Victory creates an ex post facto sense of inevitability, so it’s worth remembering how unlikely Bill DeBlasio’s win seemed just a few months ago, when Quinn was still thought to be Bloomberg’s anointed successor. Last spring, I went to a forum at New York Law School where all the candidates except Weiner (who hadn’t announced yet) were present. I was dumbstruck by how dull and tentative Thompson seemed and how grating and full of herself Quinn was. DeBlasio, on the other hand, seemed smart, confident, and knowledgeable, and for a guy reporters often call “professorial,” he was notably lacking in condescension. The only thing missing was the sense that voters might actually gravitate towards him. But–and in a world in which an all-present media never stops telling us what we are thinking and feeling it’s important to keep this in mind–sometimes the conventional wisdom is completely wrong.
For all his schoolmarmishness and thin skin, Bloomberg really has been a more-than-competent mayor in many ways. But while running a city for the benefit of the very rich might be a winning strategy for economic development (some income does trickle down), it has a way of alienating voters eventually–especially after you bought yourself an extra term.
Think about it: the average rent on a NYC apartment surged past $3000 this summer. The city’s per capita income, on the other hand, was $31,796; its median household income just $56,951. To point that out isn’t to engage in class warfare–it’s simply to acknowledge the truth. If the people in the media and the center left establishment didn’t make so much money themselves (and more importantly, answer to people who make even more), they would have seen the writing on the wall.
I’m guessing that the next phase of the election will be fought over some out-of-context thing that DeBlasio said 20 years ago about sex, drugs, Israel, Muslims, or some other hot-button cultural issue. I don’t know what else the Republicans will have to throw at him, but they’re going to have a hard time winning the white blue collar votes that put Giuliani and Koch over the top, because when a Democrat talks about soaking the rich today, the working class no longer thinks they’re talking about them. And when a Republican appeals to the middle class, they know they’re really reaching out to the rich.