The most important race in Brooklyn exists more on the airwaves than in reality. Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis is spending millions of dollars to defeat Congressman Max Rose, who is spending several million more than Nicole just to keep his job.
Almost all of that money goes into television ads. Turn on the TV in Staten Island or southern Brooklyn — or really anywhere in the largest media market in America — and you’ll see ads for both campaigns. Rose’s ads talk about how he’s an independent voice who is not a typical Democrat, but even more about how Malliotakis is a fraud. Malliotakis’ ads are about how Rose is an ally of Mayor Bill de Blasio who hates the police and wants to defund them while siding with criminals.
“Politicians are just actors stuck in one role,” Nora Ephron once said, and I think she’s right. There’s something fundamentally fake about all of them. It’s a constructed persona that you have to inhabit all the time, like a reality star, an on-duty drag queen or a professional wrestler. Look at Trump and Biden: their persona is all they have left after so many decades of it.
On one hand, Rose is a decorated Army officer with a foul-mouthed independent streak who hates professional Democratic politicians and hypocrisy and lies. Rose is also a professor’s son from Park Slope, who attended Wesleyan and Oxford and has a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. His searing attacks on de Blasio are felt but also calculated. The endless public pushups and the swearing are defense mechanisms, protective coloring.
But Rose doesn’t hate cops and he doesn’t agree with de Blasio. Spend two minutes with the guy (and his persona) and that becomes obvious — and that’s Malliotakis’ whole line of attack on him.
That means Rose’s line of attack is correct: Malliotakis is a fraud. She makes up things to tear down her opponents and aggrandize herself. Rose has a great set of bipartisan Staten Island validators to cite chapter and verse of all the times Malliotakis claims credit or horror where she shouldn’t — take state Sen. Diane Savino, a Democrat, and Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo, a Republican.
I’m following a LOT of races in New York and Pennsylvania, and let me tell you that these themes are pretty universal. The Republican says the Democrat is a radical leftist who will bring crime back. The Democrat denies, and points out all the Republican’s mistruths and hypocrisies. At this point, I believe that the vast majority of the Republican base is extremely gullible.
Compared to every other Democrat I’m watching, Rose is doing a pretty good job hustling for the votes of some Trump supporters. I doubt I’d have the stomach for it, in his shoes.
I hope he hangs on. In fact, I hope all of these lying Republican candidates lose. There sure are a lot of them.
Nick Rizzo is a former Democratic District Leader and a political consultant who lives in Greenpoint.