The Truth Is, Anthony Weiner Never Left You

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 14 2011 10:59 AM

The Truth Is, Anthony Weiner Never Left You

Michael Daly spent election day with Anthony Weiner, who remains one of the great quotable cads of modern politics.

He noted that the tables were bereft of what was long an Election Day tradition. “They didn’t bring you cookies?” he asked. “Politicians today, they just mail it in.” He recalled aloud the politicians of earlier times, who pile polling-place tables with treats. He noted that the practice had ended when authorities outlawed the little “Compliments of …” notes. “What’s the point?” he said.

Spatz took the opportunity to ask a question that had long pestered her: how could his mother have given a nice Jewish boy an Italian name like Anthony?

“Frances Finkelstein is a lot of things,” Weiner said. “Italian she’s not.” He explained that he had a great aunt named Anna who was from England, the land of the likes of Anthony Hopkins. He added that the name had proven to be an advantage when he campaigned among the Italians of Howard Beach. “Suddenly, Tony is not such a bad thing,” Weiner said. “I thought, I finally made it. I’m an actual cross-cultural candidate!”

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So far, Democrats are realizing that the "Weprin was a bad candidate" spin isn't going to get people to forget the election. The real story might be that Weiner was an unusually good candidate, as his predecessor, Chuck Schumer, was an unusually good candidate. Weiner took office in 1998, when the working class whites and Orthodox Jews in the district were Democrats by default. He held on to the seat even as it swung radically towards the post-9/11, George W. Bush-led Republican Party. Part of the reason was that he assiduously courted the Orthodox groups he needed; a larger part of the reason was that he found ways to prove that he would out-zionism any S.O.B. who dared him. Remember the furor over Dubai Ports? Remember the "Ground Zero Mosque"? Weiner was on the "ight sides of those issues for these voters.

David Weprin was on the right sides of the issues, too, so why didn't he win? There are plenty of reasons why, and some of them will fade if Barack Obama's popularity recovers, but NY-9 might be more like one of those Yellow Dog Democrat districts in the Deep South than it is like, say, Rep. Steve Israel's district. There are registered Democrats here who have given up on the party but not yet become Republicans.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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