(Antony and Cleopatra, act 1, sc. 2)
Comment. I am referring to the political persona, not to the human being. The death of Ed Koch, three times mayor of New York has brought in the usual flood of tributes from the establishment and the representatives of the 1%.
As equally usual, Koch has been called a “historic” figure, responsible for the “rebirth” and “rescue” of New York. That he was a prominent figure is beyond question. As for New York, he rescued it just about the same way that Reagan “rescued” the US.
Koch’s tenure in New York coincided with the so-called Reagan era. The grade-B actor and the “liberal” turned reactionary were supposedly speaking for the middle class. Action shows they both worked for the ruling establishment to spearhead the counter-revolution aimed at weakening the poorest and most vulnerable section of the community and at dismantling the social reforms.
For the 1% New York has indeed been “rescued”, hence the superlatives and the tributes. It’s no wonder that Rupert Murdoch called Koch “a liberal mugged by reality”, a phrase coined by I. Kristol a former radical conveniently turned one of the most right-winged amongst the right wing, loudly supporting, from amenable media, imperialism at its worst, including the Iraq war.
Just like Koch, a democrat who supported the Republicans, one more evidence (for the mentally blind) that there is no difference whatsoever between the two parties.
Koch appealed to the more political backward sections of the middle class – easily convinced that the social problems begun in the 1970s were NOT due to the crisis of the profit system. It was all the fault of of “lazy” welfare recipients, “overpaid” city employees, the unemployed and the young.
Known for his unabashed narcissism, Koch was described as more interested in his appearances in the press and on television than in the details of city government. Corruption scandals that erupted in Koch’s last years badly dented Koch’s public image. When he ran in the Democratic primary in 1989 for a fourth term, he was defeated.
In 2004, Koch—nominally still a Democrat—endorsed George W. Bush for re-election and even spoke at the Republican National Convention (see above).
Koch found life after his years in office to be quite rewarding. He secured a cushy sinecure with a major law firm, and kept busy with such ventures as writing movie reviews, public appearances at $20,000 each, turning out murder mysteries, and becoming a judge on the tabloid television show “The People’s Court.” While continuing to live in a comfortable rental apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village, he became a millionaire many times over.
Koch typified a shift to the right by the whole political establishment. The one percent needed demagogues like Koch as the crisis of the profit system not only made it impossible to provide reforms as in the past, but made it necessary to take those timid reforms back.