The next time you’re thinking of impressing your friends with that cool idea you had–”NYC should be its own state!”– take a second to remember that you’re not being terribly original. First, in 1861 there was a motion for Manhattan to secede from the Union. Then there was Norman Mailer,who not only had the notion of a 51st state but ran for mayor on it.
In 1969, New York was on the brink. Crime was up, the teachers were striking, and rich white people were leaving (!!). Enter Jimmy Breslin and Norman Mailer. Breslin was a famous columnist and a noted proponent of the New Journalism: Mailer was an international literary figure, but also the convicted stabber of ex-wife Adele Morales. Did they really want political office? To paraphrase Breslin himself, the “bums were serious,” so serious, in fact, that both originally wanted to run for mayor, before Mailer convinced Breslin to seek the lesser office of City Council President. Seven weeks before the democratic primaries, Mailer announced his candidacy with the rousing slogan, “No more bullshit.”
Best campaign buttons ever, via Wikipedia user seduisant
Mailer’s platform is an exhaustive list of every cool idea you thought you were the first to have. Besides statehood, Mailer wanted:
– a private car-free Manhattan (taxis and buses would be okay)
– a monorail to service parking lots in Queens and New Jersey
– free public bicycles
– “Sweet Sundays,” a monthly event when absolutely all mechanized transport, including elevators, would be shut down.
Fernando Wood. Photo via Library of Congress
Mailer didn’t finish dead last, but his 41,000 votes were not nearly enough to push him through to the general election (won by incumbent John Lindsay). Perhaps voters were unimpressed by the originality of his platform. After all, Mayor Fernando Wood had worked for secession more than a hundred years earlier, though back then elitism had nothing to do with it. Wood wanted New York to carry on its very profitable cotton trade with the Confederacy.