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John Lindsay at the Crossroads

By James Lardner

JOHN LINDSAY'S probable re-election as Mayor of New York City comes courtesy of the emerging technical elite, that body to whom John Kenneth Galbraith has sometimes looked for the country's general salvation. They aren't yet numerous enough to carry a two-way election-even in so managerial a town as New York-but against split opposition they could well turn the trick.

And Lindsay's opposition is now terribly, calamitously split, with Mario Procaccino retaining hard-core Democrats and the holders of pencil-thin moustaches, and John Marchi capturing the more sensitive, the more educated and the more Republican among the Lindsay-haters. For a while it seemed Procaccino had the election wrapped up, if mostly because so many New Yorkers look so much like him and tend, therefore, to think him attractive. But even some Procaccino look-alikes (not all of whom are Italian, not by a long shot) have been turned off by Mario's latest foibles-like his badly overplayed academic history, capped by his presidency of an enterprise called Verazzano College.

Apparently the Procaccino family journeyed across continental Europe to Israel two summers ago, there to negotiate a student exchange program with the University of Jerusalem. That institution graciously picked up the tab for the Procaccino jaunt, despite the fact (unearthed by Lindsay researchers and passed on to the New York Post ) that Verazzano College turns out not to exist, to be, as Mario explains it, in a state of development.

Then there was the Democratic candidate's most recent bid for the Negro vote. Many New Yorkers had not known what to make of his earlier declaration before a Harlem audience that he was "as black as you are"; but the ambiguity wore sharp with his claim that he knew Harlem's problems from having worked there twenty years in his father's shoe business. Harlem residents, for some reason, look not fondly on the white entrepreneurs who have for so long enjoyed such a strong presence in the ghetto. Left to simmer by itself, this attitude tends to be directed at the City's Jewish population, but Procaccino managed to remind Harlem that its oppressors include a few Italians too.

It is easy to exaggerate Procaccino's mistakes. One the whole, his failure to parlay an early lead into an election-eve cinch was built into the works of the campaign. Procaccino's record is undistinguished and on several counts deeply vulnerable, thus muting the impact of his attacks on the Lindsay Administration.

"Lawyer, Educator, Judge, Comptroller," say Mario's campaign posters, conjuring up the image of an elderly, white-haired gent with published writings. But the real Procaccino is an everyday guy, at his best kidding with the fellows and at his worst slinging mud. His have been by far the funniest lines of the campaign-and not, as his detractors charge, malapropisms. When Mrs. Fiorello LaGuardia endorsed Lindsay, Mario came up with the observation that "There is no real conflict here: Mayor LaGuardia chose me as a public servant, he chose Marie as his wife." Procaccino also coined the only durable catch-phrase of the campaign, describing the Lindsay set as "limousine liberals."

IT IS EASY, also, to exaggerate the smoothness of the Lindsay operation. The Mayor himself has been level-headed and intelligent, ever since primary night when he made some impolitic remarks about that part of the electorate which had just nominated Marchi and Procaccino. Over the intervening months, Lindsay has been his own strongest asset. His campaign staff has been similarly sensitive to major blunders-and has made none.

But there is reason to believe the critical plays have been made in the newspapers and on TV news shows largely beyond the realm of Lindsay's several thousand active volunteers. The door-to-door canvassing effort, for example, will probably reach a maxi-much of about 90,000 voters, well short of half its original objective. Community service projects, launched with considerable hooplah, have barely been heard of since. The voter registration drive was not very effective, and the black vote, heavily for Lindsay, will probably not be very heavy as a whole. Perhaps no conventional political campaign-with slogans and posters and literature-can really have great impact where the candidate's public identity is so well-set to begin with. Only the candidate himself can have impact, coupled with the unfolding of various sentiments, avowed and latent in the electorate.

