Oliver Rosenberg is a former investment banker challenging Jerrold Nadler for his New York House seat in Democratic primary elections Tuesday. But his performance during a recent radio talk show suggests that the serious-sounding biography is the only traditional aspect of Rosenberg's candidacy.
During a 20-minute debate moderated Monday by New York City public radio icon Brian Lehrer, Rosenberg quoted a rap lyric from the musical "Hamilton" and attributed it to Alexander Hamilton, the author of The Federalist Papers. He also declared that he was running for Congress because the closing of local businesses had made it too hard to buy bagels in New York City — "I can't get my bagels and schmear!" he said. "We want our bagels back!" — and he repeatedly cited that guy with the lamb chop facial hair who founded the legendary "The Rent is Too Damn High" presidential party.
"As Alexander Hamilton says, 'This is not a moment, this is the movement,'" Rosenberg said. And he continued: "'Foes oppose us. We take an honest stand. We roll like Moses claiming our promised land.' Rise up, rise up and vote."
Nadler responded like someone who has represented the 12th Congressional District encompassing New York City's West Side since 1992, which he has.
"Can I point out that everything my worthy opponent just said are slogans?" Nadler said.
The New York City news site The Gothamist summarized the exchange on Monday, calling it, "an opus of cringe comedy."
When Lehrer pointed out that many of the issues Rosenberg mentioned are local, and that a congressman would not have the power to address them, Rosenberg — who used to work at JP Morgan Chase — said, "Wall Street got its bailout. It's time for Main Street to get a bailout."
He also suggested a selective federal tax on "foreigners" buying luxury real estate. (Such a levy, Nadler pointed out, could not be limited to non-citizens — "You have to look at the Constitution," he said.)
The interview ended with a crescendo after Lehrer pointed out that Rosenberg had been registered as a Republican for many years before running as a Democrat and Nadler read excerpts, since deleted, from his challenger's Twitter feed. In those posts, Rosenberg praised former George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and called, as recently as 2015, for President Barack Obama's impeachment.
"Jerry has no idea what it's like to be gay, a teenager and in the closet with the pressure to conform," Rosenberg said. "When I was 19 and in the closet, I did what my family told me to do. I've grown and come to accept who I am, now who people say I should be. I am gay and I was a Democrat trapped in a Republican's body."
The Gothamist pointed out that Rosenberg was 30 in 2015.