I am still not convinced that New Yorkers knew what they were doing when they elected Bill de Blasio mayor of their great city by an overwhelming majority.
I know, I know. Many New Yorkers knew exactly what they were doing. They are excited to have as their incoming mayor a leader who is proudly progressive. But there are many other New Yorkers who voted for de Blasio simply because he is not Michael Bloomberg. In fact, he is the anti-Bloomberg. It’s not that New Yorkers especially disliked Bloomberg, and they certainly did not disrespect him. To the contrary: Bloomberg’s record is in many ways exemplary. He never was touchy-feely, never did care much about being witty or charming or making people love him. But he was by nearly every account an outstanding manager – a leader who knew how to manage a major polity, as well as to lead it.
But, New Yorkers have evidently had enough of independent competence. They want something different – a leader with a vision, even if he lacks executive experience. In fact, one of the casualties of Bloomberg’s unanticipated third term in office is that New Yorkers are so very ready for something different that they went almost willfully in the opposite direction. Whether this change in political positioning will ultimately pay off – in particular whether it will make the city more equitable, close at least some the dispiriting, even dismaying gap between the rich and the poor – remains obviously to be seen. I hasten to add that closing this cap will not be enough. It must be closed without incurring significant other expenses such as, to take one of the most obvious, an increase in crime.
This much though is sure even now. Bill de Blasio’s impulse and instinct is completely in line with that of the Occupy movement. Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Everything Else have centered their agendas on improving the lot of the 99 percent at the expense of the one percent. Di Blasio’s “Circle of Power” (to borrow a phrase from the New York Times) attests to the fact that not only he but his closest aides, including notably his wife, Chirlane McCray, nearly all have their roots in organizations and movements identified with politics that we in America consider well to the left. What I am suggesting is that during the next four years New York City will be no less than a testing ground. The city will test the viability of a progressive agenda in the second decade of the 21st century.