Bill de Blasio And The Democrats Of New York City

Bill de Blasio
Bill de Blasio (Photo credit: Kevdiaphoto)
(written for Vishwa Sandesh)

Bill de Blasio And The Democrats Of New York City
By Paramendra Bhagat (www.paramendra.com)

For a city that is so dominantly Democratic, it has had non Democrats for Mayor a long, long time. Rudy Giuliani did two terms, Mike Bloomberg did three terms. Primaries tend to be so fragmented, and the winners of the past were so torn apart by the various groups that helped them and now needed favors done, the electorate has been just fine electing the likes of Bloomberg. Point to be noted, Bloomberg was a Democrat before he decided to run for Mayor. When he did decide to run, he figured ploughing through the mud of a Democratic primary was just not worth it, and so he switched parties, just because.

This city is like an ATM that Democrats across the country use. They come, they raise money, and they go wherever it is they have to go.

Bill de Blasio was not the early lead. But once he gained momentum, he really gained momentum. His decisive primary victory and an even more decisive general election victory is a liberal city going back to its liberal roots with gusto. It is to be seen how he will govern. Will he prove to be a good manager? You can accuse Bloomberg of having had somewhat of a class bias, but there is no doubting the guy was a good manager of the city.

The turning point in the de Blasio campaign was an ad featuring his teenage son from his inter-racial marriage. His wife is African American. For the most diverse city on earth that sometimes can tear along racial and ethnic lines, an inter-racial family at the helm is a soothing message, sure. And, sure, progressivism is good in a city that is decidedly progressive. Both Giuliani and Bloomberg were social liberals that Republicans elsewhere could not relate to.

Bill de Blasio will govern “a city government with some 300,000 employees, a $70 billion budget and a dizzying web of intersecting interests.” He might have campaigned with a theme captured in the phrase a tale of two cities. But it is one city you govern.

It will be an experiment to watch. Could he bring about the changes he says he will? Will inequality be lessened as a result? Could he narrow the gap without alienating the business interests? Could he take labor along? Could he win re-election? Because if de Blasio bombs, the city might then again look for another non-Democrat in four years.

A stand that caught much attention on the campaign trail was the “stop and frisk,” a signature Bloomberg initiative. I experienced it once when I was living in Ridgewood. I had a pen in my trouser pocket. The police from afar thought it might have been a knife. The lady officer looked straight at me while reaching out for the pocket.

During his young days de Blasio apparently was a raging liberal activist. He made trips to Nicaragua and the then Soviet Union. As Public Advocate he once got arrested: that was the plan of the protest. But then he also ran a Hillary Clinton campaign at one point.

I once attended a debate at a church in Brooklyn when de Blasio was running in the primary for Public Advocate years ago. He was composed, but not outstanding, and that might be a good thing. That demeanor is good for governance.

The same electorate also is served by a state government and a federal government. And so a city Mayor’s reach has its limits. On the other hand there is a Rahm Immanuel in Chicago who claims some of the most interesting public policy headways are being made at the city level.

And, of course, should he do well in the office there might be national level speculations.

I did not follow the election closely enough nor do I have a deep enough knowledge of the city’s government to be able to forecast how well de Blasio will actually end up doing. But one hopes he does well. If he governs as well as he campaigned, the city should be fine. But if the numerous Democratic interests end up tearing him up, the party will have itself to blame. For a Democratic city to have a progressive Mayor is a good match. If the job is done right, the reverberations will be heard around the world. Surprisingly there is a foreign policy angle to the job. If he performs well, his youth spent as a leftist activist (Obama never was the Socialist he gets accused of being by those on the right, but de Blasio was quite a leftist when young) will gain validation. And de Blasio will help soothe America’s image around the world. Dog eat dog capitalism can also be home to pragmatic leftist moves like expanded pre-kindergarten. I don’t know about you, but that is just common sense to me. That and after school programs the Mayor elect has talked about.

Those two alone will not diminish inequality in the city, but they will be steps in the right direction. The number one thing that will diminish inequality in the city would be citywide free wifi. But I did not hear that talked about on the campaign trail. Maybe there was too much shame about Anthony Weiner’s tweets. So not bringing up the Internet thing just made sense.

Here’s to wishing all the best to the new Mayor.
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