The politics of Mayor Lenny Clotch from ‘Ghostbusters’
New York City is, in many ways, America’s City. A microcosm of the rest of the country, NYC occupies a strange, oedipal place in the national psyche: We look to it as the metropolis from which all others emanate, as we simultaneously delight when it’s destroyed over and over again on the silver screen. (See: “Cloverfield,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “King Kong,” “Godzilla,” “Independence Day,” the list goes on.)
Now, as the country turns to The Dirty Apple to watch a mayoral election unfold that could very well be out of a movie, we turn to the movies — well, two movies — to pass judgment on one of the city’s most famous fictitious mayors, a man who guided his beloved city through two cataclysmic events and emerged unscathed on the other side: the honorable Mayor Leonard Clotch of “Ghostbusters” and “Ghostbusters 2″ fame.
Described in the GB extended universe as a “likable Democrat, and a man of the people,” Mayor Clotch (an obvious riff on iconic ’80s Mayor Ed Koch) is, in some respects, the quintessential New Yorker — abrasive, demanding and perpetually impatient. But what do we know about Clotch’s administration? His politics? His style of governance? As it happens, we know quite a bit.
When we first meet hizzoner, during the supernatural pandemonium preceding the arrival of Gozer the Gozarian, we see Lenny chewing out his deputies for “not giving [him] any answers” while the city goes berserk. Essentially a pragmatist, Clotch is of the “get your hands dirty” political school of thought. He asks the questions, he makes the decision boom boom boom and it’s on to the next thing. Crises aren’t occasions to panic; they’re simply another problem to deal with. Motivated by a seemingly genuine desire to do right by his city, Clotch is, at his core, a man of action — even going so far as to leap in and attempt to physically break apart Dr. Peter Venkman and Walter Peck as they scuffle in his office over whether or not Peck in fact does, or does not, have a dick.
Becoming Mayor of New York City takes a healthy dose of savvy, and Lenny Clotch has savvy to spare. See exhibit A (which is, really, the only exhibit you need): Paralyzed by uncertainty over the immanent arrival of Gozer, Clotch acts only after Peter Venkman offers him a win/win political scenario:
If I’m wrong nothing happens. We go to jail. peacefully, quietly, we’ll enjoy it. But if I’m right, and we can stop this thing … Lenny, you will have saved the lives of millions of registered voters.
A successful mayor knows how to balance every decision with political realities. Saving New York from a maurauding Gozarian is the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing.
Faith-based community relations
No one gets far in New York politics without backing from the city’s sizable religious communities; Mayor Clotch is no exception. A deeply religious man himself, the mayor enjoys strong ties to New York’s Catholic community. When it comes to making the big decisions in moments of crises, after weighing input from his deputies and lieutenants, we see Clotch turn to a higher authority: Mike, the bishop of New York. The Mayor’s staff may get barked at for results, but, when it comes to the bishop, Lenny is on his best behavior. Come election season, that’s sure to play well in the city’s Irish and Italian enclaves.
Delegation of authority
If Mayor Clotch has a weakness, it’s his irresponsible, or at least misplaced, delegation of authority. “Ghostbusters II” sees a Clotch’s New York rebuilt and, in many ways, cleaned up after the near-apocalypse from the first film. The mayor, perhaps resting a little too heavily on his laurels, seems content to let his assistant, the clearly sleazy Jack Hardemeyer, handle much of the day-to-day. BIG MISTAKE.
Hardemeyer, harde-ly the politician Clotch is, manages to denigrate, antagonize, and ultimately incarcerate the Ghostbusters — the only people capable of stopping a full blown slime-tastrophe at the hands of Viggo the Carpathian. Fortunately, Clotch learns of his assistant’s subterfuge in the nick of time, ultimately firing him. Still hiring him and allowing him that much unchecked authority is nobody’s fault but the mayor’s. The buck, as they say, stops there. As dedicated a public servant Clotch may be, his staff management skills are surprisingly, nearly-catastrophically, weak.
Attitude toward small business owners
The start of “Ghostbusters II” sees our heroes — hardworking, taxpaying New Yorkers — banned from busting ghosts and sued by the city for damages resulting from the events of the first film. While able to find semi-gainful employment as costumed children’s entertainers, the Ghostbusters have been, effectively, run out of the industry they created. So does Mayor Clotch hate small businesses? It’s unclear. Although by all indications, he’s much more focused on keeping up appearances and paying lip service to Wall Street than the needs of the entrepreneurial ghostbusting community. At worst, he crushes independent businesses with crippling economic policies. At best, he’s malevolently indifferent.
Stance on civil rights