Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Quote of the Day (Ogden Nash, on the Echoing ‘Footsteps’ of Fiorello La Guardia)

“When the valid votes are counted,
Will his future be feast or faminy?
Will he eat his lunch in a one-arm joint,
Or in a swell estaminet?
For Fiorello’s footsteps
Still echo in the corridor;
Reform is a horrid word enough,
But Fusion is even horrider.” —American light-verse poet Ogden Nash (1902-1971), “Don’t Bite the Hand That Puts the Foot in Your Mouth” in Everyone But Thee And Me (1962)

Seventy-five years ago today, Fiorello La Guardia—the “Little Flower” of New York City—died of pancreatic cancer. Having guided New York through the Great Depression and World War II, he had stepped down as mayor after three terms less than two years before, utterly exhausted—and, after so much time in the public eye and more than a little irascibility, the city had grown tired of him, too, according to public opinion polls.

By the time Ogden Nash recalled his legacy 15 years after his death, La Guardia had recovered his popularity. The musical Fiorello! won the Tony and Pulitzer Prizes in 1959, and the mayor was posthumously hailed for his attempts to root out corruption. And in 1961, Mayor Robert Wagner Jr. had turned decisively against the Tammany Hall political machine that had sustained his own rise—and that had been the object of La Guardia’s tireless (and noisy) anti-corruption efforts.

La Guardia had won his first campaign for mayor by campaigning on the “Fusion” ticket (primarily GOP-backed, with additional support by breakaway Democrats and independents). By the time Wagner ran for a third term, the “Reform” movement, which had sprung up among Manhattan insurgents three years before, was now spelling a threat to the power that Tammany Hall had enjoyed again after La Guardia’s departure.

Wagner’s defeat—and the fall from power of Tammany boss Carmine deSapio—proved in the end that Reform was, Nash’s contention to the contrary, “horrider” than Fusion to the old political machine.

No comments: