Commentary Magazine


Mayors Must Now Pass Obama Loyalty Test

Republican candidate Mitt Romney took his campaign to inner city Philadelphia today, but the upshot of the event wasn’t so much his education and school choice agenda as the opportunity it provided for the city’s mayor to show that he was no Cory Booker. Philly Mayor Michael Nutter as well as the city’s District Attorney Seth Williams turned out for the event intent on showing they were prepared to be loyal surrogates for President Obama. Nutter, who is an advocate of school reform, stayed outside the charter school Romney visited and gave a speech to a crowd that came out to jeer the Republican saying:

“It’s nice that he decided this late in his [campaign] to see what a city like Philadelphia is about,” Nutter said. But, he added, “I don’t know that a one-day experience in the heart of West Philadelphia is enough to get you ready to run the United States of America.”

Such raillery is meaningless and to be expected in any political campaign. Romney made a strong statement at the school, and though it’s not likely he will be winning many votes in that West Philadelphia neighborhood in November, his presence there was appropriate. The interesting aspect to the event is the alacrity with which the White House recruited two of the senior officials of the city — both of which are African-Americans like Booker, who presumably have busy schedules of their own–to show up and basically heckle Romney from a street corner more than a block away. After Newark Mayor Booker’s “Meet the Press” heresy this past weekend, the Democrats seem to have decided to dragoon local office holders to publicly demonstrate their loyalty at a moment’s notice with no questions asked.

Given the power of the presidency to make lesser party members — especially those dependent on federal funding to help keep their cities afloat — we can expect this will be one of many examples of Obama’s party taking the equivalent of a public loyalty oath. After Booker, Democratic governors and mayors are on notice and will be required to toe the line when it comes to uncritical praise of the president and unstinting and gratuitous attacks on his opponent at every conceivable opportunity.

Like Booker, Nutter is not your typical machine politician but a bright, popular and innovative politician who has been forced to deal with budget and educational funding issues in ways that left-wing Democrats don’t always applaud. Under normal circumstances he might have been happy to welcome some national attention for Philadelphia charter schools. But after the spectacle of Booker’s “hostage video” recantation this past weekend, Democrats are not taking any chances about being seen as remiss in their loyalty to their peerless leader.