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Commentary By Fred Siegel

De Blasio Barely Pretends to Do His Job

Cities New York City

New York seems to be following in the footsteps of Los Angeles, where municipal politics has long met with collective uninterest. Mayor de Blasio, who enjoys a large polling lead in his November re-election bid, took a vacation prior to his late August debate with Sal Albanese, a former city councilman little known to most New Yorkers.

A man who often naps after his morning workouts, de Blasio has dropped the pretense of working hard as mayor. Instead, he works hard at opposing President Trump, even journeying to Berlin to join street demonstrators against the G-20 summit in July — rather than sticking around to console the family of NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia, assassinated in her squad car that same week.

“New York seems to be following in the footsteps of Los Angeles, where municipal politics has long met with collective uninterest.”

A similar dynamic can be seen in Los Angeles, where Democrat Eric Garcetti, running for re-election this year on an anti-Trump, pro-sanctuary-cities platform, won with a record 81 percent of the vote. But running virtually unopposed against a slate of also-rans, Garcetti garnered barely 330,000 votes in a city of almost 4 million people. That amounts to just 20 percent of registered voters — though that didn’t “beat” the record-low of 17.9 percent achieved by previous LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in his 2009 re-election victory.

The civic indifference that makes such incumbent dominance possible in both cities is driven by the same source: the sharp decline of middle-class voters for whom the city is a matter of civic responsibility, on the one hand, and the mounting power of public-sector interest groups, for whom the city is a matter of financial interest, on the other. By de Blasio’s good fortune, these same public-sector interest groups, particularly the teachers unions, will play a major role at the 2020 Democratic convention.

In his first term, de Blasio invested his limited energies in styling himself as a leading light of the party’s progressive wing. He was slow to endorse the “insufficiently progressive” Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Iowa caucuses, though he’d served as her campaign manager in her successful 2000 Senate run. De Blasio tried to leverage the popularity of Thomas Piketty’s much-noted book on capitalism and income inequality, but he was humiliated when none of the Democratic presidential candidates showed up at his forum on the growing class divide.

Undeterred, de Blasio will likely spend much of his second term trying to fashion himself into a plausible presidential candidate. His campaign will be initially underwritten by several million dollars in public funds distributed by the city’s Campaign Finance Board (created to ensure that monied interests don’t dominate city politics). The 56-year-old can argue that he’s a more attractive candidate for millennial voters than Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who will be 71, or Bernie Sanders, who will be 78, in 2020.

He can also tout his progressive bona fides by pointing to, among other policies, his institution of universal pre-K in New York.

But before he can focus on events outside the five boroughs, de Blasio will turn his attention to undermining Gov. Cuomo, his rival for state and national power. De Blasio has been quietly backing “Sex in the City” star Cynthia Nixon, who seems to be preparing a challenge in 2018, when Cuomo will be seeking a third term. Nixon is an identity-politics triple threat: a gay female with celebrity status who will run to Cuomo’s left. Even if she loses, she could tarnish the governor, thus enhancing de Blasio’s prospects.

What comes of de Blasio’s possible presidential run in 2020 is contingent, of course, on what happens over the next two years. Will his ethical failures come back to haunt him? “Emails . . . show [Jim] Capalino’s stable of lobbyists were so entrenched in the minutiae of de Blasio’s first term, they formed an unofficial, additional layer of government — sometimes instructing staffers how to do their jobs — all while advancing the interests of their paying clients,” Politico reported in August. De Blasio’s ethics drama hasn’t seen its last act.

Meantime, what becomes of Trump? Will Hillary Clinton try to run again? Will any Democrat emerge from the heartland? How strong is California’s first-term senator, Kamala Harris? Like Garcetti, de Blasio labors under a historical shadow: No New York mayor has moved on to higher office since the mid-19th century. But no New York mayor has ever had a target quite like Donald Trump.

This piece originally appeared at the New York Post


Fred Siegel is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a City Journal contributing editor, Scholar in Residence at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, and the author of The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class. This piece was adapted from City Journal.

This piece originally appeared in New York Post