My first boss once told me a story that illustrated the evanescence of power.
When he was New York City’s Planning Commissioner in the 1950s, he was invited each year to an annual gala dinner hosted by one of the city’s good-government groups. He sat proudly on the dais, seated to the immediate left of the mayor.
The year after he stepped down from his powerful post, however, he didn’t sit on the dais. In fact, he wasn’t even invited to the dinner.
This illustrates the revolving door of power in American political life: One year you’re up and on top of the world, and the next, you’re sitting at home, alone, watching the high and mighty on television.
Think of one of the most dramatic examples in recent New York history — former Gov. Elliot Spitzer. In 2006, after eight years of fire-breathing as the crusading attorney general, he was elected governor of New York State with more than 80 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary.
He was on a glide path to fame as a hard-charging governor of the third-most-populous state in the nation and his name was in the mix for a future run for the Democratic presidential slot.
But then, all of a sudden, a tawdry sex scandal chopped down his political fortunes and he fell to earth as loudly as a redwood tree in the forest. From powerful state leader to late-night punch line in days. How the mighty had fallen.
I’ve been thinking about this dynamic the last few weeks as we watch the dizzying activity coming out of Washington, D.C. A cast of characters orbiting the new president has been jockeying for power, and already a few have fallen by the wayside, like that shadowy figure, Gen. Mike Flynn. He went from leading national security adviser to prime Russian collusion suspect in an afternoon.
In the last week, we have heard rumblings of who is up and who is down in the White House. Is Chief of Staff Rance Preibus on his way out? Will senior advisor Steve Bannon get pushed out because of his clashes with Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner?
There is only one thing certain: The jobs of Preibus, Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and others around the president are not nearly as secure as Jared’s and Ivanka’s. It’s hard to fathom why someone like Bannon, who has surely watched “The Godfather” trilogy, would want to battle with “the family.” Don’t be surprised if Bannon finds a metaphorical horse’s head in his bed one night soon.
Then, of course, there is always the remote possibility that even the president or VP could be ousted at some point before their term ends. Many pundits, particularly those on the left, think that the probe into Russian ties to the Trump campaign will yield a smoking gun at some point.
So for all of those in our country fretting about the president and his administration, just remember that since we are in a democracy, there is a finite period of leadership. No matter what, in less than four years, we will have a chance to pick someone else.
And like the many scandals in our political history that have brought down once mighty leaders in New York like Spitzer, Shelly Silver, Dean Skelos, Anthony Weiner, and many others, there is no guarantee that elected officials will last through full terms.
Does that make you feel any better?
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallo
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