Now that it is official and Bill de Blasio has won a sweeping victory for mayor by a 3-1 margin — just four months after he was languishing in fourth place in the Democratic primary polls at around 10 percent — what have we learned?
First, the message is as important as the messenger. This year de Blasio’s consistent theme of attacking inequality and stop-and-frisk resonated with voters and propelled him to victory. Among all seven Democratic candidates, de Blasio was the most consistent and clear in his vision: His “tale of two cities,” although used by others in the past, reverberated and worked this time in the first post-Occupy, post-financial recession mayoral campaign in New York.
Voters weary of a three-term, multibillionaire mayor — however much he succeeded in keeping crime down and making the city a healthier place to live — were looking for the anti-Bloomberg. The 6-foot-5 populist, who endearingly calls some of his friends “comrade” and lives in a row house in Park Slope, couldn’t be further in tone and priorities from Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and that was one major factor in de Blasio’s success.
We also learned that the beat of the city Republican Party was kept alive the past two decades by two unique figures: a crusading crime fighter who busted the mob and squeaked into City Hall at a time of rampant crime, and a self-made, highly competent, technocratic Wall Street billionaire who rode the city’s fears after 9/11 to a slim victory in 2001.
It was these larger-than-life figures and crises of epic proportions that fueled the Republican mayoral streak, and now the pendulum has swung back to a progressive Democrat who will probably put his own stamp on the city in the coming four to eight years. The Democratic Party now controls all the citywide offices as well as the City Council, and this will mean New York will be an interesting place to watch evolve over the next few years to see how government can tackle inequality, the dwindling middle class, the slow trickle of affordable housing and the question of how we keep down crime while restoring civil liberties to minority neighborhoods.
We also learned this year that sometimes politics makes for great farcical theater. Witness the bizarre campaign of Anthony Weiner, where names such as Sydney Leathers and Carlos Danger became part of the political dialogue during the summer. Even Eliot Spitzer’s ill-fated attempt at a comeback looked dignified compared to Weiner’s sad and public implosion. And we saw that Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, the new city comptroller, could be tough and sharp-tongued when he debated Spitzer, calling him out on his past misdeeds and not pull any punches doing it.
We learned, too, that the disciplined and long-term ground game of the potent Working Families Party has paid off, with WFP-supported candidates winning in all three citywide offices and victorious in most of the new Council seats. The WFP, led by Dan Cantor and Bill Lipton, two unheralded and smart progressive voices in the city and state, will have a greater voice in city affairs the next four years.
We also learned that despite the spirited primary campaign, we must reform the way people vote in New York and catch up with the progress made in the rest of the country, particularly California. Too few New Yorkers pick our leaders — less than 20 percent of eligible voters turn out.
This year there were six statewide referendums on the ballot, and the only one of these city voters seemed to be aware of was the question of allowing seven casinos to open throughout the state in the coming years. Kudos to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the firm Metropolitan Strategies and its leader Neal Kwatra for winning this close vote.
We have elected a progressive mayor and a number of progressive and high-minded leaders to pick up the torch and try to make our city a better place for all.
Here’s hoping his path to success is a smooth one — 8 million New Yorkers are counting on it.
And the eyes of the world will be watching as a progressive laboratory of ideas once again emerges in America’s largest city.
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at tallon@cit
©2013 Community News Group
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