If Lindsay has made an error late in the campaign, it was his order that city flags fly at half mast to mark Vietnam Moratorium Day. It was a beautiful thing to witness, but it only added to his alienation from civil servants and blue collar workers. Police cars and buses burned their headlights to show support for President Nixon. It is true such individuals as drove them were not likely to cast their lot with Lindsay in any case, but even for opponents of the war his action raised the specter of another mayor at another time marshalling a different set of personal opinions behind the decision to lower flags-to commemorate Captive Nations Day, for instance, or the death of John Birch.

LINDSAY's verbal opposition to the war has, however, been far more helpful than harmful. This was another calculated step that might not have worked to his advantage in a two-way race but with the hawks or quasihawks rather safely in one of the opposition camps, Lindsay could afford to make his point.

Many New Yorkers with sons in Vietnam, or merely conscious of where their tax money was going, have apparently been impressed by the Mayor's willingness to take a stand on this national issue. In contrast to New Jersey Gubernatorial candidate Robert Meyner's similar preachings, Lindsay's anti-Vietnam statements were not produced solely for the occasion of the campaign; he alone of the nation's big-city mayors has taken a steady and unhedging stand against the war.

His argument is well-rounded, furthermore: Vietnam not only deprives New York of needed funds, but it makes most partisan scrapping meaningless since all new programs, those proposed by Lindsay and his critics, must have the same money.

Above all else, the Vietnam argument aided Lindsay because it aroused the hawk in Marchi-Marchi who had been making what are called in the trade "quiet gains." Generally a cool customer, intelligent-sounding and sensible-looking, Marchi got a fair amount of mileage from being the realistic candidate.

It is an old and a venerable tactic. When the crowd is making for the Long Island Expressway, give the side roads a try. If everybody else in your class seems bent on applying to Yale, apply to Princeton. In political terms, the strategy called for Marchi to belittle his opponents' wild promises by citing the fiscal realities-he, too, would like to preserve the 20-cent subway fare, but he wanted New Yorkers to know that might not be possible. He, too, desired open enrollment at City University, but he alone of the candidates would acknowledge the possibility that money might not be forthcoming.

Such responsibility becomes a candidate. Marchi, however, was unable to stay true to the pattern he had set for himself. First he made the mistake of calling Jacob Javits a "pompous, posturing ass"-which many Lindsay workers found doubly satisfying, since they were pleased to see Marchi pull such an obviously foolish blunder, and since secretly they may have agreed with Marchi's estimate. Marchi himself had to admit he had tarnished his image as "the Perry Como of politics." And then came M-Day with the Staten Islander revealing himself in no uncertain terms, accusing Lindsay of having stuck a dagger into the back of American servicemen. All in all, a line worthy of Strom Thurmond.

WHATEVER his mistakes, Marchi will do well on November 4th-when you consider that he is a conservative Republican running in an overwhelmingly Democratic, and usually liberal, town. He has nearly all Procaccino's positive points except the party label. He has a certain impressive quality all his own. But the polls suggest Marchi cannot avoid the role of spoiler, however much he might like to. Every vote he acquires is a vote acquired from Procaccino, and only brings the necessary Lindsay total down that much further.

The Daily News straw poll, which has never missed a mayoralty race, seems to attest to this fact in giving Lindsay 44 per cent, Procaccino 33 per cent and Marchi 20 per cent-with a startlingly small 3 per cent undecided. Observers have occasionally faulted the News polling techniques, but all agree that the straw poll has been and will continue to be pretty accurate. If it isn't the perfect measure of existing public opinion, at least it does such a good job of convincing its readers as to constitute a self-fulfilling prophesy. The News is that much revered and trusted (its news coverage, that is, not its editorials), and the straw poll has long served as the climax of New York's election battles.

Lindsay, then, has come from an apparent long shot in June to become a favorite at the end of October. If he wins, it will probably not surprise too many Americans casually versed in politics. Why, after all, should the country's largest metropolis trade in its Rolls Royce of a mayor for a back-model Chevrolet? John Lindsay's national reputation alone would be a formidable asset in any other city. Add his good looks and an opposition party torn to ribbons, and it seems fair to venture Lindsay could win a walloping victory at the polls of any town north of the Mason-Dixon Line-and a few to the south as well.

