Last night I dreamed a deadly dream
Beyond the Isle of Skye;
I saw a dead man win a fight --
And I thought that man was I.
So begins the film adaptation of the World War II thriller The Man Who Never Was, by Ewen Montagu, the true story of "Operation Mincemeat," whereby British Intelligence tricked the enemy into weakening Sicily's defenses before the 1943 Allied invasion, using a dead man with faked documents.
Monroe County Democratic Chairman Joe Morelle might well be musing metaphorically these days along the lines of this verse as he stages his Technicolor, Cinemascope production of The Candidate Who Never Was. This is either (a) an intricate plot to ensure Republican defeat in November, on a level of arcane complexity far loftier even than Operation Mincemeat; or (b) a signature failing for a party chairman who we thought, up to now, to be at the top of his game.
You just don't do this. You just plain don't.
If all else fails, you get one of your current office holders, who's not up for re-election this year and who can reasonably carry your party's message, to be your candidate. Often in these circumstances it can be someone whom nobody in your party, including the candidate, thinks of necessarily as a rising star, but whose dutiful performance in carrying the party's banner in difficult conditions will then get a nice appointment, or other opportunity, in the forseeable future. With a Democratic governor in office, surely some suitable reward would have been possible.
Even the Republicans, in 1990, could come up with Pierre Rinfret to run against Cuomo. Admittedly, having no candidate at all would have been better than Rinfret, but the point is that a major party can always find somebody. And when Republicans in New York City ran no candidate against Mayor Koch, it was because the party's leaders, activists and rank-and-file all liked Koch and wished he were their candidate. At the next election they cross-endorsed him. None of the leaders or activists in the Monroe County Democratic Party bear that kind of good will toward Maggie Brooks.
Punting the principal countywide office demoralizes your base. This will hurt, not help, Democratic candidates in town and county legislative races.
Having a principal spokesperson for your message, even a spokesperson who's not expected to win, puts a political party a quantum leap ahead of a situation where you're relying on a dozen or so town supervisor candidates or county legislature candidates. First, because the press won't focus on what a dozen candidates for lesser office are saying, as compared to one person at the top going for the brass ring.
Second, because those local contests are races of a different nature. A countywide race is mass-marketing. It employs broadcast media to deliver a unified message. The local races are completely different. They rely principally on door-to-door campaigning. This way your message gets out only to a limited number of people, relative to a countywide race. And there's no unified message. It's whatever the issues are in that town, or whatever the local candidate thinks will appeal. It's the retail counter, as compared to the TV ad for the whole store.
The ramifications of the Democratic Party's failure to field a candidate for County Executive are being documented amply by interested and concerned Democrats in comments to postings on the subject at blogs such as Rochester Turning.
To their insights we would add this:
As we contemplate the A-list of potential Democratic candidates for Monroe County Executive, there really are only two names. One of them is . . . Joe Morelle. Our very own Little Joe. And if he thought he'd make a good State Comptroller, wouldn't he make a great County Executive? And if he's his party's Chairman, and no one else steps up to the plate -- shouldn't Little Joe have been the Democratic Candidate for County Executive? If only in the captain-going-down-with-the-ship tradition?
Does anyone think Joe Morelle couldn't have done at least as well against Maggie Brooks as Bill Johnson did four years ago? Or that there could have been a more effective advocate than Morelle for his party's message?
Last night I dreamed ...
Dead -- or otherwise nonexistent -- men and women may win fights in "deadly dreams." But not in real life.
Joe Morelle may have launched, for his own party, an Operation Mincemeat in more ways than one.