Tag: Bill DeBlasio

More From my Plague Year Journal

6.4 So Tom Cotton is selling a narrative in which New York has fallen into the hands of elite white gangs of leftists, whose leaders drive Mercedes around the city ordering random attacks on minority business owners while its effete liberal mayor insists that the police stand down. Nice scenario for a low-budget post-apocalyptic movie starring some ex-wrestlers, but in reality, the NYPD has been running riot every night and the mayor, who won election as a police reformer, won’t stop weakly defending them. DeBlasio has been under siege from both the left and right for his pandemic response too–there is as big a crisis of leadership in this city as there is in Washington, and it’s frankly hard to understand.

There was a shooting a couple blocks from my house last night. Someone stabbed a policeman in the neck and grabbed his or her gun. Shots were fired and three police and the assailant are in the hospital. No one is saying yet whether he or she was a protester, a looter, antifa, white, black, pro-Trump, or anti, but you can be sure that there will be confident stories that they were all of those things before very long.

If we get to November without riot police or federalized National Guard or Bureau of Prison enforcers shooting bullets into a crowd, I will be amazed. If there is an election, Trump is going to lose it in an unprecedentedly huge way. I can’t imagine how he will leave office without violence–and for every Mattis that can quote the Federalist papers, there are a thousand angry cops. Trump is a cornered animal, and I am afraid the militarization in Washington is a rehearsal for the fall.

6.3 I more and more believe that the conspiracists get all the details wrong, but are right about one thing: that there is indeed a hidden explanation that unifies the seeming randomness of events. The deity that we worship as God is really a demonic ringer; the deep state framed Oswald; Trump is on a crusade to rescue America’s children from pedophiles. Their stories are completely nuts, of course, but they’re grasping at an intimation that things are not what they seem: That our great national experiment–with its melting pot, endless entrepreneurial opportunity, and love of liberty–is a flimsy front. Scratch the surface of most conspiracists’ writings and the hidden power turns out to be Jewish. But the critical race theorists have broken a real code: they’ve seen that America’s liberal humanism is built on a foundation of race supremacism, religious chauvinism, land theft, and chattel slavery. Some of the American dream is real, of course. Ethnicities have melted into the mass over time (very few of us think of people with Slavic features, like Melania Trump, as non-white anymore); anti-Papism is mostly a thing of the past in this once militantly Protestant country. Some Americans really have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps, and we have a body of law that gives great deference to individual liberty. There are are real American heroes and role models, though pretty much all of them, like pretty much all heroes and role models everywhere, have feet of clay.

But we also–as most nations do–have a horrific past defined by rape and violence that is not even past. Its unacknowledged omnipresence is what gives Trump his strength; our desire to deny it distorts our thinking to the point that cognitive dissonance (like Freud’s repression) has come to define us. Harold Bloom was thinking of something else when he said that the American religion is Gnosticism, but I tend to think he got it right.

6.1 Call me naive or racist, but I had been under the impression that George Floyd had been caught passing a bad check. It wasn’t until I read about the 911 call this morning that I learned that a store clerk accused him of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20. You’d think we’d know about it by now if there was a counterfeit bill in that grocery’s cash register, so I’m guessing he was innocent.

I live a couple of doors down from Brooklyn’s very urban Flatbush Avenue. A couple of weeks ago, the guy at the pet food store told me that people try to pass him counterfeit bills almost every day, so I know it does happen. Some of them must get through, which means that if a citizen like me used a $100 bill to buy a big order of cat food, I might end up with one in my wallet. But I’m pretty sure the police would give me the benefit of the doubt if someone caught me trying to pass it.

On a different but related topic, my gut tells me that Trump and Karl Rove (who I would bet big money will end up running his campaign) believe that they have been dealt a winning hand. By pushing the pandemic out of the headlines, the civil unrest in blue cities has given them the opportunity to strike a decisive blow against anarchy and racial identity politics once and for all. I am expecting military deployments, monkey trials, curfews, and states of emergency for the rest of his term.

Whether voters reward Trump for the American carnage is an open question. My hope is that the hunger for normalcy favors Biden and the Democrats, but my gut also tells me that there will be a lot of state violence unleashed right around November 3, with an aim to discouraging voting.

Election Day

So, Virginia, NYC, NJ.

In Virginia, it went the way demographics said it should–Cuccinelli won all but the densest parts of the state. McAuliffe’s ties to the national Democratic party and his ethical challenges should have made him a weak candidate; Cuccinelli is an anti-government religious extremist. Maybe they cancelled each other out?

But I think the conventional wisdom about what happened up here is dead wrong. Even if he did win an amazing third of New Jersey’s Democratic voters, Christie, who was blessed with a weak rival and made sure that no one was turning out to vote for Cory Booker this week, is neither bi-partisan nor liberal (though he’s not a Tea Partier either). When someone wins that big, it’s not because of ideology but because of his personal branding and celebrity–people genuinely like the guy or they can’t see any reason to replace him. Christie may well be a game-changer for the Republicans, but he hasn’t framed a post-partisan ideology, just a brand that wins elections. Or that won this one, anyway.

And then Bill DeBlasio–again, such a huge margin. Paradoxically, the unanimity of his support speaks to our polarization in other ways. His victory is tectonic, yes, but it is not a new alignment so much as it is a reaction–specifically to Bloomberg’s third term.

New York City is a liberal, diverse place, yes, but if DeBlasio really was a Sandinista, he wouldn’t have won by so much. When EVERYBODY votes for you, it can’t be about ideology, which by definition is divisive–it’s about identity. Since neither DeBlasio nor Lhota had any personal celebrity of their own going into the election, it reflects on the person who did–and how strongly voters identify with or against him.

Not because of his politics, but because of his outsize presence and staying power, Mike Bloomberg is a little like FDR–he’s the only mayor my 16-year-old can remember. He was in office for too long and he was rightly identified with the global one percent. As Steven Wishnia puts it over at TPM, his agenda created a city that excluded most of the people who live here.

The multibillionaire mayor is often hailed as a visionary, and he was one. His vision was of New York as a “luxury brand,” a city catering to the global rich, with skyscrapers, high-end housing and upscale entertainment maximizing the value of every inch of real estate–like a Dubai on the Hudson, only more environmentally friendly and pro-Israel. In his ideology, the purpose of government was to facilitate this. The Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn was rezoned and packed with luxury high-rises, and the administration is preparing to evict scores of mostly immigrant-owned auto-repair businesses in Queens near the Mets’ new stadium to make room for a massive mall, hotel, and luxury-housing complex.

To see this vision encapsulated–hey babe, take a walk on the High Line. A former elevated freight railroad on Manhattan’s west side, it’s been converted to an aboveground park. It’s a fabulous city-of-the-future tableau, overlooking the streets and the Hudson River, lined with grass and art installations, wending between gleaming new high-rises. The underside is that most of those buildings were erected by politically connected developers and tax-subsidized in exchange for a token amount of non-luxury housing. And you have to look pretty hard to see black people or Latinos who aren’t security guards.

Any analysis that denies or elides how economically divided we are kind of misses the point, I think. One thing about New York: the one percent is so much in everybody’s faces that even the top 32 percent, who are doing pretty well all things considered (the group that DeBlasio belongs to) resents them too.

Some thoughts on the NYC Primary

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.