In many American cities, however, Lindsay would have to face a run-off. New York, which has retained partisan municipal elections in the face of a trend away from them, requires only a plurality at all stages of the event. The Lindsay camp has made much of the fact that Procaccino could not have won a run-off within his own Democratic Party-former Mayor Robert Wagner would have been a strong favorite in such a contest.

Now the Lindsay people must face up to the fact that this same anachronism has become an essential ele-

ment to Lindsay's come-from-behind shot at re-election. In other words, the Lindsay victory could be a Pyrrhic victory, squeezing Manhattan, the poor, the rich, the social scientists and the beautiful people to the bone.

If Marchi were to do now what Vito Batista did for him at primary's end-mainly stand aside in the interests of unseating Lindsay-the Mayor would again become the underdog against Procaccino.

Lindsay himself seems aware of this. He has acknowledged his failure to keep the lower middle class at even a low threshold of good humor, and he has declared his intention to do something about it should a second administration come his way. The danger is that Lindsay's supporters, exhilarated by their triumph. may not want to let him.

PERHAPS the most effective and most fruitful way for Lindsay to solve this problem would be to lay stress on those ills that affect all New Yorkers equally. Waste-solid, liquid and gaseous-emerges as the least romantic and most desperate of all. Next on the line is the automobile, and the assorted crises it engenders. The steady onslaught of pollution and congestion, and lurking behind them the fact that the United States virtually alone among industrialized nations continues to support a leaping population must be confronted now or not at all.

For an urban leader who prides himself, not without justification, on having helped to educate national thinking about cities. Lindsay has not done nearly enough in these areas. He now has enough political breathing space to mention the subject of population control; to avoid it is surely no less devious than to avoid Vietnam, even if New York City's population growth has long since left its political borders behind.

More immediately important, cities must begin to reclaim some of the ground and air space now dominated by the automobile. Theodore Kheel, with Mayor Lindsay's backing, has proposed lifting bridge and tunnel tolls to finance a continued 20-cent subway fare. Mario Procaccino has opposed the Kheel plan, asserting that drivers should not be asked to subsidize mass transit more than they are already doing. With this argument, Procaccino completely fails to realize that mass transit riders already pay a tremendous, almost incalculable subsidy to drivers: they travel in a crowded, dirty, sightless underground, while conceding the open air to their generally richer brethren. Similarly, pedestrians pay tribute to the automobile by gauging the erratic pace of their journeys to the cause of eased car travel.

The Welfare Island new-town project, with its emphasis on relatively low buildings, its extensive parklands, its constraints on automobile use, and its considerable freedom for the pedestrian, represents the kind of venture that might save New York City. But why should such techniques be employed only in "new" towns and not in the old ones where most Americans live? Mayor Lindsay should now think about giving the pedestrians of New York more room and the drivers less, about turning clogged streets into park-lined walk ways open at certain hours to commercial and emergency auto traffic.

The integrity of pedestrian arteries-now called "sidewalks"-should be protected over substantial lengths as is the integrity of an expressway. If the use of private automobiles is to continue within high-density urban areas, there is at least no reason why those who reject cars under such circumstances should not be granted some measure of isolation from their harmful effects. Devices aimed toward that end might at the same time serve to encourage the automobile's proper function: medium-distance travel, commercial transport, and travel in low-density areas. Incentives and deterrents, wisely employed, may still be capable of effecting such a shift; before long, however, the situation maybe beyond curing except through disagreeable and politically doubtful prohibitive legislation.

The success or failure of America's efforts to combat the apocalyptic cycle of waste and congestion appears to depend on the willingness of imaginative and enlightened public figures to lend their time to such banalities as sanitation, pollution, congestion, and conservation-and finally population growth.

Mayor Lindsay has been extraordinary for his good sense and courage under fire, but he has remained essentially within the bounds of conventional liberal politics-preoccupied with the problems of social equity in the welfare state.

A new frontier lies before him. As if with all his problems, he needed one.

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