Pittsburgh, Infantilized

I wasn't the only person who reacted with horror to Cindy Ravenstahl's creepy defense of her son, the mayor, in the Post-Gazette on Friday. I didn't do a grand tour, but Reg Henry - despite working for the One of America's Great Newspapers that published the piece - hit the essential points. Dan Acklin's "vote for my nephew" defense of challenger Kevin Acklin was no better.

If you take the op-eds seriously, then the only plausible interpretation is that the candidates, their families, and the Post-Gazette editorial page are conspiring to infantilize Pittsburgh. I looked up "infantilize Pittsburgh" to see if anyone had used that phrase before, and it turns out that the Post-Gazette itself put that headline on a piece by Mark DeSantis (remember him?) that criticized a proposal by the City of Pittsburgh to limit internet use by city employees. So at least the paper is aware of what's going on.

The only other plausible explanation is that the Ravenstahl and Acklin pieces are jokes at the public's expense. As John McEnroe might have said, they cannot be serious. City residents should vote for Luke Ravenstahl because Mom said so? Kevin Acklin because Uncle Dan said so? If I were a city resident, I might vote for Dok Harris solely because he had the good sense not to come out say that we should vote for him because Franco said so - though Franco, being a proud father, is happy to say in private that we should vote for his son. But if the Ravenstahl and Acklin pieces are inside jokes rather than serious politicking, then instead I should vote against Dok because his sense of humor clearly doesn't match that of his rivals. Ravenstahl and Acklin know how to tickle Pittsburgh's funny bone. Why didn't Dok play along with the Halloween week masquerade?

It is a good thing, one might conclude, that Pittsburgh is such a well-kept secret around most of the US and most of the world. Because for all of its pre- and post-G20 Summit bluster, Pittsburgh isn't capable of playing at the top levels as a world city. As weird as politics get in California (Jerry Brown wants to be governor again; the Governator is exchanging public profanities with a member of the state Assembly), New York (David Paterson wants to remain governor), Rome (Berlusconi and the Italian media), and Afghanistan (Karzai trying to avoid a vote boycott), that weirdness is the weirdness of big places and big issues. Whether Pittsburgh's mayoral campaign is infantilizing the city or playing it with one enormous inside joke, Pittsburgh still suffers from the weirdness of being a very, very small town.


1 Response to "Pittsburgh, Infantilized"

Mark Rauterkus said... 10/31/2009 8:53 PM

Sounds like you are in a real pickle. But, I don't worry much as you're out of the city and don't have to split hairs with your vote.

However, the wild card in the mayor's race, when you're infantilized to death -- write in Les Ludwig, age 77.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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