Is New York’s New Mayor De Blasio Really a Lefty or Just Another Progressive Poseur?
There is no question but that New York’s new mayor, Bill De Blasio, owes his landslide victory in the November election to the Occupy Movement.
It was Occupy Wall Street’s minions, hemmed in by thug-like NYPD officers armed with sidearms, clubs and pepper spray cans, who in 2011 abruptly changed the national conversation about capitalism, introducing the concept of “We are the 99%,” and focusing attention on the enormous enrichment of the top 1% of Americans at the expense of the other 99% over the past several decades, as a direct result of public policies on taxation and bank deregulation.
And it was that new focus on the country’s yawning wealth and income gap that provided De Blasio with his winning campaign theme.
It’s a sad commentary on the diminished influence and power of the left in America that De Blasio and Kshama Sawant, who won a little city council seat in the second-tier small city of Seattle (pop. 635,000) as an openly socialist candidate, are being hailed as the heroes of a resurgent progressive movement. (I don't mean to diminish the victory that Sawant has achieved, merely to point out the fact that the left in the US has to be pretty weak for us to see one city council seat going to a socialist as a big deal nationally.)
The truth is, it’s hard to know how progressive and “left” De Blasio really is. Certainly his background as a backer of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua beats Barack Obama’s short stint as a “community organizer,” and there are other reasons, not least the evident lack of greed in his personal life, that suggest De Blasio may be the real deal and at least a worthy heir of New York’s last truly progressive mayor, Fiorello La Guardia. But there are also troubling signs that he may not be all that he presents himself as. The most troubling of these is his chumminess with former president Bill Clinton -- the man whose presidency brought us war in Bosnia, the unravelling of habeas corpus, the beginnings of the war on terror (see Effective Death Penalty Act), the “end to welfare as we know it,” and of course, the elimination of the Glass-Steagall Act that converted banks into casinos.
Inviting Clinton to administer his oath of office was a bad sign. There were so many New Yorkers who would have been better suited for that symbolically important job -- for example Ruth Messinger, former New York City Councillor and Manhattan Borough President and a life-long fighter for progressive causes in the city, or Heidi Beghosian, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, whose minions struggled mightily over 12 years to defend civil liberties under the onslaught of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and his riot-clad centurions. Instead of someone like them, De Blasio handed the job to a man who, like the current president, spent most of his time in office betraying whatever progressive principles the Democratic Party may have had since the time of FDR.