidulous

        “White devil”? That sure sounds RAAAACISSSS to me. Turn off the spigot, bigot.

      • glennd1

        This guy isn’t real, it’s a sock account to generate traffic. Probably by someone on FP’s end somehow.

    • biilyjoe

      Frauds = communist, muslim, America haters.

  • popseal

    If the general public ever looked up from its collective smart phone, they’d be embarrassed at their stupidity. Like New Orleans, New York now seems bent on electing baffoons for mayor.

    • Supa Brutha

      It’s spelled “buffoon”, low IQ white devil.

      • OfficialPro

        that’s the french spelling, ignoramus.

  • Jeff Ludwig

    Mr. Bawer is so right. Guiliani reversed a downward spiral that had begun with Lindsay and continued through Koch and Dinkins. We also need to thank Tom Gunn and Richard Ravitch who did so much to restore the MTA. Guiliani stopped the crime wave that had gripped NYC for decades. He snubbed Yassir Arafat. How great that was! Even Guiliani however did not succeed in reining in the School Construction Authority which continues to be a corrupt organization. Highway construction is also corrupt in my opinion. Dinkins was ineffectual. Race plain and simple? Sorry Mr. Dinkins — race may have played a part in some voters’ minds but the rest of us wanted some REAL CHANGES.

  • Nemesister

    Every day is spit-on-a-progressive-journalist day.

  • acidulous

    I always said Obama is the Id of Dinkins.