Daniel L. Feldman

Silver linings

In NYC Politics on July 6, 2012 at 6:46 am

In retrospect, had I won the congressional campaign I would have spent my life away from my family. When not in Washington, the Member of Congress following Schumer and Solarz would have to spend “home” nights and weekends at community meetings. In what time I had to spare, I’d probably be begging for campaign contributions. This no longer sounds like fun to me.

I worked at the Assembly job at least twice as hard as my constituents would have required, and I imagine I would have performed similarly in Congress. My family and I paid the price in terms of time and attention. Starting a year or so after I lost, when I had regained my equilibrium, in part surely because I was happily working with then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, my wife Cecilia and I would occasionally run into Anthony Weiner at various events. Invariably, Cecilia would thank him for having saved our marriage by defeating me. She was not kidding. Realistically, she did not expect me to engage in extramarital shenanigans, as he later did, but she told me quite bluntly that her tolerance for my lack of participation in our family life had been coming to an end.

As my participation in my family life increased and improved, my children appreciated the difference. At that point our daughter was seven and our son was nine. As I went up to their rooms to kiss them goodnight, they told me to sit down. “Promise us you will never run for office again,” they said. I agreed, without hesitation.

Still, I encourage intelligent and idealistic young people to run for office. If they don’t hold public office, who will? We certainly have more than enough of the other kind. But I sometimes wonder if I am doing such fine young people a disservice. I loved it when I did it, but having subsequently recognized the personal cost of that addiction, one could argue that I should not wish it on others.

On the other hand, I will always take satisfaction in various ways I made small improvements in the lives of large numbers of people. As my Tales from the Sausage Factory co-author reminded me, some laws that would probably not have been enacted but for me – and certainly would not have been enacted as soon – have saved lives. It is easy for me to say, now, that I will not return to elective office. But I say that having the knowledge that I have made a difference, in a good way.

Over the next few weeks, you will see “flashback” posts – stories that go back in time before the 1998 campaign. Two documents reminded me of those events, which I had forgotten until now: On Becoming a Politician, an unpublished manuscript the great editor Ted Solotaroff had asked me to prepare for Harper & Row in 1986, but which he decided not to use; and Pragmatism Meets Theory: A Personality Case Study in Political Prediction, a senior thesis for Barnard College by Rita Gunther, based on my 1980 Assembly campaign, in which she played a major part.

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