The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

January 20, 2019

FEATURE ARTICLES
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The Regionalist: Stormin’ Norman, Decentralist
Bill Kauffman - 10/20/08

Out of the hard work of self-governance would come cultural renewal. “I am running on everything from Black Power to Irish Self-Righteousness,” he told an Irish Club in Park Slope. (His published speeches, with such interlarded remarks as “Shut up and f—- you! Let me talk” will never be confused with those of Hillary Clinton or the Bush dynasty.) The possibilities for true diversity were dizzying: Mailer suggested that Harlem might declare a holiday for Malcolm X, while Staten Island honored John Birch. One neighborhood might require church attendance, while another mandated serial sex. As he told an audience at Union Theological Seminary in a precocious rebuke to political correctness, “People are healthier if they live out their prejudices rather than suppressing them in uniformity.”

“I’m running against urban renewal!” he exclaimed, which is to say he was on the side of beauty, poetry, sentiment, history, and, in a city which destroys everything it does not commodify, losers. His secondary planks—for instance, the Flaherty-inspired call for a world series of stickball to be played in the Wall Street area—shone with a luster that the John Lindsays and Times editorialists could not even appreciate, let alone mimic. Even his running mate didn’t get it: after a chaotic Village Gate rally, Jimmy Breslin said, “I found out I was running with Ezra Pound.” Since decentralism is the diametrical opposite of fascism—a centralized state and economy—Breslin’s Mailer-Pound comparison is on the order of linking Paris Hilton and Stephen Hawking. Hey, their surnames both begin with h, don’t they?

The election hadn’t a happy ending, but then what election does? Mailer won 5 percent of the Democratic primary vote, or about six times less than the winner, machine politico Mario A. Procaccino, who would go on to lose to Liberal incumbent John Lindsay. But je me souviens, Norman, je me souviens. Free Brooklyn!

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