New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was supposed to be next Democratic nominee to be mayor of the Big Apple. But she’s been tripped up on the road to inevitability. Once the front-runner in all the polls, Quinn has seen her support plummet.
Now, some of the reasons for this are big. As City Council speaker, Quinn was Mayor Bloomberg’s partner in governance for the last seven years. For voters eager for a break from the Bloomberg years, electing Quinn is tantamount to a fourth term for the billionaire mayor. And I have no doubt there is lingering rage over Quinn’s role in rolling back term limits that allowed Bloomberg to run for a third term. One more thing: the speakership is no place to launch from which to launch a mayoral campaign. Quinn’s two immediate predecessors tried it – and failed.
But is there something else more insidious at work? For some Quinn supporters there is a strong whiff of misogny in her travails. An aggressive male is lauded as a strong leader, no matter how abrasive he is.
Meanwhile, Quinn’s similar personality earned her this breathless characterization in the New York Times back in March. “But in private, friends and colleagues say, another Ms. Quinn can emerge: controlling, temperamental and surprisingly volatile, with a habit of hair-trigger eruptions of unchecked, face-to-face wrath.”
It goes on to say that “she is sensitive to slights.” Show me a politician who isn’t and I’ll show you the unicorn I keep out back. Quinn isn’t shy about owning up to her Big Apple-sized persona. “I’ve always had a big personality I’ve always said I’m a pushy broad and I’ve always said I want to get things done. And sometimes to get things done, you have to be aggressive.”
It’s this double standard – the gruff guy is heralded as a loveable leader while the take-no-prisoners woman is loathed as an unlikeable bitch – that has some Quinn supporters rightfully angry about her predicament leading up to Tuesday’s primary.
Some parallels between what’s happening to Quinn and what happened to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Back then, Clinton was the inevitable candidate who went down to defeat. And many leveled charges of sexism at the press and the electorate.
Now, while I see the argument, I wasn’t totally convinced sexism was a factor in Quinn’s troubles until a friend explained it like this.
“The girls can do the work. It’s fine to be a speaker or a senator. But when it comes time to decide who drives the car the likeability issues come up.”
My always astute friend makes a very good point when it comes to Quinn. After 12 years of Bloomberg and eight years of Giuliani before that, New Yorkers have proven that likeability is not necessarily a job requirement.