American voters are a forgiving lot. As they demonstrated frequently in 2016, when truly intent on “sending a message,” the electorate will marshal its resentments, grit its teeth, and vote for truly appalling political figures, no matter what horrible thing they said, did, claimed to do, or promised never to do again. But woe betide the big-city mayor who fumbles the fundamental test of municipal governance: snow plowing. For that, there will be no forgiveness.
From the mayors’ perspectives, it may be frustrating to be judged so harshly on an uncontrollable weather event, but the bottom line is that constituents want their streets cleared. The snowplow is the mightiest tool in the mayoral arsenal; in many voters’ minds, freeing their cars is perhaps the clearest evidence that City Hall can accomplish anything at all. Failing to wield it properly is a quick way to lose your job.