And a damned good one, too.
Before Donald Trump became a celebrity, before he became The Donald, even before he was regularly pilloried in the pages of the old Spy magazine as a “short-fingered vulgarian,” New Yorkers knew his name thanks to one thing in particular. Not the in-and-out-of-bankruptcy real estate empire he inherited, or his flamboyant love life, but the Wollman Rink in Central Park. And while I think he has little chance of winning the Republican nomination (is he even a Republican?), mostly thanks to the fixed-fight aspect of the GOP nominating process under the auspices of the junior wing of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party, I do think his largely interchangeable opponents underestimate his appeal at their peril.
What’s the Wollman Rink, you ask? It’s a skating rink at the south end of Central Park that, like just about everything else in New York City, had fallen into decrepitude by the 1970s — the stinking, filthy New York City immortalized in such films as Death Wish and The French Connection. In 1980, the city announced it was closing the popular spot for renovations that were to last a couple of years; by 1986, the rink was still “under construction,” costs had soared to over $12 million, and the work that had been done was faulty; the rink had come to symbolize the futility of government at all levels. Up stepped Trump with a challenge to mayor Ed Koch: let him take over the rink and he would have the work completed in a few months and the place open to the public before the end of the year.
You know how this turns out, right? After all, it can really only turn out one way, given that it only happens every single fucking time free-market capitalism runs rings around bloated, corrupt government. Which is, y’know, every single fucking time they find themselves thrust fairly into the arena together. That’s the real story behind the story, and it is damned sure an old one; funny how we seem to be either too stubborn or too stupid to learn from it. Walsh points out another useful lesson at the end of his post, and it’s worth heeding too.