Bill de Blasio’s victory in the mayoral election tonight may seem like a triumph of progressivism and a rejection of outgoing Mayor Bloomberg’s Wall Street agenda, but it is clearly an accident, and it remains to be seen what lies in New York’s future. It’s got to be more than a big red sign that reads P-R-O-G-R-E-S-S.
It was a perfect storm for the Cambridge, Mass, native, whose victory may be the first for Democrats in 20 years, but also insures that a Boston-area native will be mayor for 16 consecutive years. Several factors were crucial in de Blasio’s victory:
1) Bloomberg, recently ascended to 10th richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine, clearly did not place a high priority on determining his successor. Otherwise, he would not have given the half-hearted push he gave to Christine Quinn, a clearly flawed and underwhelming candidate.
2) Anthony Weiner, whose proposal for a single-payer health insurance plan for city residents was wildly to the left of de Blasio, self-destructed in a way that even Bill Clinton could not imagine.
3) John Liu, who had the potential to lead a groundbreaking Asian-Latino-African American-liberal white coalition to victory, was sabotaged by a dubious scandal and the denial of $3.5 million of public matching funds to his campaign in an iffy decision.
4) Sarah Scheindlin’s stop-and-frisk opinion, since overturned, was a rare instance of a legal decision validating a progressive political position, giving de Blasio, last progressive standing, sudden, immense credibility.
5) Brooklyn, currently perceived as New York’s cutting edge, is at that fantasy utopian stage of mid-gentrification–much like the Lower East Side in the early to mid-1990s–where the illusion is created that New York is a multiracial, multicultural, liberal utopia that makes for great TV ads.
6) Joe Lhota is a joke.
I was at the Midtown hotel where David Dinkins celebrated his 1989 victory over Rudolph Giuliani, and it was a hopeful night indeed. While he was in many ways a pleasant and gracious mayor, of course highly preferable to Giuliani, Dinkins was a tedious, underperforming middle-ground mayor who actually was the first to appoint Ray “stop and frisk” Kelly as police commissioner. He also oversaw the yearlong closure of Tompkins Square Park, removing its historic bandshell and in a way completing the process that provoked the infamous 1988 riot. His lasting legacy: a tennis complex in Flushing that Giuliani eventually used to attack him as an elitist.
Let’s not forget how we felt in 2008 when Obama won. People were out in the streets, delirious with joy. The incredible racist Tea Party reaction against him notwithstanding, the guy surrounded himself with Larry Summers and Wall Street, failed to initiate any kind of immigration reform while deporting record numbers of undocumented, failed to close Guantánamo, and was recently quoted as being psyched about the cleanliness of the drone targeted assassination program that manages to “accidentally” kill a considerable number of innocent people.
Granted, Bill de Blasio seems a bit funkier than Barry Obama, a bit less preppy and Ivy. And he doesn’t have a City Council packed with lunatics who want to bring back Tom Delay and Strom Thurmond for a celebration of the good old days of the Confederacy. But I’m holding out till I see something sustained from the guy. I want to see a real rain come down on the 1 per cent stranglehold on my people. I want to see people that I know working at City Hall, making decisions, progressive decisions. I want to take New York back from the tone-deaf technocrats. Let’s see if Bill can do that.
Then maybe I’ll get excited.